What we heard in SXSW

What were some of the biggest themes emerging from SXSW 2023? We were on the ground in Texas – here’s what caught our attention.

Entertainment platforms are diversifying. Our product can evolve.

Nadja Vogel, Chief Strategy Officer, Germany

Fandom does not happen on platforms like Spotify, but on social. That means the direct-to-fan connection no longer has gatekeepers like magazines or record companies.

For artists and athletes alike, this direct connection has become a vital part of their income. Platforms like TikTok are aware of this and are expanding into the traditional record business with Distribution Company SoundOn, for example. This is as tensive as it was with Spotify entering the markets.

In regards to that, artists and athletes now have more platforms to manage and more content to produce than they can handle. It is on us to find new ways to build revenue models with managements or record companies that will allow us to step up as a cultural brand.

This will help to grow a cultural narrative, and allow brands to take a stronger positioning within the market.
—> Inspired by the talk of Tatiana Cirisano, Music Industry Analyst & Consultant at MIDiA

Even the AI inventors don’t know what their creations can do

Simon Richings, Executive Creative Director, UK  

This theme came out strongly in a number of talks – sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally. 

In most cases, the subject or idea of a talk may have been submitted to SXSW before ChatGPT, before the latest, jaw-dropping updates to Midjourney, before the big tech AI gold rush that happened over the last couple of months. So, that would have had some speakers scrambling to update their content as the future accelerated past them. 

This was unexpectedly emphasised when I heard some very smart, very charismatic journalists confidently state that AI would only help with their background tasks, and not write articles in their entirety. Then when the Q&A began, a nervous man from a small local newspaper stood up and asked what the panel thought about his own team’s process – they write the headlines, ask the AI to write the article, then the humans fact-check. There was an awkward silence from the NY Times and BBC journalists. 

Everybody is making the rules up as they go along, and the game changes every 15 minutes.

Democratisation of productions: Fact or Fiction?

Sandro Amabili, Head of We Are Social Studios, Daniele Piazza, Executive Creative Production Director, Italy

As we strive to “make things, not slides”- we’ve been roaming around this year’s SXSW frenzy on the lookout for some applications of the many wonders that technology seems to layout for creatives nowadays. Virtual and real-time production being first on our list. 

While there seems to be a clear promise that democratisation of filmmaking is around the corner (if not already happening), we’ve watched quite a few chats and panels revolving around feature films and tv shows – Hollywood and Netflix levels – but found less on smaller (shall we say smart?) projects we often might be dealing with in our daily, enchanted work life. 

So what does democratisation for *our* productions look like in the short term? Hard to say, as things change literally by the minute, although we’re definitely going to start playing around these cues:

So fear not! We’re more than ready to experiment and make magic happen – keeping it smart. (Hollywood, who?)

Building the Foundation for a New Reality
Manolis Perrakis, Innovation Director, Singapore

SXSW 2023 was marked by an abundance of presentations that explored technologies extending our reality beyond the physical world. OpenAI founder Greg Brockman discussed the incredible potential of AI in assisting us with divergent thinking and bringing our dreams to life. Numerous companies showcased demos of VR and mixed reality technologies, emphasising their capabilities in storytelling, immersive entertainment, and gaming. In addition, production companies demystified virtual production, revealing how new techniques can enhance the speed, quality, and cost-efficiency of production processes.

While some of these innovations are more advanced and ready for deployment than others, they provided invaluable glimpses into the future and emphasised the significance of staying ahead of the curve. The distinct yet complementary nature of these technologies is gradually paving the way for a new reality, born from their seamless integration.

At SXSW this year, we also launched We Are Social Singapore’s virtual influencer, Cinder, with two immersive activations. Cinder embodies the true spirit of technological convergence, and the activation was a perfect blend of virtual production, machine-learning models, and mixed reality. As we stand on the cusp of a new era, the synergy between these revolutionary technologies will continue to redefine our perception of reality, bridging the gap between the digital and physical worlds just as Cinder did at SXSW.