Ep. #801 - SXSW
In this episode of Startup Hustle, Matt DeCoursey and Hugh Forrest, Chief Programming Officer & Director of SXSW, talk about the origin of SXSW and the overall conference and festival experiences that celebrate the convergence of tech, film, music, education, and culture.
Covered In This Episode
How do you organize an event with 5,000 speakers and thousands upon thousands of participants? What happens when you merge music, tech, film, education, and culture festivals?
To answer these questions, Matt DeCoursey talks with Hugh Forrest, the first employee of SXSW, and now CoPresident. They discuss how South by SouthWest evolved from a music festival into a convergence of tech, multimedia, and more. Hugh also shares the challenges of holding such a massive event and how to learn from mistakes in order to grow.
Tune into their conversation in this Startup Hustle episode today!
- Computer and Printer: How Hugh Started with SXSW (1:54)
- The Evolution of SXSW (4:25)
- You have to be Creative to Do Genius Things (8:49)
- Bands are Entrepreneurs, too (9:46)
- Entrepreneurs are Rockstars, too (11:48)
- What is Multimedia (13:55)
- Organizing a Massive Event (16:43)
- Dealing with COVID (19:37)
- Challenges of Running Festivals (26:51)
- Learning and Growing from Mistakes (28:44)
- From Music to Tech and Other Mediums (37:08)
- Founder’s Freestyle (43:02)
- Wrapping Up (47:33)
I’ve literally only learned two things at 47 years, close to 47 years. But there’s no such thing as a business without problems. And there’s no such thing as software without bugs. Like it’s just the way it goes. And there are certain things just the way it is it’s now where you show and shine and define yourself as a leader. And all of it is how you react to their problems.Matt DeCoursey
I am certainly a strong believer in what you’re saying here that in whatever we do in life, and particularly what we do as entrepreneurs and founders that, you know, your mistakes help you get to the next spot.Hugh Forrest
I think that what we do at South by Southwest is that creativity can flow from one industry to another, that creatives in one industry can learn a ton from creatives in another industry, that when you put creative people together in a very creative city, and when spring is coming out, when spring is beginning to hit that metaphor of creativity there, you can arrive at some really great things.Hugh Forrest
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Matt DeCoursey 0:01
And we’re back! Back for another episode of Startup Hustle, Matt DeCoursey. Here to have another conversation on hoping helps your business grow. Have you heard of South by Southwest? So many people have? And I think so many of them that have no one thing about it and don’t know other things about it, and there’s a whole lot you probably should know about it, including why entrepreneurs love the event. Now, this is something that occurs. Well, most years, I guess we should say the last couple has been a little non-standard. And I’m gonna, I’ve got an amazing organizer from the show and festival here today before I introduce him and talk more about how maybe about whether Austin’s weird or not anymore. Yes, a city that once had a slogan of Keep Austin weird. Quick reminder that today’s episode of Startup Hustle is brought to you by FullScale.io, helping you build a software team quickly and affordably. That’s my company. People go to FullScale.io. We can help you build a team of software developers and once again do quickly and easily with me today. I’ve got Hugh Forrest, and he is the Chief Programming Officer for South by Southwest. If you want to learn more about the festival, go to I’m a spell it out sxsw.com. You know, the easiest thing is just to go down to the show notes and click the link. And then you don’t even know how you don’t even have to know how to type in four letters into your web browser. So straight out of Austin, Texas. Whew. Welcome to Startup Hustle.
Hugh Forrest 1:29
Thanks, Matt. It’s great to be here. Really excited to talk to you about startups and keeping Austin weird and everything in between.
Matt DeCoursey 1:36
Well, and maybe we’ll debate that. But, you know, as part I like to start all my conversations with a bit of your backstory. And I’d like to know a little bit about about Hugh, and also about your history with South by Southwest.
Hugh Forrest 1:51
So I’ve been at South by Southwest Way, way too long. I started it the event and way back in the dark ages of 1989. I was the first employee. And at that point, we were a music only event. So that’s something like 30 years. My origin story and we know that origin stories are there’s a degree of truth and a degree of of narrative and fabrication. I got hired at South by Southwest because I had a computer and a printer. And they did not. So it was a nice, always a valuable lesson in the importance of having the right hardware at the right time. And that computer was a Mac Plus, which, you know, if we think of the power or lack thereof of a Mac Plus and 2022, you know, there you go. But that was relative state of the art way back when.
Matt DeCoursey 2:54
So I didn’t realize that you had that deeper history, and congratulations on having the computer that you needed to get the job. You know, for those of you listening, keep in mind, always keep your 1989 Mac around because you never know when that’s going to be useful. I think it was the printer that did it probably. And that was probably like dot matrix that probably had the little strips on the side of it and everything.
Hugh Forrest 3:16
No, no, Matt, you’re wrong. It was like it was it was the original LaserWriter plus it weighed about 500 pounds. So that will does your weightlifting exercise that evening. Yeah, actually kept it in the storage facility in Portland, Oregon, up until like, four months ago. And then I finally took it to the dump. So it is it had a long life, but it is now gone to printer heaven.
Matt DeCoursey 3:41
That was high technology and 89. Man I was as your as you were mentioning that it’s funny because I’ve been making fun of myself lately for how old I’m getting. And I was 14 in 1989. So it wasn’t exactly like it wasn’t a baby at that point, either. But yeah, I was trying to figure out if the floppy disk was still floppy in 1989. That’s what I was thinking it was right on the cusp. Yeah, that was pretty close. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So that’s, that’s part of how us older folks on the show, we will compare ourselves to what stage the floppy disk was out. And maybe in the last 15 years, which iPhone model was out at the time. So yeah.
