February 16, 2016

Plugged In: NYU Alumni at SXSW®

Spoon performing at 2015 SXSW® Music & Media Conference and Festival. Photo courtesy of SXSW®. Photographer: Tye Truitt.

For a few magical days music floats out of nearly every door in Austin, TX. Walking familiar streets, residents and visitors are invited to watch more than 2,200 bands from 62 countries on 100 plus stages over the span of six incredible nights. Whether you’re a producer, performer, promoter, or A&R professional—if you’re in the music industry, there’s no better place to be than the South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Music & Media Conference and Festival.

Behind the scenes, amidst the chaos and noise, alumnae Julia Wilde (TSOA ’07) and Jennifer Newman Sharpe (TSOA ‘07) have co-founded Sparkplug, a marketplace that supports the annual influx of artists. Sparkplug allows musicians to rent out anything music-related, from gear to rehearsal spaces.

“Julia and I have been working in the music industry in different capacities for years, starting with internships while we were at NYU! Time and time again we experienced the pain points of instrument rental for musicians. Julia was actively following and interested in the rise of the sharing economy, lead by companies like Airbnb,” Newman Sharpe explains. “[Julia] came up with the idea to use these revolutionary new trust and security measures to connect musicians and artists, so that they can rent instruments, gear, and creative spaces from one another…About nine months later, we launched Sparkplug."

Wolf Alice performing at 2015 SXSW® Music & Media Conference and Festival. Photo courtesy of SXSW®. Photographer: Christy Sanchez.

Backline is an industry term referring to the instruments and gear musicians need for a live performance. 

“When bands tour, it is often impractical or impossible to bring all of the gear and instruments you need and venues are generally not responsible for providing specific items. Bands then need to rent whatever they don't have,” Newman Sharpe says.

Before they founded Sparkplug, bands had to rent from traditional backline companies, who often expensive and require large deposits.

“Performers need instruments and gear to perform and record their music,” explains Newman Sharpe. “We wanted to find a way to make it easier and more affordable for them to find and rent the tools they need to be creative.”

Photo for the gear expo at 2015 SXSW® Music & Media Conference and Festival. Photo courtesy of SXSW®. Photographer: Merrick Ales.

Julia and Jennifer are two of many NYU alumni active in the music industry. Together, NYU’s Tish School of the Arts and the NYU Alumni Club in Austin invite NYU alumni from all schools to the SXSW® Festival Alumni Reception on March 14, 2016 from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

The reception is a great opportunity to connect with fellow alumni in the industry from around the globe. Allyson Green, Dean of Tish School of the Arts, will be there to celebrate the amazing achievements of all alumni.

Feeling the #VioletPride? Take a listen below and hear some of the amazing musicians who have called NYU home: