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Hippohonk: Helping You Find The Best Acts At SXSW

Posted in Spotlights, SXSW on January 22, 2014

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SXSW Music is the largest music festival of its kind in the world. In other words, try as you might, you will not be able to see every act that plays.

With that sobering fact in mind, how's a SXSW-er supposed to know what to see?!

With so many artists and so many shows, how are you supposed to know which bands would work well during the day, which are more for the late night party-goers, which are best for rocking out, which are perfect for relaxing with a cold beer and on and on and on.

That's where our buddies at Hippohonk come in. We sat down with founder Jason Goodrich to talk about how they help festival goers sort through & find the best music for them and what they have planned for SXSW 2014.

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Ticketbud: Tell us a little bit about Hippohonk! How did it get started?    

The concept of Hippohonk was started about 7 years ago when a friend and I had both gone to our first SXSW and were both completely overwhelmed. We didn’t know who to see or where to go and once we finally got somewhere, we realized that we had never heard of the bands we were watching and a lot of them were kind of terrible.

The following year, we remedied this by creating a huge spreadsheet that we passed back and forth. This magical, knowledge-wielding document contained brief descriptions of the bands and ratings from 1 to 5. Every year the spreadsheet grew, new guest reviewers were added and more people started looking on.

734575_10151565073846565_392927966_nAfter a few years of this, we noticed that a lot of people started asking us who to go see and where to go during SXSW. Instead of answering all the emails and IMs, we decided to make a website called sxswreviews.com where we published all of our ratings. A year later, and after a drunken discussion on what to name the site, we changed the name to Hippohonk because we wanted to rate other festivals and we also didn’t want to get sued by the SXSW people.

TB: So what does Hippohonk offer to music festivals lovers, particularly those attending SXSW? 

Our site offers a quick and easy spot to discover artists coming to SXSW and other major festivals. Each reviewer listens to at least 3 or 4 songs per band and watches any live performances that are available online. They then rate the band from 1 to 5 and add a link so users can easily stream the band's music.

The rating system is fairly simple. Reviewers give a band a rating from 1 to 5 based solely on how much they would like to see the band live (not necessarily on how good they sound in studio) and we take the average of all the reviewers’ rating:

  • 5 is a band that the reviewer will go out of their way to go see,
  • 4 means they would really like to see them but wouldn’t go out of their way,
  • 3 means the band isn’t bad and the reviewer wouldn’t leave the venue if the band started playing,
  • 2 means they would actually leave unless the venue has a really good band coming up or tons of free drinks and swag
  • the dreaded 1 means that no matter what, they’re running for the hills.

For popularity, we take all the bands for just that particular festival and pull their popularity from Spotify. The single most popular band gets a 5 and all the other bands are normalized from that highest popularity number.

A few weeks before the festival, we take all the ratings and all the popularities, run them through a script and come up with a list of what we call “value artists”. These are the artists whose shows should be the easiest to get in to (because they’re not very popular) but who will still put on a really good show (because they are highly rated).

TB: What are some of your favorite parts/experiences of working on/with Hippohonk? 

Without a doubt, my favorite aspect is discovering new music. Previous top rated bands include the likes of Florence and the Machine, Vampire Weekend, Local Natives, Of Monsters and Men, and Deadmau5 who at the time were basically unknown to the rest of the world but are now huge and are hard to see.

Because of this site, I was able to see all of them up close, in tiny venues and for very little money. I also really enjoy some of the small connections we’ve made with bands. Last year, the incredible band Humans, asked the crowd how many people were at their show because of Hippohonk and there was a large shout from the audience.

It ended up being an insanely fun show and it was great knowing that more people got to experience it because of something we had done.

TB: Being based in Austin, Texas, what does Hippohonk have planned for SXSW 2014?    

We have a few things in the works but nothing finalized. We’re willing to help any party planners who need help picking the right bands for their own event but for the most part, we are just planning on enjoying the greatest music festival in the world.

If anyone sees any of us out there wearing our Hippohonk shirts, I would encourage them to come say hi and ask us for tips on what to see next.

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