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SXSWhat! 2024

After five incredible years of unimaginable success, it is known that Hailstorm is a modern business affairs consultancy and carefully curated collective of BA badasses who live and work all over the country. We’ve been remote by design since inception. It is known.

What you may not know is that one of us lives deep in the heart of the Lone Star State, and for the past few years I’ve been grazing cattle on a homestead in Texas Hill Country. OK, it’s technically a high rise apartment in downtown Austin with sweeping river views; but I’d like you to imagine me in painted-on pants, perched atop a majestic steed. We’re gliding across the prairie, wild hair whipping in the wind (both of us) and moving at breakneck speed into a dusky orange horizon. We’re going so fast and yet, inexplicably, your eye perceives it in cinematic slow motion.

Austin living means no state taxes, ‘dog-friendly’ everything, and lots of invitations to dinners/events that start promptly at 6pm - which is hilarious if you work in advertising. It also means that once a year, everyone who’s anyone to some people in certain circles within a few subsets of fairly specific socio-economic demographics, converges into one populous think tank and hyper-commercialized pop-up playground known as South By Southwest - SXSW. It’s a nine-day brain-doggle of facts, fun, and freebies; and when folks aren’t riding a ferris wheel at the pop-up Audible (an amazon company) Carnival, scoring a cozy graphic sweatshirt at the pop-up Delta lounge, or posing for apres ski photos at Paramount’s pop-up Mountain of Entertainment, they attend talks, panels, and discussions around zeitgeisty issues and cutting edge ideas in media, music, technology and of course, entertainment.

As SXSW continues to expand its coverage of contemporary topics, so too has it reached a greater audience by providing festival goers a deeper dive on the legal and regulatory sides of things. From a BA perspective, this year’s SXSW was more relevant than ever. Here were my favorite takes:

College NIL

I’d long been on the fence about NIL. I thought it fair that student athletes benefit from some of the massive revenue they generate but also had concerns over how it might sully my nostalgic (and probably unrealistic) ideal of “pure sportsmanship” while also considering the kind of rotten person I would most certainly have become with hundreds of thousands of dollars at 19 years old.

A panel of current and former student athletes confirmed the glaringly obvious: I ain’t them and they ain’t me. I hadn’t given enough credit to the fact that any teenager who wakes up, goes to practice, goes to class, does homework, makes content, goes to practice #2, reviews game tape, and then goes home to do more homework and maybe make a little more content, is waaaay more disciplined than I am today, ignoring the total knucklehead I was at 19.

These athletes were smart, tech savvy and had a surprisingly sophisticated understanding of both themselves as a brand and their participation in brand partnerships. Just like any good Influencer, they’re looking for partners that fit who they are and with whom they can maintain their authenticity. They understand the concept of good money vs. bad, and see NIL partnerships as an entry point into long term opportunities and an opportunity to nourish those relationships. Everyone agreed there should be an NIL class or seminar for new student athletes to help them better navigate the engagement atmosphere. That led to a compelling thought exercise about what such a class might look like and I’m low-key building a syllabus in the back of my mind.

THC, CBD, etc.

Wow. Talk about nerding out on an epic scale. Like….a J.R.R. Tolkien, George R. R. Martin kind of scale. This is a story of referendums, Farm Bills, the USDA, the DEA, the FDA, the NIH, conflicting state and federal laws, political subterfuge, disproportionate criminalization, hodge-podge regulatory systems, interstate commerce, international influence, employment law, drug scheduling, medical ethics, municipal regulation, structural isomers, chemical compounds, psychoactive effects, legal percentages, the heavy weight of food in comparison to hemp, a bunch of names for the same thing, incorrectly using the same name for many different things, changing cultural attitudes and generational differences in drinking.

We’ve barely tapped market potential for legally-purchased hemp-derived products and it's going to be in a lot of things. The Hailstorm team is getting read and getting ready!

Artificial Intelligence

Still going strong and we’re still figuring it out. As with any concept of privacy and the beloved Dodo bird, consensus seems to suggest that humans are more likely to lose intellectual property protections than they are to gain them in a future creatively resourced through synthetic smarts. You should still run

everything by BA.

Next year’s SXSW is March 7-15, 2025 with deeply discounted tickets available through April 15th. Start planting the seed in your employer's mind now. Tell them you read a thing, written by a guy, at that super-legit BA consultancy, before he saddled his laptop and rode off into the sunset.

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