Music and tech festivals can feel so overwhelming that, despite all the great bands and mindblowing technological installations, it’s often barely worth the anxiety. In response to this cultural and content overload, every festival now has its own app to help make sense of the lineup. I used the Bonnaroo and Outside Lands apps last year which, for the most part, helped me keep my sanity while also getting to check out all the acts I’d planned on seeing.
SXSW is no different — in fact, as the most technologically-focused of the big music and culture events in the United States, one would expect the SXSW app to be wildly tech-forward.
On this front, the new SXSW GO app doesn’t disappoint. With the help of mobile event platform Eventbase, the app will integrate with 1,000 iBeacons, the largest-ever deployment of Apple’s location sensors for an event. (Eventbase cofounder Jeff Sinclair says the second biggest deployment took place at this year’s CES and utilized 800 iBeacons). First and foremost, this will allow the app to show users what venues and events are nearby. But perhaps the most novel element of the app is an “Audience Matching” tool which “utilizes the tags in an attendee’s profile to make matches with fellow attendees.” Think OKCupid but for networking.
Matching based on professional as opposed to romantic compatibility is nothing new. But the fact that the SXSW GO app does so centered around a specific event, where people are already walking around, checking out sites, and meeting one another, could bring this “audience matching” more success than other attempts to do this.
The app isn’t just for people who attend SXSW either.
“In 2014, 100,000+ people downloaded the official event app, significantly more people than the number of people who attended,” Sinclair said. “This year, we expect people who are not attending to use the app to engage with content from afar.”
I’ll be at SXSW covering the event so, for professional reasons, I’ll probably use the app to make sure I don’t miss anything I need to write about. But if I were merely attending as a fan, I’m not so sure I’d download it. It’s impossible to see everything and not only do these apps induce a sense of FOMO that I’d rather not deal with if I’m trying to have a good time — they also threaten to ruin the serendipity of discovery. Plus how can you enjoy yourself when you’re staring at your phone the entire time?
Then again, I’m probably just dating myself. In any case, if anyone would like to turn their phone off and meet me serendipitously without an app, I’ll be at the bar.