Hugh Forrest 4:23
Good benchmarks there. Exactly.
Matt DeCoursey 4:25
Totally. Well, the good news is, is I got my job at Full Scale also because I had some equipment so we have that in common. Yeah. It was mainly stuff I couldn’t get rid of from another business that I had exited. So I was like, Yeah, I’ve got some desks and computers and it’s less stuff. I’m sitting at one of them right now. So there you go. All right, so South by Southwest like you mentioned that it’s uh you know, so when I originally think about it, I think it and for those of you that are less than I worked in, in and around the music industry and also in live in ticketing for plus 15 years of my much younger life and when I think about South by Southwest, I think about the festival, the music festival, at what point did it begin to evolve? And this is a pretty big event. I mean, you guys get like a massive, massive number of people that come in to Austin just for this. But at what point did it turn into more than just a music festival?
Hugh Forrest 5:19
Well, it started, you’re absolutely correct. We started when South by Southwest started in 1987. It was entirely a music conference and a music festival. It was patterned after this thing in New York of the new music seminar. And it made sense to be focused on music in Austin in the 80s, because the music scene here was really strong, and it’s strong now, but but really strong then. In 1994, we added what was then a combined multimedia and film event. And, you know, multimedia was the cutting edge word then. And we were, you know, it wasn’t floppy disks so much as it was CD ROMs. And then we after a year, we kind of separated those events into two separate events, a multimedia event and a film event. And eventually that multimedia event transitioned into interactive. But what’s interesting in light of, you know, our world of 2022, and the last few years is because I had had this Mac Plus computer and this printer, this old 800 pound laser writer plus, I was pushed to you should help run this manage this multimedia event. And honestly, I don’t really don’t know anything about multimedia. But I’ll try sure that sounds fun. And we really struggled to find our voice with multimedia. And with interactive, if we were a startup, you know, we wouldn’t have survived. But we survived because there was this giant music event that was paying the bills. And what’s interesting, or why I say that story is that, you know, 20 years later, 25 years later, it’s certainly more of a become more of a tech event. And the tech, in many ways supports the music, I mean, text the backbone to everything. And we know at this point, we really, really grew from a tech standpoint. In the early to mid, well, mid 2000s, when we were the right place at the right time on social media, various social media things and people were coming to South by Southwest, literally to understand what social media is that sounds so foreign and seem so foreign to us in 2022. Because hate social media is everywhere, it’s life. But at that point, it was like, wow, you get on this thing. And you can connect with friends, and it’s going to be big. So again, we’re Right Place Right Time had a lot of their early innovators from the social media world. And then, you know, in the last decade or even last 15 years, we’ve we’ve pushed out into a number of different verticals, beyond just music or film or technology. We cover everything from sports, to style to food, we have government leaders coming to the event. We, you know, we do health and MedTech, we do transportation, all these different verticals, if there is a connective tissue and a connective thread between these different verticals. And between where South by Southwest is and 2022 versus where South by Southwest was in 1987. It’s it’s the C word which is creativity, we celebrate massive creativity in all its many forms. And that’s what we did 35 years ago, that’s what we still do now. To tie in there, Matt is that in particularly given you know, some of your background is that you know, when we think of entrepreneurs and startups, particularly in 2020 to last few years or whatnot, we tend to think about people in tech. But, you know, bands are entrepreneurs to bands. Right? Films are
Matt DeCoursey 10:10
I said, I literally say that all we have an episode titled Bands are Startups do.
Hugh Forrest 10:15
Matt DeCoursey 10:15
And they are anything that does any business or venture enterprise that does not come with an owner’s manual when you start it, or a franchise hotline is a startup and bands are the same way. That’s actually why we wrote that’s why I co-authored a book with Joel Commons from Unfreeze McGee, the realist guide to a successful music career. And the word realist is key. Like it literally in the first, we clarify right away that you have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than you do of becoming a stadium act. Right? And you do, it’s actually quite a bit, way more people get hit by lightning every year then perform in front of a stadium full of people, which is kind of an interesting thing. But yeah, it’s, you know, it’s bands who are, I think, Pioneer so much about what without music and that kind of creativity, like a lot of things about Apple don’t move forward. And don’t you know, there’s just so much of it as centric around around that. And most of the people that I know, that do important and meaningful stuff, have a musical soundtrack that goes with it, you know, like, what they’re listening. I don’t mean literally like, the music narrating their life, but it is because it’s in your earbuds or around you and whatever. And I think I just love that about what you guys are doing down there. Because, I mean, you don’t see a lot of times when it’s like, hey, let’s bridge our music festival with something. They’re like, hey, technology, and startups and entrepreneurs, it’s usually like, art and paintings and like bubbles, or like, you know, muddy fields full of stinky people after three days out in the heat. So
Hugh Forrest 11:49
Well certainly, you know, I think that that idea or concept or thought of bridging, you know, makes more sense in our current landscape. You know, when we first added in this multimedia event, to this thriving music event. You know, it looks like the geeks are on one side of the room, the nerds are over here. And the cool people are there. And the cool people we’re not the we’re not the people going to multimedia, they were the bands, they were the the people with tattoos there with people long hair, wearing whatever they want, these guys over here didn’t know quite how to fit in. And I think one of the things that, you know, certainly has changed in the last 15, 20 years and benefited us at South by Southwest a lot is that, you know, it went from being geeks nerds out we want to phrase it being like outcasts to like, they’re entrepreneurs, they’re kind of rock stars, you know, that became a really cool thing. And that that was certainly one of the many things that pushed our growth as South by Southwest.
