Spotify Repurposes Equipment from Its SXSW Stage to Build Kids a Recording Studio

Michelle Obama Kealing Middle School 2016
Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

First Lady Michelle Obama joins students from Kealing Middle School for a group photo prior to the keynote event to discuss the Let Girls Learn initiative during the South by Southwest Music Conference at the Austin Convention Center in Austin,Texas on March 16, 2016. 

At this year's South By Southwest, Spotify laid down its biggest footprint to date, upgrading from a stage literally tacked on to a house to a proper beast of a venue that could accommodate the metaphorical size of Willie Nelson and the literal size of The Kills' Ginsu-knife blues. Obviously a production that size required a lot of equipment, which Kerry Steib, the company's director of social impact, immediately put to good use.

Steib reached out to Mindpop, a local non-profit that seeks out opportunities to "expand creative learning" in the city and which in turn pointed her to the Austin Independent School District and Kealing Middle School, where Spotify would soon be facilitating the construction of a recording studio from the remnants of the Spotify House (which, Steib points out, falls into Kealing's district). Mindpop and Steib piggybacked on a music production program the school has been running for some time.

"For us it's: "How can we make the local Austin community a part of SXSW?' The community is often not a part of it," Steib tells Billboard, "especially when you're talking about young people in areas like East Austin, where there's not a lot of access." 

So, weeks after the boozy masses and aspiring artists funneled out of the city, students have a fully operational recording studio with which to chase their own musical dreams.

Steib and Spotify have undertaken two other projects in Austin -- helping local musicians use digital tools to expand their audiences, and hosting a day of beatmaking instruction for youngsters. The company has also sponsored more than 400 girls' attendance to Girls Rock Camp and sent volunteers to its Murfreesboro, Tenn. iteration.

Steib says its working -- "I was at [Kealing] two days ago, and kids were staying after school late -- kids who would normally go home and do whatever kids do -- staying late to make music with their friends." As any grownup with a passion can remember, it's the rare moments of possibility that stick around the longest.