It’s an event of monstrous proportions: more than 2,000 musical acts, almost 25,000 attendees (and that’s just Interactive) and over 1,000 sessions. So how does this behemoth of an event—probably the largest conference in the world—come together? And who are some of the women that shaped it this year? Following are seven women that Elle saw playing an integral role in SxSW’s Interactive conference, from the festival, the panels and the disorienting number of events and parties from which to choose.
Kelly Krause, SxSW Shapeshifter: Publicist, Panel Curator, Partner Relations
A little known fact: the Austin-based SxSW team is a nimble and positively slim one. Team members interact with the thousands of speakers from ideation to the time they arrive in Austin, shepherd eager brands and sponsors toward the right locations, and aid the slew of media descending upon the city. This well-respected and perpetually upbeat publicist not only assists with all of the above, but single-handedly runs the media pool for Interactive, SXSWedu and their newest brainchild, Style X, focused on the “transformative power of social style.”
Maria Popova, Cross-disciplinary Queen of Curation
The self-proclaimed “interestingness curator and semi-secret geek” with over 150,000 Twitter fans spoke to packed crowds during Interactive’s “The Curators and the Curated” panel, featuring beloved New York Times columnist David Carr. Popova’s the creator of Brain Pickings, a home for the curious, the interesting and the bespoke. Through the site, its weekly newsletter and Twitter, Maria continuously disseminates info on some of the best books, internet creations and offline compilations in a myriad of genres.
Amber Case, the Cyborg Anthropologist
While this moniker’s both thrilling and perplexing, two terms we’re all familiar with these days are “location-based services” and “checking in,”—Amber is concerned with both. She’s the founder of Geoloqi.com, but her dynamic approach starts with a concept deemed geo-fencing, which aims to figure out how these location services can actually help users, as opposed to the companies tracking, analyzing and storing this data for their own means. Amber was one of a few keynotes at SxSW Interactive this year, and she spoke of the many possibilities users could experience when digital fences are built that pair one’s movements with one’s self-identified goals and data points.
Ann Powers and Anne Litt, the Journalists Heralding Artists
With the exhaustive amount of content and correspondence coming one’s way from this 10-day event, we need trusted sources to help us break through clutter. These are people that have cultivated our trust over time by sharing their eclectic, yet well-researched “good” taste. That is just what Powers—NPR critic, correspondent and pop music writer—and Litt—music supervisor and famed KCRW DJ—do for their followers. Both held prominent positions this year during the music portion of SxSW, hosting live broadcasts and showcases for their respective employers while thousands of international festival-goers clung to their pre-SxSW selections and artist highlights.
Amy Davidman, Booking Agent
Immigration visas, tour coordination details and putting the puzzle pieces together of a band’s schedule to ensure they can actually make it to SxSW—these are a few of a booking agent’s favorite things. The tedious attention and long festival days are well worth Amy’s attention to detail: “SXSW is still a great place for networking. It’s not everyday that your Colombian client, Bomba Estereo, gets to play between Magnetic Fields and Juanes.” While there are less chances at SxSW to connect with fans these days or become a breakout success story, the festival still provides opportunities for artists to connect with journalists, industry leaders and other musicians.
Fiona Apple, the Extraordinary Machine
We met this emotionally raw phenom, who delicately balances angst, heartbreak and femininity, over 15 years ago. She then disappeared from our lives seven years ago, leaving a cloud of talent and controversy that started to dissipate in a very different landscape of pop stars. But her fans missed her, and her return to the stage after all this time became one of if not the high-stakes show of the festival. She gave two positively charged performances, replete with a few shaky moments but plenty of humor and that authentic, almost exhausting, emotion for which she’s so well loved. Fiona recently announced a new album to be released this spring, and its quirky title shouldn’t disappoint true Fiona fans either: The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do.
Honorable mention: the fans and attendees that make this Southwestern extravaganza the largest conference in the world, of which over 30% are reportedly women.