Matt DeCoursey 12:58
So I want to stop for a second because we’ve used the term and I’m using air quotes on my audio show right now. You say multimedia? Let, can we break that down? A little bit? Like what because multimedia could be used in so many different contexts. So like when we say we went multimedia, does that you know, so, once again, find this at the, at the South by Southwest website. And there’s a link for that in the show notes. But like there’s a huge conference and lots of speakers. And, you know, according to the internet, so it has to be true and 2019, over 400,000 people traveled to this event and the conference, it says the conference, just the conference without everything else, drew 75,000 people and you’d have 5000 speakers.
Hugh Forrest 13:47
Yeah, it’s the internet. It’s mainly true, Matt, come on.
Matt DeCoursey 13:50
Yeah. All right, kind like, kind like origin stories. Appreciate the creativity thing, because it’s the backbone to anything that it’s the backbone and put an end requirement to anything that occurs that involves genius. Like it’s actually, I’ve, I’ve been recently mentioning, I’ve been studying and researching what makes people do genius things. And it’s universally believed that without creativity, you don’t do genius things. So, you know, that’s kind of a pillar of a lot of stuff. And also as entrepreneurs, you know, you got to be creative. I mean, and, and that and that is a very, very interesting, you might have to be creative with how you pay your bills, you might have to be creative with how you how you build a product, or how you market it or how you handle the shit that comes up along the way. So yeah, I mean, I am a I am a I’m a creativity broker on most days, and that’s a nice way to put it.
Hugh Forrest 13:55
Well, to your first part of that multimedia, when we our definition or thought or whatever was in 1984. And going back to something you said earlier, that was again, CD ROMs that was this idea that oh, wow, we got this this disc that’s got, you know, you don’t need an eye. You don’t need 20 encyclopedias anymore, you got everything on this disk, this is the coolest thing ever. And this is the future. And that lasted for about you know, two or three or four years and then more and more people understood well, why even worry with his disk when you can, you know, plug your phone line in the year and you can get on the internet and so hence the we kind of transition the name from multimedia to interactive. But But again, when we started that was that was state of the art, the relative state of the art, the whole the whole CD ROM stuff. You know, the numbers you mentioned are mainly accurate. We get a ton of people to Austin for South by Southwest. It has a huge huge economic impact all those things Things are neat, they’re there, they’re there, allow me to be on cool shows like this. But at the end of the day, you know, South by Southwest is like 100, other networking events 1000 other networking events is a great place to meet other creative people, make connections get inspired by what they’re doing, find an investor, find a co-founder, find a, you know, someone who can help you with your with the technical work you need. And if you’re strategic in approaching an event, like South by Southwest, or any other networking event, they can, these kinds of things can can be extremely beneficial to your career. And in the case of South by Southwest, you can do that during the day. And then you can go out and see some great music at night and have a adult beverage or two.
Matt DeCoursey 15:49
So how do you go about it? If you have I mean, and I assume that you have 4000 417,400, ticket stubs, because that was accurate, right?
Hugh Forrest 16:02
Now, that’s that figure of, of 417,000 or whatever that is that that
Matt DeCoursey 16:08
is and 400 400. That is there be there very, the internet is very exact. And it’s in like 50 point font. So it’s got to be right. I don’t even know how you’d go about estimating that. So but so the question here is, is you look at this big conference and got all these people coming in? And yeah, if I think about how much effort it goes into vetting five guests a week for the show, how do you go about lining up 5000 speakers? What does that process look like?
Hugh Forrest 16:43
Well, it’s a great question we have for the last 15 years have had a process that is essentially a modified crowdsourcing process for a lot of our content. People, anyone in the interwebs community can enter a speaking proposal. And the speaking proposal is then posted an interface, the community votes on the speaking proposal, we have an advisory board that votes on the speaker proposal, we staff rates them. So we will tend to get a neighborhood of like 5000 Speaking proposals, and our job is pulling out what we think the best 700 of those are. That’s not
Matt DeCoursey 17:26
so there aren’t 5000 presenters, but maybe more 5000. And then that gets narrowed down.
Hugh Forrest 17:33
No, no, there there. The 5000 figure itis pretty accurate, we’ll end up having about 1000 Total panels, 1500 Total panels, some of those will have one person on him more on presentation, and some will have four people on him. So do the math there. And that that comes out to roughly 4500, 5,000 speakers.
Matt DeCoursey 17:52
Got it. So one of the things we’ve we’ve actually done so many shows about music, and that and just the whole industry. And we had Alicia Carlin on and she works for the company that does like Electric Forest and a bunch of other stuff and talking about just the massive undertaking of just like AI and for those of you listening like, I don’t think most people really understand how much work it is just to put on a show that 500 People come to much less like exponentially more. I mean, there are so many moving parts. And if and we take for granted when it goes well, go watch the Frye Festival documentary to see what it’s like when it doesn’t because, like for real, like I mean, I’m surprised honestly surprised that stuff like that doesn’t happen more often. Because there’s so many things they can, they can go south in there. And it is really a testament to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs being able to pivot because you don’t know what’s going to happen when you put this many people in a in a space or or, you know, with each other. So I can only imagine the domain knowledge that you guys have acquired for a lot of good and bad things along the way. So there’s probably a human stupidity Hall of Fame amongst the people that run that you’re like, Yeah, I remember in 2011, like, oh, yeah, that guy or that group?
