Thought Leadership

Mayhem On Demand: A New Gig Comes to SXSW

TL;DRChantielle embarks on a week-long whirlwind adventure to SXSW, and predicts that the big trend at this year’s festival will be the evolution of on-demand economy platforms. 

SXSW is the Carnaval of tech events. Imagine if TED Talks had a weeklong bender in Vegas with Mardi Gras; the resulting love child would be SXSW. A playground of concerts, foods, technology, and trends, SXSW transports Silicon Valley to Austin for a non-stop rollercoaster of platforms, products, swag, and splendor. If you’re an up-and-coming company, this is the place to see and be seen. Don’t believe me? Just ask Obama after his keynote session Friday.

SXSW is the place to see and be seen. Just ask Obama after his keynote on Friday. Click To Tweet

When it comes to discovering the next big idea, artist, or innovation, SXSW never disappoints. So what will we be Periscoping about this year? VR? AI? Blockchain? Smart fashions? Maybe. But let’s stop and remember where SXSW started: music. More specifically, indie music. From seedy bars to street corner buskers, the real soundtrack to SXSW isn’t scored by multi-platinum artists, but by hundreds of unique, motivated, independent musicians. Land a gig at SXSW and your career could go from 0 to 60 overnight.

The #ondemandeconomy is here, it’s huge, and it’s evolving at an unprecedented pace. Click To Tweet

Gig Economy 2.0

That same reasoning still stands today—except not all gigs involve guitars. SXSW’s gig economy has shifted from the festival stage to your smartphone, thanks to a schedule that’s jam-packed with on-demand economy topics, talks, and opportunities. Hungry? Favor, a small food delivery platform has partnered with the festival to keep concert-goers fed, wherever and whenever they get the munchies. Want to freshen up your wardrobe between panels? Revolve will provide you with new threads in 45 minutes or less. On-demand economy platforms are unleashing their army of independent service providers in full force at the festival, and it’s not just to catch headlines. Make no mistake, the on-demand economy is here, it’s huge, and it’s evolving at an unprecedented pace.

Right now, the on-demand economy is task-centric, and that’s a problem. Click To Tweet

If you’re attending SXSW, I encourage you to pay attention to this (also, tweet me @chantiellemac, we can be friends). I genuinely think that, come the end of this 10-day party, a shift will have occurred in the on-demand economy. It will be subtle, but significant. In order to survive, platforms need to increase their value, not cut their price. And this means they need to be unique; building a better mousetrap or UI isn’t enough. Right now, the on-demand economy is task-centric, and that’s a problem. You don’t differentiate a task, you standardize it. You make a ride-hailing app so that anyone can be a taxi driver. Sure, you can improve the experience of that task, but as David Nordfors at TechCrunch recently wrote, “Uber doesn’t care if you can write poetry that brings people to tears or if you can save kids from becoming drug addicts, it doesn’t affect the price you can charge as a driver. You, the worker, are a commodity. You might as well be a machine.”

The gig economy runs on people. It's about time it became people-centric. Click To Tweet

If SXSW really is to go apeshit for on-demand economy startups, I hope it’s for the startups that have evolved to tackle this commoditization conundrum. The gig economy runs on people. In order for it to remain sustainable, innovative, and vibrant, it needs to become people-centric. How theses human resources work, access their earnings, and manage their incomes is extremely important.

So with that, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that SXSW will return to its roots this year, shining a spotlight not on the platforms that are facilitating the on-demand economy, but on to the millions of unique, motivated, independent individuals that are powering it.

Because landing a gig should be life altering, whether it involves a guitar or not.

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