SXSW is about six weeks away. Today, I was thinking about how much things have changed since I first attended in 1998.
Read some comments by Joe Taylor Jr. about wanting it more than ever, so here are some thoughts to go with his...
The music business is changing. Beyond any changes in how the business is run though, this industry is still something that, like many things, requires effort to get the rewards from. There is no "reaction" without the action.
In 1998, there were a ton of music conferences. Sponsorship was heavy, thanks to a strong tech industry, and every company with a "dot com" at the end of its name had money to spend.
I started my company in 1995, while still in college. By 1998, I was off and running, but certainly not comfortable. It's not that I wasn't making money...the issue was that I was spending it was fast as it came in, testing new strategies like crazy and doing whatever it took to grow things for both me and my clients.
I remember leaving Nashville to attend an industry event, about 1000 miles away, with $.11 in my bank account. It's uncomfortable, no matter how you slice it, but very uncomfortable when the friends you're meeting there are either living on venture capital money or collecting fat salaries from major labels.
While I was there, one of these friends, a successful manager, asked me if I wanted to join her and some friends for a meal...at Denny's. Thankfully, when I called my bank to check the balance of my account, I'd just received a $30 electronic deposit and was able to cover my food.
No money can be stressful. When you don't have a net, you make sure things work the first time or you're out of business. The "do or die" experiences I had early in my career are absolutely a major reason for my success at marketing.
Being able to do things on a small budget works well for you when the "big budget" finally comes around. The opposite doesn't happen though...and this is why most of the guys who were around in the mid-1990s, when I first started, are doing other things now.
A lot of people are complaining about the economy. A lot of people are agitated that major labels no longer have the big budgets they once did.
You should be thankful for this. It wipes out the people who aren't serious and don't really want it.
Never ask for things to be easier. Instead, ask yourself what you can do to become better.
There is a great opportunity right now for all of us to become better. It's easy to succeed when the wind blows us that way, but much harder when things shift. But shifting winds can also be a great advantage to you, if you know how to set your sail and work with them.