Hugh Forrest 19:15
Back to the scale issue, Matt. And, you know, my theory is kind of that. Yeah, it’s hard to plan an event for five people. When you’re planning an event or planning five speakers a week when you’re planning 500 speakers, if that doesn’t mean it’s 100 times more difficult. It’s a little difficult, but it doesn’t, you know, scale quite that
Matt DeCoursey 19:37
more time-consuming. I was thinking about it more and in time and I’m sitting there thinking, I was trying to do the math of dividing 505,000 by 365, because that’s a number we all know immediately. But like if you think about that, like so I think about that in scale. So you know my company Full Scale, I’ve got to almost 250 employees that if You, like several months ago performed their 1 million service hour for clients. And I was like, wow, that’s a lot. And then I sat back and I thought about us like, holy shit, that’s 125,008 hour days. You know, it’s like, so you start scaling things up and down, you’re like, wow, you know, this is a lot. And it’s, it’s a time and effort. And, you know, I’ve gained a new appreciation for scale over this last year without how fast and Full Scale has grown. And we’re not even four years old yet. So, you know, the appreciation for Hey, we don’t have it all figured out today. And then also like the gravity so we have recently, all my employees are in the most of my, almost all my employees are in the Philippines, and they just had a massive typhoon, hit the area where our office is, and it took us seven days to account for everyone. And like, it was first off, that was scary. And really wasn’t what we wanted to do the week exactly prior to Christmas. But, you know, at the same time, I really gained a lot of like, well, I gained a lot of experience and understanding about you know, like, how don’t kind of having your shit together for when you need to do that. So there’s a lot, probably a lot more I would imagine a lot more to consider. And I want to talk about how the last couple years how you guys got through that and how you handle that. And before we get into that a quick reminder that today’s episode, Startup Hustle is brought to you by full scale.io helping you build a software team quickly and affordably. You don’t even have to bring your own computer for that folks, we provide them for our team, and help them get ready to say quickly and affordably. Anything we can do to help but yeah, so you know, kind of getting back to the to the I don’t really like to get too deep down the COVID hole everyone knows that that occurred and but as far as, as live events and musicians and knowing so many of them, like that was one of the the groups of an industries that I thought just had the worst part of all of that. And, and I know and I know I you know, I remember when it first so March of 2020, I was in the Philippines but right right around the time you guys do the festival was right around the time that all this stuff started. So for you know, and for those of us in the United States, this is the first time we’ve ever really done anything like that now in Asia and the Philippines. And over there, they’ve had the bird flu and all kinds of SARS and a bunch of other stuff. And they were a lot. So I was in the Philippines from March 1 through March 20 of 2020. Which was very, very like I felt like I was two weeks ahead in time because that was already pretty big over there. But I remember that I remember you guys canceling stuff. And then the NCAA tournament, the NBA and I was like holy shit, this is getting real and hurry. But, you know, how did you guys? Well, how’d you deal with that?
Hugh Forrest 22:54
It was it certainly is, was and continues to be the biggest challenge that we’ve had in 30 plus years of doing this event we were you know, we safety is a huge, huge concern at South by Southwest at this point, given the scale of the event, we had been working very closely with APH which is Austin Public Health throughout the month of February 2020. They, you know, said I think you’ll be fine. Have plenty of hand sanitizer, and then all of a sudden, you know, similar to your story in the Philippines, all of a sudden, none of that March 1, things started to change really, really quickly in the US. We were cancelled by the City of Austin on March 6, we were one of the first kind of big events in the US to be canceled, and you know, when when headlines or whatever came out that South by Southwest was canceled. I think that was a wake up call for a lot of people that that was
Matt DeCoursey 23:50
a signal flare I remember that because that so I was supposed to leave the Philippines on the 14th of March. And so I’m halfway through it. And I was like, oh shit, like this is a big deal. And then it wasn’t until like the 12th or 13th when sports leagues concerts like so we have a suite at our local venue. It’s kind of like the Frank Erwin center, but it’s the T Mobile Center here and we and we had guests in the suite watching the big 12 basketball tournament which they canceled the tournament during the first session. Yeah, like literally Okay folks, rest tournaments canceled and
Hugh Forrest 24:25
foul on you and everyone else get off there.
Matt DeCoursey 24:30
Let’s be real though, like I mean and you Okay, so we’re you know, we’re a similar in the same age like I’ve never experienced anything like dad as an entrepreneur as an entrepreneur and you as an as a event host and coordinator and all that you know, you’re always getting you get to deal with some things you got to pivot and there’s always something that’s going wrong and you know, that’s fine but I mean never wants in anything as an entrepreneur did I have to make the kinds of decisions I had to make and and prepare the content and sees and just do so much of it and with I mean, I felt very, very, for being 45 years old at the time and having a lot of experience, I felt really inexperienced that so much of that.
