andrew barber fake shore drive

Fake Shore Drive’s Andrew Barber on SXSW

Words: Andrew Barber
Photo: HANK PEARL

Does SXSW really matter? Andrew Barber fills us in

I first went around five to six years ago to see what all the fuss was about. It appeared that every key player in the music business was down there, and I’d been kicking myself for missing. I’d been hearing about it for years, and many of my peers started going. It was the place to discover new talent, network and attend all the cool events. As an up-and-coming blogger, it seemed like the best place to make new connections — on a level playing field. We weren’t in LA or NYC — it was Austin, so everyone was kind of taken off their high horses.

Then I started going to put on events. In 2011, we did the Taste of Chicago showcase – an all Chicago show with various artists and brands. In 2013, we did our biggest event ever at SXSW — with Red Bull Sound Select. Master P headlined, and Chance the Rapper opened. There was like 2,500 people that attended throughout the day. It was amazing.

The past few years I’ve been for work and fun. A little of both, but mostly for business.

I think SXSW is more about networking and being seen now. It’s changed a lot even in the five to-six years since I started going. I can’t imagine how much it’s changed in the past 10 years. People prefer to go to the late-night parties, like the Illmore, as opposed to standing around in a crowded bar looking for the next best talent.

Now it’s really about following around the new buzz artist, or trying to finesse your way into the big corporate events. People want to see Kanye and Eminem and J. Cole and Drake, not Johnny up-and-comer. It’s tough for new artists to cut through the noise. If you have NO buzz in your hometown, don’t even waste your time making the trip. It won’t make a difference. People don’t really get discovered down there anymore.

I think it’s a lot of fun, but it’s more about being seen and hitting the big corporate events now. People want to be seen at the cool places, not at hole-in-the-walls, trying to discover something new. SXSW should continue on, making it a destination for music fans to see everything they want within a three day span.

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