Editor’s note: This article was originally published April 10, 2014
Hours after tragedy struck South by Southwest this year, the SXSW Cares campaign was already up and running.
The fund, which has raised about $200,000 so far for people injured and killed when a suspected drunken driver plowed into a crowd during the festival, was the work of several well-known figures in Austin’s entertainment scene, including Transmission Events.
Stratus Properties, developer of the W Austin Hotel and Residences, was among the first to give, cutting a check for $10,000.
It was the latest in a growing list of collaborations between Stratus and Transmission, which stages Fun Fun Fun Fest and a variety of other events each year, in addition to booking a number of live music venues around town.
The two Austin-based companies have worked together plenty of times since the 2011 opening of ACL Live at the base of the W building in downtown’s Second Street District, but the relationship became much closer last year when Stratus invested in Transmission, taking a partial ownership stake in the company.
"This is something that came along organically," Stratus chairman and CEO Beau Armstrong said. "We’re not just in the real estate business, we’re in the people business. What we’ve done here is combine music, the hotel and Second Street District into one amazing experience."
The two have worked together to lure a number of big-name acts at ACL Live, where Apple’s iTunes Fest set up shop during SXSW, as well as smaller lounge performances in the hotel as part of the Living Room Live series.
"This hotel gets it," Transmission partner James Moody said. "The W has done a great job of embracing us."
While ACL Live’s seating capacity is relatively small – less than 3,000 seats – compared to many of the stadiums and arenas that typically attract traveling shows, that hasn’t stopped the venue from getting performers such as Elton John and Atoms for Peace, among others – even with ticket prices that can sometimes be well above average.
"There are a lot of misconceptions out there about ticket buyers," ACL Live general manager Colleen Fischer said. "People are willing to pay more for an intimate experience. We’ve seen it over and over again."
"ACL Live is an experience, a date night," Transmission partner Graham Williams said. "It’s a lot different than anything Austin has ever had. The vibe is great, it’s beautiful. Ticket buyers will go where the experience is premium."
Before or after a show, many people pop into the W for a drink. It’s not just a popular spot for concert-goers, either. It’s not unusual to catch performers mixing and mingling.
"It’s cool for our guests to hang with celebrities," Armstrong said. "Not every band just packs up and leaves. They like to stick around and hang out and have a few drinks."
It’s not just the W and ACL Live keeping Transmission busy. The company is responsible for booking performances and laying the groundwork for events citywide – and elsewhere across the state.
During SXSW alone, the company handled more than 20 events put on by well-known national companies such as Spotify, Tumblr, Urban Outfitters and ABC’s "Jimmy Kimmel Live," which taped a week’s worth of shows at the Long Center.
"The music business has become the events business," Moody said. "We’re able to place the right bands at the right places at the right time. We’re hungry. We want to do more and we see a lot of opportunities out there."