Hugh Forrest 25:12
Absolutely. I mean, you know, it was, we’ve never had, we had never canceled South by Southwest postponed South by Southwest and 30 plus years, completely different territory, we immediately had to let go a portion of our staff simply because so much of our revenue happens on-site during the event, and the event didn’t happen. Like every other business in the US in the world. You know, we learned a whole lot real quickly. During COVID, during the pandemic, you know, game five years worth of knowledge, five years worth of pivoting in the space of, of a year. And I think we’re a stronger organization now and better prepared for the future. But yeah, it absolutely sucked last year. I mean, so 2020, we did, we, we did a few things online, kind of dribbled out during the spring. Last year 2021, our event was fully online, and actually was, you know, probably more successful than what we had anticipated. This year is our first year back for a real world event since 2019. So it’s you know, I mean, we had a lot of muscle memory built up. I think that some of that muscle memory is still there, but it’s been a while. So it’s gonna be great to be back to a real world event. But we’ll take a little bit of stretching out the legs to you know, get back in the swing of things. Too many sports analogies there.
Matt DeCoursey 26:51
Well, no, that’s okay. as we as we refer to live music, that’s definitely appropriate. So, yeah, yeah, music has been such a big part of my life. And it’s a passion of mine. That’s part of why I, you know, go out of the way to do shows about bands being startups. And I think it’s such an interesting form of entrepreneurship. So in the vein of that, what do you think is the like, what’s, what are some of the more difficult things when it comes to, you know, running music, or festival type events?
Hugh Forrest 27:28
Well, I think that, you know, to some of the discussion already, it’s ultimately so many logistics. And then, if there’s a secret to South by Southwest growth, it’s that we’ve done this for 30 years and and each year, we’ve grown a little gotten a little better learn from our mistakes the previous years. And that allowed us to get that incremental growth allowed us to get pretty big again, that that was that 30 years of growth in a real-world didn’t help us a whole lot in an online world. But it helped us get to where we are now. Certainly, some of the biggest challenges in terms of logistics, whether it’s music festival, or whether it’s the conference stuff, we do panels, presentations, keynotes, is just scale and the that the the kinds of challenges you face with scale with crowds, whether they’re safety challenges with logistic challenges, whether they’re room challenges, those are, those are the kinds of kinds of issues we are spending a lot of our time working on as we move forward for the 2022 event.
Matt DeCoursey 28:44
When when you mentioned growth from a mistake or something like that, do you have do you have sent you don’t have to, you know, be too revealing? But yes, do you have a son? You know, like, I think that Well, first off, when listeners reach out, and Hey, folks, I’m easy to get a hold of and, and I reply most of the time, so but you know, I get a lot of feedback people, I think people learn more from some of that. And sometimes I look back, I just wear all my failures as like a badge. At this point. I like to make fun of myself, but it’s, you know, I think that there’s more to be learned, there’s more to learn from, from the failure side of it, whether you’re someone sharing what they learned, and, you know, part of the mission statement of this podcast is to help people avoid and not do all the dumb shit that we did. I mean, it really is and you know, here it’s a completely untrackable metric because, you know, there’s no way to there’s no conversion rate on that. There’s no click-through there’s nothing you know, but you know, I think that it’s preventative, but I’m always I’m always curious to hear some of the things that that people have done things like okay, you guys, this is a premier worldwide festival and you know, you mentioned starting in 87 there have to be some things that you look back at now. And either either you say, I can’t wait, I can’t believe we thought that would work. Or Wow, how did that not work?
Hugh Forrest 30:10
Yeah, I mean, there, there’s so many of those stories. They’re they’re a either hard to remember or be the lawyers won’t let me tell you no, I’m teasing a little bit there. But I am certainly a strong believer in what you’re saying here that in whatever we do in life, and particularly what we do as entrepreneurs and founders that, you know, your mistakes help you get to the next spot. And, and certainly, you know, a lot of the things that we did, and that I did in the earlier years of South by Southwest were mistakes that paved the way to get a lot better now, when we’re, we’ve been lucky enough to grow and become this, you know, worldwide global international event, it’s it, we have to be a lot more careful about our mistakes now, because we’re front and center, you know, when we started, there wasn’t a YouTube, they would your mistakes would get broadcast everybody. So the stakes are more difficult. But but, you know, we’re always even with the experience we have, we’re always, you know, learning from some of the things we didn’t do well, and I am sometimes asked by podcasters that are nowhere near as good as you man, like, Why do you keep doing this thing? And I’m always like, I do it, because we’ve made this mistake this year. And if we ever did it, all right, and everything was right, it would be mic drop, and I’d be out of there. But I want to run run one where you know, we don’t have that one crucial dumb mistake, or like, I cannot believe I did that thought that would do well. So fortunately, most attendees, I think you’re you’re more aware of your own mistakes that most of your audience or your community or your attendees are, but it’s still something that, you know, will stick in my craw and like, gosh, I can’t believe we did that. Gotta try that again and do it better next time.
Matt DeCoursey 32:08
You just subtly, subtly admitted that you’re never going to be able to retire from if you’re, if you’re waiting for the time when it all went well, like good luck, dude. Like, and if it happens, come back on the show. Because that’s big news. That’s what, that’s what we can all learn from that, you know, I, I’ve learned, okay, there’s two things. I’ve often heard saying, hey, if I’ve learned two things, I’ve literally only learned two things at 47 years, close to 47 years. But there’s no such thing as a business without problems. And there’s no such thing as software without bugs. Like it’s just the way it goes. And there’s certain things just the way it is it’s now where you show and shine, and define yourself as a leader. And all of it is how you react to their problems. And you know, that’s right. So that for those of you listening, like, like, look, the idea that you’re that you’re going to do it that it’s going to be perfect. And I remember when I was probably 26 years old, and I was 27 years old, and I was worried at that point I mentioned work in the music industry has just become a manager at a chain that sold musical instruments. And I had a great mentor and boss at the time who had and I called him up and I was frustrated cuz I managed 15 locations. And I was like, I just can’t get all these stores to have a good month and the same month. And he laughed out loud. He was like, you never will you just that whole matter of factness of it. And I was like, Ah, okay, but I always remember how that how that stuck out because I was let’s give my the I’m giving myself a sticker for the ambition and the hope. And then also taking it back for the naivety that you know that everything’s going to fire on all cylinders. And by the way, if it does, you need to just be prepared for what’s going to happen next, because that’s never sustainable. It’s just the way it goes. Yeah, I’d say it’s really the truth. So we said a lot, you know, you’ll hear me say how it’s always something and it is that’s okay, it’s kind of where it goes.
