Does SXSW Matter Anymore?

Words: Richard Chang
Photo: Anthony Quintano

Four key players in the SXSW scene reveal their candid thoughts on the festival.

Here it comes again. You can smell the sweat, tacos and booze on E. 6th St. already. SXSW explodes into Austin, Texas, March 11, with none other than President Obama delivering the keynote speech. The Music portion of the festival, which officially runs March 15-20, has shared the spotlight with Interactive and Film since 1994 but when SXSW began in 1987, it was created to serve local Austin artists.

According to the SXSW website, “A fundamental opinion shared by the group [of founders] was that the local creative and music communities were as talented as anywhere else on the planet, but were severely limited by a lack of exposure outside of Austin.”

That first year, the festival was three days. There were 177 showcasing artists and 15 panels and workshops. Artists were mainly Texas-based, including The Reverend Horton Heat and Bad Mutha Goose. With panels titled Dealing with the Majors and Alternative Radio, SXSW was built squarely upon the premise of helping young artists and bands cut through the industry barriers.

It struck a chord, and SXSW very quickly grew bigger and bigger. Now, 30 years later, the festival is equally known for hosting the most famous artists in the world as much as music discovery. In 2013 and 2014, Prince, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake performed. This year, SXSW is 10 days with more than 2,000 artists performing in official and unofficial showcases.

There have been grumblings for years as to whether SXSW still served its original manifesto. We surveyed a handful of people involved in promoting new music and new artists and asked them what place SXSW exists for them and artists and fans.

Andrew Barber, Fake Shore Drive: Barber’s blog has long supported of the burgeoning hip-hop scene in Chicago, from which Chance the Rapper, Sicko Mobb, G Herbo, Tink among others have emerged.

Dave from BrooklynVegan: Since its inception in 2004, Brooklyn Vegan has become a big advocate for emerging artists in New York City. It has since grown to become a must-read for music fans in NYC and expanded into live event production and satellite radio.

Kevin McStravick, Operation Every Band: For the past several years, Kevin and his team have been putting together the most exhaustive spreadsheet of bands playing SXSW.

Edward Castillo, Scoremore: Scoremore is an event promotion company that was started by students in Austin, empowering students in every phase of the process, from conception to attendance. It has now expanded to 11 campuses nationwide.

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03 2016

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