Wasted Opportunity


I spent the past 10 days enjoying the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. What began as a music festival for unknown artists has morphed into a media spectacle covering tech, film, and music. This was my first SXSW so I can’t be one of those people who says “it was so much better way back when.” This is a common sentiment among SXSW loyalists. What I can say is that I’m glad this wasn’t my first exposure to Austin. It’s a great city, but the music portion essentially ruins it for 5 days. For local businesses and the local government it’s probably a good thing. The amount of dollars SXSW brings in is ridiculous and I’m sure quite a few businesses have their best weeks of the year during this time.

As for musicians? The majority threw away an outstanding opportunity.

I saw exactly one band (Vandaveer) sell CDs after their show. But even then they didn’t announce anything for sale while on stage. I understand it’s not cool to “sell out,” but you know what else isn’t cool? Not having enough money to do what you love.

There were a handful of artists I would have purchased music from and I don’t even have a CD player! (I would have had a friend rip the MP3s for me.) Instead I bought 3 albums off AmazonMP3 (Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, Leslie Stevens and the Badgers, and The Jezabels), from which the artists probably only got a few dollars. Wasted opportunity. Captive, slightly (or incredibly, depending) intoxicated audiences in a festive money-spending mood usually don’t come around very often. Yet the only people that seemed to be making money was everybody except the musicians who needed it most.

If you’re running a business (a band is surely a business whether the artist likes it or not) you are an idiot if you have a captive audience and you don’t offer them what they want.

I’m told that bands get paid only $150 for an official SXSW showcase. (The drummer for a 4 time SXSW band told me this.) Maybe that’s different depending on the band but let’s run with that number. Gas to get to the festival is probably at least a few hundred dollars for most artists. That means that you’re in the negative before you even play. Most artists only play one or two official shows and then a few unofficial shows (where they don’t get paid). So most band’s expenses to come to SXSW are out of pocket. It’s not worth it to play here for most artists unless they can at least break even. The days of being “discovered” and given a huge recording contract are behind us. But what SXSW offers is exposure to new fans, who will hopefully spread the word. It’s easy to make $50-$100 extra per show just by selling a few CDs and helping those fans spread that word. If you’re phenomenal you’ll make even more.

I could go on, but this article isn’t even about music.

While getting pissed off at the bands I wanted to buy stuff from I thought to myself: Where am I wasting opportunity?

When answered honestly this question can open your eyes to things you haven’t seen before.

I readily admit that I’ve wasted a lot of opportunity in my time and I wanted to take a moment to dissect where I’m currently wasting opportunity.

When I meet people I do a bad job of following up.

I fixed that recently at SXSW Interactive by only taking biz cards from people I truly wanted to follow up with. Then I followed up. Simple. :) It only takes a few minutes per email and who knows, it might result in a good friendship or partnership in the future. Personal and business relationships all begin somewhere.

I have a lot of customers from the business side of RE and I rarely follow up with them.

Not to sell but just to keep in touch. Offer some value. Let them know I’m here.

The 72 hour sales have been a huge fun success and I haven’t been vigilant about setting up the next one.

Baker and I met up and talked strategy last week. The copycats won’t know what hit ’em. That’s not coming from a place of anger, but from a place of “we know what we have, we know what we can do, and we know what you’re not doing.” I don’t believe the pie is finite. I fully believe in expanding the pie so we’re doing just that. You’ll love what’s coming at Only72. :)

I don’t give enough people enough credit.

This is something far too many bloggers get wrong. One of the reasons I started the Sweet Shit Saturday posts was so I could give credit to my favorite writers, but I still don’t feel I do it often enough. I’ll try my best to spread the love right now. I met a lot of fantastic people this past week. Some for the first time, some for the second time, and some for the umpteenth time.

Just a few of the great people I conversed with (action takers doing sweet shit): Nick, Markus, Heather, Ashley, Jenny, Jenny, Baker, Matt, Sean, Chris, Benny, Laura, Holly, Scott, Hilah, Christopher, Matt, Cody, NorcrossAdam, Dave, MoniqueJoshua, Nicky, Anne, and many others.

Proof that I don’t give enough people enough credit is that I didn’t add this section to this article until a few hours before my scheduled posting time and I know I’m not remembering everybody as my brain/body are recovering from 10 days of sensory overload.

There are other places I’m wasting opportunity, but you don’t want to read another thousand words. Let’s wrap this up with …

The All-Important Question Guaranteed To Bring You More Clarity In Life and Business

Where are you wasting opportunity?


  1. Hi Karol! It was *awesome* to meet up at SXSW, and thank you so much for taking part in the ‘Day of the Nomad’. Sorry our paths didn’t cross as often as I would have liked with all the awesome nomadic & bloggers folks who were there. I suppose that was our wasted opportunity – we didn’t come to SXSW with a mission, and with family & friends (unrelated to SXSW) in town too, it was hard to juggle all the awesomeness!

