The South by Southwest interactive, film, and music festival, held every year in Austin, Texas during the Ides of March, is a mobile mecca.
SXSW ’07 saw the rise of none other than Twitter, while ’09′s big breakout star was FourSquare. Last year, QR (Quick Response) Codes, those digital Rorshach Test-looking barcodes-without-bars, which any smartphone equipped with a QR Code reader can grab as either text or a URL, appeared everywhere, even on the official festival badges. Basically, they’re like clickable web links for the real world. Tech pundit Robert Scoble wore one on his T-shirt.
QR Codes will be even more “everywhere” at SXSW 2011 than they were last year, with good reason. As the smartphone-toting throngs stream past posters for bands and tech startups, plenty of potential exists to coax them into linking to websites, apps, videos, and free stuff using the codes, which have grown significantly more popular since the crowds last surged through the streets of Austin.
“We’ve noticed usage increasing, especially this [past] year.,” Victor Apollo of QR Code company Ventipix told Evolver.fm. “It has increased by 78 percent.”
To capitalize on the trend, ShareSquare quietly launched a private beta to “artists, managers, promoters and major record labels” a couple of months ago. So far, 500 of them have signed up to have ShareSquare promote themselves using “crowdsourced street teams.” Once SXSW attendees scan a QR code created with ShareSquare, their Twitter accounts pre-fill with promotions for three bands. If they hit “send,” they too are invited to the private beta, which could help ShareSquare grow virally at SXSW 2011.
Up to 500 Evolver.fm readers can join that private beta starting today with the promotional code EVOL500.
ShareSquare members can promote themselves using QR Codes and access a suite of analytics tools containing scanners’ smartphone types, carriers, and email addresses, as well as a map showing where they scanned. In addition, the company plans to post leaderboards and “geo heat maps” showing QR hotspots in and around Austin.
According to Aaron Ransom, whose Publicly Private Outfitters makes QR Code T-shirts like the one Robert Scoble wore last year, the real potential of the codes is to offer more than simple web links.
“QR Codes, themselves, have not changed [since last year],” Ransom told Evolver.fm. “The applications and creative uses are becoming more sophisticated, as marketers begin utilizing them to extend and amplify their advertising [with] direct downloads of music, apps, videos, et cetera. Competitions, surveys, promotions have an extraordinary opportunity to increase visibility and add an interactive component that has the possibility to carry over beyond the event.”
Several companies are more than willing to take your money in return for creating a QR Code, but others, such as QRickit (used to create the code above), let anyone make one for free, in seconds, which is another reason we expect them to be even more popular this year.
“Only recently have there been free online tools available for anyone to DIY,” QRickit founder Nino de la Torre told Evolver.fm. “It’s so easy for anyone to create and print out a QR Code and post it anywhere [that] it’s a no-brainer. Probably, the labels and their marketing people should be blamed for not getting on board sooner.”
De la Torre also blames smartphone manufacturers for slowing adoption of the codes.
“It’s too bad the phone makers don’t preinstall a QR Code reader app like they do on all mobile phones sold in Japan,” he added. “Then it would be mainstream in the U.S. too.”
QR Codes were already pretty mainstream during SXSW Interactive 2010, as mentioned above, because its a basically massive gathering of geeks. But the band kids who show up for SXSW Music, most of whom would not be caught dead wearing a Scoble-style QR T-shirt, are a tougher sell.
“I think it will take a little longer for codes to become mainstream during the Music part [of SXSW], although there was strong interest in them at our booth on the tradeshow floor for Music last year,” said Antony McGregor Dey, CEO of QMCodes, which created the codes for last year’s SXSW badges. ”I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a lot of them cropping up for music as well.” He added that inquiries to QMCodes are up about 50 percent from last year.
Don’t have a QR Code reader on your smartphone yet? There are plenty to choose from, but we like them simple: Scan for iPhone or QuickMark for Android. Once you have one installed, you can scan the top of this article to join Evolver.fm on our new Twitter feed.