Hugh Forrest 34:19
After thought about how it’s how you react? Absolutely. And I think you know, particularly I mean with everything we do are all kinds of pursuits but particularly within the event industry. You know, your your your entertainment and in a way your your smoke and mirrors the the most of your attendees don’t know what’s behind the curtain. They don’t know that there’s it’s often being held up by you know, masking tape and baling wire popsicle stick. And your you know, I constantly tell myself this, which is another way of telling myself this is that you Now, if you project confidence that that masking tape is going to hold, you know, your audience is going to believe you, by and large, if you are, you know, worried and nervous and not confident, they’re going to pick up on that vibe also. So you know, one of the things that we talk a lot about at this time of the year when are right, about to go into South by Southwest is, you know, get some rest, project confidence, have fun, the audience is going to the community, that people coming to the event are going to pick up off that vibe, and they’re going to have fun, if you’re freaked out. If you’re, you know, grumpy, if you’re tired, if you’re upset about something, they’re going to pick up on that too. And they’re not going to have a great time. So, you know, it’s all to business one way or another, right?
Matt DeCoursey 35:46
The key is to having a good time, though. I mean, it is like, like, just get over yourselves people and get over the fact like, look, no one cares about you as much as you accept that and then have a good time with it. You know, and I think that I’ve seen that change my perception of that delivery, it’s kind of like, well, okay, so give me a little flashback before we hit the record button. And I’m like, Hey, we’re gonna have a conversation, we’re gonna talk like you can say whatever you want. We publish this shit, warts and all. But that is, that’s, that’s where the good stuff comes out. And I think that so much about presenting, performing. And the knowledge transfer is let’s get away from it’s not necessarily an X be yourself. And that’s where you’re going to, that’s where you’re going to perform the best. That’s where you’re going to resonate the most. And you also have to understand and accept the fact that no matter how brilliant you are, at everything I just mentioned, there’s going to be someone out there that doesn’t like it. So and that’s okay, that is oh kg, like all day, every day. In fact, in some on Sundays, and in some ways, the more people that don’t like it means you’re doing better. Like it’s really true, like, make them hate you. Because you’re so fucking good at it. It’s the way it goes. So, all right now.
Hugh Forrest 37:08
Your band thesis and whatnot. I mean, do you see? Given all the people you’ve interviewed, and over the years and whatnot, do you see that as a through line of people going from music into tech and using the skills they they, they have they they used in, in, in performing and creating there to translate that into to other mediums?
Matt DeCoursey 37:37
Yes, and no. If it’s on, like, level that, I think that there’s a ton of people I know, including, okay, so Andrew Morgans, I’m not the only host of Startup Hustle, we’ve turned this into a network about a year and a half ago. Now, Andrew was a musician, like an actual performer in a band for several years. I think that a ton of people I’m around and exposed to and work with, and even work at our company, we’re in that mold. And, you know, like, the thing is, like, for real, like, you know, music is not a sustainable career for a ton of people. Now, I mentioned writing a book about the industry part of what we did with that. So I had a very successful career in the music industry, but I was never on a stage performing. I’m an I’m an AK, I am not good. I do have the voice of an angel, that I don’t do anything else. Well, with that including dance, and I have a face made for radio, all of that. But I had a really great career working for Roland in the you know, when I started I was a manager I managed to park a section of about 15 different stores and I got to travel around and do a lot of cool stuff. And you know, when I worked for Roland, which is like a marquee job in the music industry on the music instrument side, I mean it was awesome like I loved it, I was around stuff and you’re like you don’t have to be a brilliant musician to have a thriving and successful career and and around the music industry. You’re in the music industry, you know, like your life at least mostly. And then you know, there’s the thing is, is when it comes to the music industry is the boy you see on stage is like barely even a piece of the tip of the iceberg. Most of it’s below the surface, it’s behind. It’s behind the stage, it’s in the back of the house, it’s taken a nap and the semi while you’re while the performers are actually doing their thing because those same people have to tear that down and set it back up the next day. So I think I see a lot of it. I don’t I can’t say that I have a ton of reference where like someone that was like a, like a rock star or something like that then goes into tech but I think that back to the very first minute of the show or maybe the second minute I don’t know where we turn creativity and I think that’s why music is so important. That’s why my want Mike Mike play music with my kids and do stuff like that because you Learn how to be creative, you learn how to be confident, because if you can stand in front of a group of people and play guitar, you can later in life give a PowerPoint presentation. You know, it’s like, and these are things that matter. And you know, and I think it’s really important. So, you know, so yes and no, I think that a ton of people, a ton of creators ton of have, I mean, all of it. And you look at the the modern tech companies. So any company that thrives and does well is a well, let’s go back to the term multimedia. Right. I technically owned a company that provides software developers to tech companies, and a lot of them, right, we just sell a lot of stuff. We’re a big company now. But we own Startup Hustle, and we publish videos and do a lot of stuff and share that story. So yeah, so yes, so yes, maybe and No. Man, but you know