3 Takeaways from SXSW 2022
Abby Long is the Senior Managing Editor at PMG.
SXSW 2022 wrapped over the weekend after thousands of attendees descended onto Austin, Texas for ten jam-packed days of conference programming featuring hundreds of speakers, live shows, film screenings, exhibitions, and more. Though this year’s event was relatively muted—with no industry-transforming announcements or Big Tech product launches coming to pass—a few notable topics and industry trends stood out across keynote sessions, providing insight into the most important innovations and conversations taking place across media, culture, and technology.
The metaverse took center stage at SXSW 2022 as speaker sessions and networking events revolved around what brands, creators, and technologists are doing to build the metaverse, launch digital brand experiences, and bridge these virtual environments with our reality. By our count, well over three dozen sessions were dedicated to the subject, tackling topics like the defining characteristics of the metaverse, its sprawling infrastructure, and the core principles and challenges that will shape avatar creation, brand activations, commerce and community development.
Influential voices from Epic Games, Microsoft, Second Life, and Meta, including CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg, took to various stages around Austin, Texas to share their thoughts on the current and future state of the metaverse, and how brands and consumers should be preparing for its development in the years to come.
NFT drops, immersive galleries, exhibitions and sneakers were only a few examples of NFT-themed content that could be found at SXSW 2022. While some speakers emphasized the untapped potential of NFTs, including new models for ownership, others like futurist and author Amy Webb remained unconvinced, arguing that the current NFT landscape is saturated and full of distractions that mask the full power of the underlying technology. The path for NFTs toward mainstream adoption remained a popular topic across keynote sessions, with many speakers educating their audiences on the defining terms and niche operations that could be found across the current landscape as well as the future ambitions of web3 companies and creators.
In a testament to the ever-expanding slate of web3 ideas and technologies, one session, aptly titled, “Move Over NFTs. Here Come the DAOs,” featured leaders from Coinbase and the Friends with Benefits DAO who explored the latest cryptocurrency concept that’s seizing the imagination (and investments) from investors, business owners, and crypto enthusiasts alike: Decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs. One keynote boldly dubbed 2022 “the year of the DAO,” with examples of how autonomous, blockchain-powered decision-making can revolutionize the business landscape.
In true SXSW form, downtown Austin was dotted with splashy activations and experiential pop-ups where attendees could step into a whole new world. These were the activations that caught our attention:
Bringing NFTs to Life: In partnership with Shopify and Behr Paint, Doodles, a unique NFT project with a series of 10,000 NFTs showcased the potential of token-gated commerce with a real-life installation that blended the digital and physical. Doodle NFT owners and fans could take selfies with physical models of popular NFTs, scan and project their own tokens into the experience, and witness the first large-scale physical NFT collection activation.
Choose Your Super Story: Amazon Prime Video hosted a dazzling carnivalesque activation to promote two shows: Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, starring musical artist Lizzo, and the third season of The Boys. Guests began the experience through a tunnel of their choice, choosing to be a superstar or superheroes. The Lizzo-inspired superstar side featured a tunnel of affirmations, an hour of beauty at a salon and nail bar pop-up while the entrance for superheroes led to a subway simulation, ‘Vought-a-Burger’ pop-up restaurant and more that brought the hit shows to life.
Enter the Dollyverse: Dolly Parton became the latest star to launch a web3 experience, via a Blockchain Creative Labs (BCL) partnership at SXSW 2022 that monetized fandom through limited edition runs of audio NFTs of Parton’s upcoming Run, Rose, Run album and Dolly-inspired NFT artwork. The activation was capped off with Dolly Parton’s first SXSW appearance with a musical performance infused with web3 technology, where attendees could claim a free NFT for attending and livestream participants were provided tokens to authenticate their participation.
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Early reports estimate attendance for SXSW 2022 was down roughly 20 percent compared to pre-pandemic 2019 figures, but official numbers have not yet been released. From what we’re hearing, the event was a huge success for organizers in Austin, Texas and the thousands of attendees who enjoyed a front row seat to the innovations pushing the digital industry closer to the future state of media, culture, entertainment, and technology.
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