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AUSTIN, TEXAS —Afro hip-hop musician 9ice has traveled thousands of kilometers from Nigeria to central Texas for an event unlike any other.
Musicians, film promoters and tech companies from around the world are gathering in Austin, Texas, for the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference and festival.
“It is to network. It is to make more fans, you know? Introduce my music,” said 9ice.
What originally started as a music festival in the 1980s has evolved into an event that is much bigger and harder to define.
“It is a giant party. It is a music festival. It is an entertainment festival. It is a tech show,” said reporter Raymond Wong who is covering SXSW for the Mashable website.
The festival has evolved and grown over the years to reflect changes to the economic landscape of the city.
“Austin is associated with primarily music, but now we are really in the tech world. I have a lot of friends that work for film studios, and so, Austin is growing in all those aspects. So, it makes sense the festival would too,” said Meghan Berry from Austin, who has attended SXSW for the last 10 years.
The event now includes technology demos, pitches and panels, interactive "experiences" and film screenings.
"It’s sort of the diversity of the different topics. You can go hear a film director. You can hear a politician. You can hear someone working on artificial intelligence and do all those things in the space of a morning, which is really interesting," said Jesse Needleman, who works in the fashion industry and is attending SXSW for the second year.
A favorite of many attendees are lounges scattered throughout downtown Austin, where attendees can let their hair down and socialize.
“People from all walks of life just hanging out at parties together, and a lot of them have free alcohol and free food, and so, it is definitely a perk,” Berry said.
These so-called “parties” are networking opportunities, where musicians, techies and film promoters from seemingly very different industries can meet and find connections and new ways of thinking about their own industry.
“It is a giant opening of the city to expose people to new ideas and new products and get them thinking about how they can apply that to their business,” said Needleman.
9ice sees this type of convergence across industries every day in his music business.
“We have gone away from analog now to digital — mixing, mastering, recording. It is all about technology. Without technology, you cannot do music these days,” he said.
From live music, to making music in virtual reality, technology and its applications in different types of art forms can be seen everywhere at SXSW. Attendees from around the world will get a chance to experience it all in Austin.