    I’m actually quite surprised to hear that bands get some (even if so little) compensation for being officially part of SXSW. Presenters at Interactive get no compensation at all, except a Gold badge. We were on our own to prepare, get there and present – and our costs to get to Austin to present was close to $2000 (and we didn’t even get a hotel, as many other presenters had to).

    And as our business isn’t tied to the topic of our presentation (how to be a technology enabled nomad), it wasn’t even an ideal opportunity to promote our business ventures. But, that is cool by us.. we authentically believe and want to help inspire others to break free and live their dreams of travel and using their skill sets and creativity to do that. And we don’t aim to make a living off of doing that.

    • It was so great meeting up Cherie! It’s interesting to hear about the lack of compensation for speakers as well. I feel like most big conferences are like that. Surprising considering how much SXSW charges for the badges.

  2. I’m surprised to hear that those bands weren’t selling anything. Here in the UK even small bands will have a table set up in the corner of the venue where they sell t-shirts, CDs, buttons and sticker. Plus they get people to sign up to their mailing list.

    I agree with treating a band like a business. You can’t rely on being discovered anymore, better to focus on getting XYZ amount of true fans that will be able to support you.

  3. Fantastic point!

    It seems that people are afraid to sell even when given the platform. They want to be cool and just go with the flow but it is not less cool to say we are selling CD’s as you are giving the people what they want.

    I heard recently when doing a little research on the speaking industry, that many speakers don’t tell others they are up for grab (they are speakers). They just speak or they hide the fact…how the hell is anyone supposed to know about you?

    I know a guy who does a great job with this when he speaks for free…he says “when you hire me to speak at your places…I will tell them that the number 1 thing they need to know is…” and he goes on telling them that powerful number one idea. But he also let them know that he is up for hire and he literally built his career this way.

    And for me, there’s many thing I can do that others don’t even know that I do. Sometime I feel weird about telling them but I need to remind myself that I am also in a business and I need to do so. It is not selling out, it is helping (assuming one believe that is so).

    And for following up, I am big into that! Very big. I like it a lot as it helped me build friendships all around.

  4. An important post at the right time, Karol. Thanks, and I’m going to continue to mull this over in days to come, I’m sure. Also appreciated your report on SXSW after Nicky, Mike, and & I left Austin, when the music crew was first moving in and we got trapped by a double-parking band truck.

    Good luck with upcoming roller coaster adventures!

  5. I just did a quick search to see if I could find anything about merch not being allowed (my first guess) – only found someone asking that on a web board last year, and the band member who replied “I’ve played SXSW twice and I don’t think we sold merch. I don’t remember if we were told not to. I really don’t remember at all.” duh!

    I did find that showcase bands are offered either some monetary compensation OR writstbands for the entry to the other shows. But the latter only for actual band members, not managers, etc

    My experience as a member of bands is that few of them make buying a CD a pleasant easy experience. Other bands regularly express awe at my “awesome” merch display – which is a cheap small suitcase I open up, drape with a string of battery-operated xmas lights, and clip on a book light to shine on the sign on the inside of the lid with the CD prices.

    • Yeah, I left out the wristband thing because that’s an even worse form of compensation that “seems” good due to perceived value. Then again, I guess if you’re going to waste opportunity, might as well go all the way. ;)

  6. Holla. Karol! You’ve inspired me to think more about what I eat. It was great getting to know you and we’ll hang out here soon. Been in recluse work mode!!!

  7. That’s so strange: the only time I’ve not known bands sell merchandise here in the UK is if the venue charged a hire fee for providing a sales space. Apart from the “selling your work” aspect, it’s also a way to subsidise the costs of the event, especially if it’s a one off gig.

  8. Hey karol,

    thanks for sharing and for asking this question. to answer your question, the biggest thing for me has been a lack of focus. i had seem to be going in many different directions without getting a thing done. however, things have started to change since the birth of my first son. there is no time for me to “mess” around.
    without a doubt, there have been many different wasted opportunities in my life. however, i’d like to think that i’ve learned from them.

    on the other hand, just wanted to thank you so much for continuing to inspire not only myself, but the people who constantly keep coming back to your blog.

    take care

  9. I wonder if it’s less about not wanting to sell out and more about being disorganized! I have a few musician friends who just never seem bothered with the merchandize part of the business :)

  10. Great point Karol. I think that a lot of us are probably missing opportunities til someone like you points it out! I’ll definitely be doing a little analysis this week on that.

  11. I texted you during SXSW but we couldn’t meet. I read your blog since the beggining and hope someday I can share my freedom story (or seeking for freedom story…) with you :)
    Greetings from Brazil.

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