Tickets Podcast: SXSW’s Todd Hansen on live event programming and spotting talent & trends

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In the Spring of 1987, a group of music fans and journalists organized a small live event in Austin, Texas. They were pleasantly surprised by its success — around 700 people showed up.

That first edition of South by SouthWest has become a 10 day conference and festival with over 28,000 attendees heading to Austin each March.

It’s now one of the most recognised and respected live events on the planet, and its core tracks of music, film, technology, and education inform as well as reflect what’s happening in modern culture.

Today on Tickets I’m joined by Todd Hansen, SXSW’s head of conference programming.

In this conversation, Todd shares insights into the programming team’s process, what makes for a compelling keynote, and how to handle one of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs showing up at 1 day’s notice. We also reminisce about a surprise gig from a member of purple royalty straight out of Todd’s hometown of Minneapolis.

Episode overview

03:00 SXSW’s history

12:00 Programming for a rocketship

18:00 Predicting trends

25:00 Getting found, getting noticed

32:00 Embracing serendipity

40:00 This year’s highlights, and the role of technology in our lives

45:00 The long drive from Minneapolis


About Todd

Todd Hansen has spent his career chasing what interests him. The chase began by playing in bands in the ever-creative Minneapolis music scene, and with those relationships in play: a record label was born.

Co-founding a record label gave rise to other fast-paced pursuits in the

consulting and entrepreneurial worlds. Later, he started a couchsurfing platform for bands, pre-AirBnB, called Better Than The Van, and soon after that created an intensely popular Tumblr called Rich Kids of Instagram.

Today, he is the Head of Conference Programming at SXSW, and leads a team of content curators across twenty-five tracks of programming. He’s always fascinated by culture, tech and the human condition, and ever-inspired by those creating and collaborating in the arts and sciences: the framework builders of our future.

Todd Hansen is a history nut, who asks, “What’s next?’.

The chase continues.


Originally published at howardgray.net on January 21, 2019.