2016 will be my 11th SXSW Music in a row. I’ve never missed a year since my first in 2006.
I spoke on a panel my first year here, which maybe is what got me to make the trip, but I continued to return to experience music’s “Disneyworld for Adults”. The ability to see so many bands in such a short amount of time, across so many different and conveniently located venues is just so great. Getting to also see friends and business associates makes it even better. I don’t make it to the panels, but I wish I did.
As fans, we can see and discover new acts, check out new ones we’re already looking forward to, and see some of our reliable favorites as well. As a publication, it’s a great way to stay on top of things while also conveniently covering so much music for our readers.
The main reason BrooklynVegan continues to return to SXSW these days though, is because of our annual day parties and showcases. Free BrooklynVegan SXSW day parties are a tradition, and as we’ve done for many years, we’ll again have three straight days of six-hour, two-stage day parties in 2016, featuring bands big and small that we write about on the site. New and smaller artists play showcases like ours and others to get in front of as many industry people in a short amount of time as they can, to help kick start their career in various ways.
Audiences are full of labels, agents, managers, publicists, festival bookers, bloggers, other media, and the types of fans who will continue to support you for many years to come if they enjoy your show.
That said, SXSW is also a bit of a carnival with every brand wanting a presence and bigger acts taking advantage of that by heading to SXSW just to cash in. There’s definitely a segment of SXSW attendees who are just there for the free shows by big names and the free beer (or free Red Bull!). SXSW’s biggest challenges to me are how they continue to grow while not alienating various segments of people, whether it’s locals who don’t like all the noise and are concerned about safety, long time fans who want to see more focus on music and less on giant stages made to look like a Doritos vending machine, smaller bands who feel like they’re being overshadowed by Kanye West shows, or small companies like my own who find it harder and harder to work within the many new rules SXSW implements each year.
The rules are there to exert more control on what has turned into a festival much bigger than just the officially sanctioned portion of it. SXSW is a big company running a beast of a fest and they understandably have their bottom line to think about (they need to sell badges to stay alive!), but the many rules they put in place also manage to alienate the partners they work the closest with. That all said, I do think SXSW still matters for fans, bands and the industry as a whole, and that’s one of the reasons I expect BrooklynVegan to continue thinking of Austin as our home away from home for many years to come.