Whew. Just got back from one of the largest music conferences in the world – SXSW (South By South West) in Austin, TX. It’s like a musical wonderland down there. I was floored by Earthless, These are Powers, A Place to Bury Strangers, Chuck Prophet, Mark Kozelek, Brad Barr, The Peasantry, and in particular, Monotonix, which might have put on one of the most ridiculous/riveting performance I have ever seen. Check them out:
I suppose that seeing good music at SXSW is a given, but now that I am back and catching up with my RSS feeds and emails, it’s a little surprising for me to see that some folks have an opinion that SXSW is a waste of time for bands, the business has changed in such a way that the industry folks in attendance don’t make a difference anymore, and that the conference is so crowded there is little chance that bands can make any impact anyway.
To me, that’s a bit of a close-minded and jaded way to look at things.
It might be true that the major label A&R folks that are at SXSW are interested in locking bands into 360 deals that are likely not in the best interest of artists. But from a promotional and business standpoint, there are fantastic opportunities. We all know the Internet has changed everything about the business – sales, distribution, and how music is discovered. Commercial radio has fizzled as a means to expose folks to new music, having been replaced by blogs and online music communities. And the blogs have been in full effect at SXSW. Sean Moeller runs a tremendous music blog/site called Daytrotter, and he’s been holed up at Big Orange Studios in Austin the whole week recording exclusive live sets and interviews with folks like Peter Bjorn, from Peter Bjorn and John, Kaki King, and Johnathan Rice. The notion that there is too much competition at SXSW is discounted by that fact that the Internet allows the new breed of tastemakers to bring SXSW to you. All it takes is one blogger writing about your performance to make an impact on hundreds or thousands of folks immediately, both through editorial and multimedia content.
It always comes back to the music. If your music kills and you work hard, good things will happen. Berklee put on a show on Friday afternoon at Friends on 6th street, where my good friend and Berklee alum Brad Barr performed. Brad played a beautiful Townes Van Zandt-inspired set (to my ears) of original music. Directly after the show, Brad was approached to play a solo set at the High Sierra Music Festival in California next year, as well as an opportunity to play Middlebury College. Cory Brown, the founder of artist-friendly Absolutely Kosher records, was in attendance too, rocking out to The Peasantry. It’s tough for me to see how these things could be viewed as anything but positive for Brad and The Peasantry.
Barry Kelly, Dave Franz, and myself shot some video interviews with heavy hitter forward thinking industry folks while we were down in Austin. I’ll post a link when we have the piece edited all together.