what, I have seen a lot of clever stuff, actually. So we did Austin’s top startups. I can’t remember which month and last year you there’s a company called PRISM FM, there in Austin that is venture-backed and I decided to actually did a call with them. Recently, they built a whole entire software management platform for booking for booking agents and touring artists. And, and you know what, like, everyone, I everyone I know that does one of those two, I’ve actually brought it up to a few of them. They’re like, Thank God, thank God like some thank God someone is finally solving these problems. But it’s these are things that need to occur. And I’ve seen so we actually are investors Full Scale is in a couple of music startups. One is healthy hip hop. It’s a hip hop brand. It’s a healthy brand of hip hop for children, has an app and content and then we also own part of mixtape the game. So that’s an app and a card game. So over 100,000 of those card decks, man, you would love mixtape so if you’re you can’t play it with two people or we play it right now. But you pull a card out of the deck or you use the app and gives you a scenario like what song plays while you ride a unicorn over a rainbow. And everyone has to name a song and you can’t vote for your own and then you vote and you see your wins. And I’ve never learned more about people I know than playing mixtape the game. So yeah, you can buy that online. I’m gonna send you a copy of it. And there’s an app for it too. Yeah, so hey, you know, we so we used to play mixtapes, we used to actually allow more than two people at a time on the show and we don’t do that anymore. But when we did it before we would always play around a mixtape and the whoever won got to shoot our golden money gun. We’ve got like a literally like a money guy. No, it’s in the other room. I actually I’ve mounted a GoPro on it recently. So the money we have money gun, money gun cam as well. But if you come by and record in the studio, we still fire that thing off.
Hugh Forrest 42:58
The golden days of the podcasts, but happy to be here now.
Matt DeCoursey 43:02
Yeah, yeah, you best the best years. I mean, now we’re just we’re pretty mechanical. Now. You know, it’s like, you know, getting a couple million downloads a year, listeners. Uniqueness we’re doing we’re putting in the work now. And that’s speaking at work. You know, I got to do one little last bit of work here. I’ll get in trouble at my job. And I gotta remind you that today’s episode, Startup Hustle is brought to you by full scale.io. We’ve talked enough about that today. You know where to go reach out here to help you. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not the only host of the show. But I in my shows with the founders freestyle. And that is a chance for us to kind of sum up you know, the time goes by so fast. I could have this conversation for hours. Now, in regards to me not being on the house, make sure you tune in every week and listen to Lauren Conaway. She’s the founder of InnovateHer. Got that’s got their 5000 member. Really excited about that. And then you’re soon to be Southwest South by Southwest attendee Andrew Morgans is the CEO and founder of Marknology. And they help you sell stuff on Amazon. He talks about that a lot in E-commerce so yeah, you can’t miss Andrew when he’s down there. I tell people a lot that he looks like a leprechaun and and Jesus put together, and that’s gonna make you want to go look at our Instagram page and confirm that, but it’s true. And if I’m wrong, message me and tell me Yeah, prove me wrong. So here we are at the founders freestyle. And you know, you are a founder. I mean, if you were like employee one. I mean, well, either maybe you are. Maybe you do own part of the festival. I don’t know. But you’ve been with it long enough. You might as well be so. You know, I know we were all over the place but it’s the end of a snowy day here. And he this and he’s 10 days away from this festival. He’s probably delirious right now but
Hugh Forrest 44:56
not as few days but all good.
Matt DeCoursey 44:59
Yeah. Well I would imagine there’s a point in the middle of that to where you’re just like ready for it to end. But you don’t you can tell me about that after we turn the record off, I don’t want you to get in trouble. But as we, as we sum up today, show me what are some things that you’d like to talk about or didn’t talk about? Or what stood out from today’s conversation? The that seemed like, at least relatively good advice.
Hugh Forrest 45:25
Well, I love what you said a few minutes ago, and where I kind of started, and it’s certainly my biggest mantra when I’m talking about South by Southwest or when I’m talking about life is that the importance of creativity. And I think that that, you know, that what we do at South by Southwest is that, you know, shows that creativity, can flow from, from one industry to another that creatives in one industry can learn a ton from creatives in another industry, that when you put creative people together in a very creative city, and when spring is coming out, when spring is beginning to hit that metaphor of creativity there, you can arrive at some really great things. I think that you know, another thing that we really always try to do with South by Southwest is, you know, showcase, speakers, movies, bands that will inspire people and people need inspiration, inspiration, you know, that, that the Latin root is to give breath, right? So, inspiration is is really helps that creative spirit, and it’s something that we’ve specialized in for 30 years and is one of the things that’s helped us survive for three decades, and hopefully powers and powers is into our, our next three decades.
Matt DeCoursey 46:49
Inspiration trades at a at a at a price that is priceless. You know, it’s kind of like execution. You know, it’s like, great ideas are everywhere. But and I mean, how many of you want, like, seriously, they’re everywhere. But if you can’t execute on, you can’t be a winner. Now with that, I can I mean, congratulations on the continued success of what you guys are doing, you know, the as far as South by Southwest, because you mentioned tax. So I know so many people that listen to the show are interested in technology, march 11, through the 16th, 2022. Now, look, this goes on every year.
