SXSW: Not the Everyday Internship for St. Edward's University Student
Since starting college, I’ve been volunteering on the Music Panels Crew at SXSW, an annual music, film and interactive conference and festival held in Austin. I’ve always loved the experience I get out of it—a free music badge, great music and the chance to meet a bunch of amazing people. This year, I decided to take my SXSW adventure a step further.
Since January, I’ve been interning with SXSW as the Music Panels Intern. The first thing everyone asks me after I tell them what I do is, “What is Music Panels?” Music Panels is essentially the Music Conference portion of SXSW. Tons of people come in town to go to these panels with very notable professionals from the music industry to gain their insight on the different topics covered each year.
The Music Panels Coordinators are responsible for keynote speakers such as Quincy Jones or Bob Geldof, interviews with musicians like Duran Duran and Yoko Ono, panels covering a variety of topics, mentor/quickie sessions, crash courses, demo listening sessions, and continuing legal education. Needless to say, this part of SXSW is star-studded, and of course, has its perks.
Coming from a volunteer position and going into a staff position, the workload is worlds apart. While interning, I assisted with any and all internal operations of the Music Panels. Prepping for the conference book content deadline was pretty intense—proofreading and editing until your eyes and fingers couldn’t move anymore. While there are a lot of things that go on outside of those two weeks of the event, the bulk of my job happened during the event.
To be an intern with SXSW, you have to think critically, be detail-oriented, problem solve effectively, and most importantly, make quick decisions. No matter how much you prepare, countless things can go wrong when executing something as big as SXSW. Several issues I had to deal with pertained to problems with registration, handling panelists’ entourages who didn’t have music badges, rooms not being set-up at the scheduled time, running four blocks to get a panelist who is already 10 minutes late, escorting those late panelists across the massive Austin Convention Center, and somehow managing to get a tweet out via the SXSW Twitter for a last minute added panel.
Each day that I worked, I walked 10-15 miles and encountered even more situations that required me to think quickly. All in all, though, the skills you gain from those situations are priceless and I can’t be more grateful for being given that opportunity.
Ask someone if they’ve ever been to SXSW and chances are they’ll have a great story that includes something unexpected. Whether that is seeing Jack White play a on a street corner, walking past celebrities like Ashton Kutcher or Rosario Dawson on the way to their car, or seeing what could have quite possibly been the best Hip Hop/R&B concert of all time in the old City of Austin Power Plant with Kanye West. Everyone has their own crazy stories from SXSW. Knowing that what you are working for brings together so many people for those two weeks is a great feeling.
Things that change the way we interact get started at SXSW too, like Gowalla or Twitter. Even if it is not officially planned as a part of SXSW, it is all in the spirit of the event. You get to meet so many people you would never get to normally meet and surprises happen left and right. That’s the part of SXSW I love the most—for those two weeks, ANYTHING can happen.
-Alex Simons is a junior double majoring in Digital Media Management and Marketing, and getting a minor in Photocommunications.