Scores of venues across central Sydney — Australia’s biggest metropolis —opened their doors to the music, tech, film and entertainment extravaganza from Oct. 15-22, completing SXSW's first expansion out of Austin, TX. After 7 days, roughly 300 performances (nearly 40% of which were international) and upwards of 600 speakers, the inaugural SXSW Sydney is done and dusted.
The likes of Chance The Rapper, Nicole Kidman and Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker were among the guest speakers who donned a SXSW Sydney lanyard and brought star power to the show.
This article was initially published on Billboard, which was there to soak it up. Check out three of their highlights.
Will ABBA Voyage set sail?
Thanks to the power of Netflix, the story of Per Sundin and his front-row seat for the evolution of Spotify is known to millions. The veteran Swedish music industry executive has worked closely with the late Avicii, Tove Lo, Swedish House Mafia, and, of course, ABBA, and is the face of “The Industry” in The Playlist, Netflix’s dramatised account of Spotify and its founder Daniel Ek. After a decades-long career with major music companies, first with Sony Music then Universal, Sundin now serves as CEO of Pophouse Entertainment, the Stockholm-based entertainment company which, among its assets, owns the SHM catalogue and a 75% stake in Avicii’s works. Pophouse is the lead investor and production partner for ABBA Voyage, the virtual live concert experience in London.
Sundin, on his first trip Down Under, regaled with tales of the music industry post-millennium SNAFU, working with Björn Ulvaeus (in short, the ABBA star won’t settle for second-best), and he told SXSW Sydney what everyone wanted to hear: that ABBA Voyage could set sail to these parts.
“We have a lot of interest from Singapore and from Australia, from (promoter) Paul (Dainty) and (TEG CEO) Geoff (Jones) and his team. We’ll partner up with them to see if we can find a place because you need to build an arena. Because in the roof of the building is 600 tons of equipment,” Sundin said during the featured session, Unlocking the Power of Entertainment. “We can’t just go into an existing theatre. That’s a challenge for everyone.”
There has been talk about doing another ABBA Voyage in Europe, and, Sundin added, “Las Vegas is really calling for it.”
Chance raps on hip-hop and capitalism
When Chance The Rapper was announced as a keynote speaker at SXSW Sydney, some delegates were quick to hose down the excitement. The Chicago hip-hop star wasn’t booked to perform on this trip, aside from his on-stage interview with The Brag Media editor-in-chief Poppy Reid. And, for those with a decent memory, he cancelled his appearance at the 2019 Splendour In The Grass festival, just one day before he was due to deliver the closing headlining set.
There was no drama, just action, as Chancelor Johnathan Bennett made the journey and delivered a compelling SXSW Sydney Q&A which delved into capitalism, and hip-hop on the genre’s 50th anniversary.
“We all live in a capitalist society and no matter how close you are to your moral centre, you’re still working and operating within a system that lives on the backs of the least empowered people. I do a lot of philanthropy work, I do a lot of advocacy, I do a lot of just trying to help people,” he told Reid. “But also just the way that the world is set up right now, I gotta sell merchandise, and even producing T shirts — it’s really hard not to be a capitalist.” To be able to operate “outside of that and to create more cooperative economic systems is something that I’m working towards but I haven’t fully figured out yet.”
Chance also stepped out to enjoy some of the showcase program, throwing his support behind 11-year-old Aussie rapper Inkabee.
GenAI, Web3, Metaverse. Jump in, cautiously
AI is “not on the horizon. It’s here now and it’s not the Wild West.” APRA AMCOS CEO Dean Ormton told guests at the PRO’s breakfast gathering at SXSW Sydney, during which the organisation’s annual results were explored. Computer learning is both “a huge challenge and potential opportunity for music,” Ormston told guests. Those challenges and opportunities are something the PRO and every major content provider and partner is currently trying to figure out.
A separate daytime session on “Activating Music in Web3” brought together Con Raso (Tuned Global), Matty Soudagar (The Metakey) and Becky Yeung (Warner Music Group). “We’re coming into a space where some of these experiments are making some real impact,” explained Soudagar. Four years ago, the popular Roblox game has gone from 20 million users a month to 200 million users a month today, he continued. “It could be half a billion a month in a few years from now. If you zoom out of this metaverse conversation, we realise its primed for exponential growth. The next stage is, how to put together a solution that brings everything together in a frictionless manner for a specific industry. We’re at the stage where we have the technology, and we can bring together some strong minds.”
Yesterday we attended @sxswsydney. Our session on Music Activation in #Web3 was amazing, thanks to @conraso our MD, @larsbrandle at Billboard, Becky Yeung at Warner Music Group, and @DCLBlogger at @theMetakey for their insightful participation. #SXSW #musictech #musicbiz pic.twitter.com/0xRGjpYizE— Tuned Global (@tunedglobal) October 20, 2023
This guest article was first published on Billbaord.