Hugh Forrest 47:29
So give us three more days, Matt, come on. Yeah, 16th.
Matt DeCoursey 47:33
This was this was the tech industry travel there, you get the entire festival. So you get to go learn stuff, and then you get three days to do whatever you want afterwards. So that’s really why you should go. But yeah, a couple of things. And you know, as the world kind of re prepares for interacting again. You know, there’s, there’s such an amazing opportunity to get out. If you try to make it happen, get out there and make it happen. It’s not going to happen sitting on your couch waiting and hoping, you know, like, I mean, it does for a very subtle few. But get out there and meet people that are trying to do the same thing. And I think anytime you get you know, the the last actual big in person event that I went to is right at the end of 2019, which is Tech Crunch in San Francisco. Yeah. And you know, and that I mean, that was that’s a similar kind of thing. Like put yourself in the game folks get out and do it now. Tech Crunch was okay. I honestly I thought it was boring as hell, if you want to know the truth. And I went, it was Dude, it was boring. I mean, honestly, it was because I went around and just have the same kind of conversation I have every day. Now. That’s part of my job. But I wasn’t excited or stimulated for it. In fact, I was like, God, I really wish there was something cool going on tonight. You can do that. And South by Southwest. And you know, it’s and TechCrunch people, sorry, I’m just being honest. And you do some, some of it’s great, but let’s have more fun with it. And our joke with that was at the time, you know, machine learning had become such a big thing. And everyone we talked to my machine, our machine learning algorithm. So we came out of that. But Eddie, for about two months after that machine learning algorithm will determine which kind of dressing I’m getting. And by the way, there’s no way that all of you have machine learning in your platform. It was just a buzzword, but that said, you know, like I found a business I found opportunity. And honestly the people from our company that I took with us accelerated their learning curve for seen believing and understanding that same thing. So take your whole company to South by Southwest. I’m a huge believer in experiential entertainment meaning like with clients, with employees with all of that, if I took you to see New Kids on the Block you you’d always remember who I was. You don’t even have to like new kids. So Um, and you know, I’m gonna ask you one more question because I know that you’re gonna hate this question was so I’m apologize. But what’s who’s? His there’s no way you can you probably know this after 30 years because there’s so many great ones but who is your either favorite performer or performance or, or a couple of the Hall of Fame you can use you can totally be biased by your own personal tastes as well.
Hugh Forrest 50:30
I don’t hate you for that question, man. I am a huge, huge Bruce Springsteen fan I’ve seen 50 times all over the US and out of the woods. He was a keynote speaker. I think 2014. And the story there or my particular story is like, you know, I’ve seen Bruce in concert so many times great. And I was like, I don’t want to see him speak. Because I just think, you know, like, maybe he didn’t do this well, and it’ll ruin everything. And you know, how wrong could I have been? That was that was before he did any of the Broadway stuff. He gave this incredible keynote speech, where he talked about, you know, his inspiration, what his creative process is all the bands in Austin during South by Southwest, I missed the whole thing because I didn’t want to watch it. I watched it on video later. But again, one of my favorites to have been at the event to have been at South by Southwest and another one that I’m that we have speaking this year, that we’ve wanted to have a South by Southwest forever and ever and ever, and finally got him this year. Knock on wood that I’m not jinxing it. Neil Stevenson, author of Snow Crash and many other books, kind of the, you know, thought up the metaverse long before anybody at a similarly named company thought of it. It’d be great to see him this year at the event. But you know, I mean, there are numerous others I could talk about hundreds of others of people, people who I’ve seen, I’ve been inspired by I’ve learned from that they’ve, you know, again, made me want to make the event better to get more of those kinds of people in the next year.
Matt DeCoursey 52:23
If you’re interested in entrepreneur shows and things, there is an amazing four part series that HBO put out with Jimmy Iovine. He was the founder of Beats by Dre. And, and he he was a sound engineer before that, and I stick. That’s what Bruce that’s what Bruce Springsteen would yell every time. Any part of the recording wasn’t a plus. Now, I I haven’t listened to a ton of Bruce Springsteen, but I have the utmost appreciation for the perfectionism of saying, This is what I’m putting out with my name on it, and it’s gonna be excellent. And like he, I mean, he literally made everyone crazy there. But in the end, everyone that worked on it was like, I’m so glad he did that. So yeah, I thought that was a really interesting perspective. And that’s also a really cool entrepreneur story. He talked about the crossover between music and entrepreneurship and, you know, just how they created that, you know, the whole beats headphone and that made that made some people billionaires so well, good. Yeah, a couple who thinks this is a really fun conversation. I appreciate it. And it’s a this is was my rare, if ever 4:30pm recording spot. So congratulations on getting access.
Hugh Forrest 53:38
It’s late in the day, man. It was a pleasure to talk to you enjoy this
Matt DeCoursey 53:42
Anytime. And I’m kind of I’m kind of thinking like it for South by 2023 we really gonna have to bring Startup Hustle on the road and there’s 5000 speakers and probably get a whole year’s worth of content like for this so
Hugh Forrest 53:59
your life would be after that?
Matt DeCoursey 54:01
Totally, totally. I’ll take like three weeks off. Yeah, take three days I take if I take three days off. I’m already getting antsy. My wife’s like, you’ll never retire. I’m like, yeah, no, I probably. Well, I’m gonna catch up with you down the road. Hugh, thanks for joining me.
Hugh Forrest 54:16
Thank you, Matt. Great to be here.