The annual music festival season usually doesn’t get kicked off until the public has had a substantial dose of news about SXSW, arguably the biggest and (not arguably) the most influential music festival/conference/trade show/street fair in the country. 2013 was no exception, as downtown Austin, Texas and it’s outlying areas served as one huge chef’s stew of as many music artists, genres, events and seminars that one can think of.
This year, I was lucky enough to attend on behalf of this very website to cover some of the main activities. Did lots and lots of networking and talking, business card giving and receiving, demo and mixtape taking, venue hopping, and a whole lot of walking. Met tons of up-and-coming artists from many spots around the map (Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, Georgia, New York, California, and even some places abroad, as expected). Here are just a few of the overall highlights from this years’ SXSW:
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
PANEL DISCUSSIONS50 Years of The Beatles
Black Women in Rock
How Indie Labels Survived the Record Biz Apocalypse
Breaking Barriers: The Climate of Music in Latin America
Raise Your Fists: Music Meets Activism
Music Festivals Powered by Tech Innovation
ARTIST SHOWCASE PERFORMANCES
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Sir Michael Rocks
Gary Clark, Jr.
Trae the Truth
The Kid Daytona
And just for good measure, here are a few observations from a first time attendee that took some very good advice on how to prepare for the madness that can ensue from SXSW, but that can be tamed if you’re prepared:
CARGO SHORTS AND A BAG ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND.No, they’re not all that fashionable, but some excellent advice I took was to take comfort over fashion, and I went ahead and added convenience to that mix. You’re going to get LOTS of free stuff, from CDs to maps and pocket guides to other freebies; so compartmentalized clothing can never hurt.
TALK TO EVERYONE.The truth is, there’s so much going on in Austin for SXSW that you never know who you could be talking to. Be courteous, receptive and open as much as you can muster. True, you’ll be tired, a bit dehydrated and mainly looking for your next music venue, but take the time and make an effort. This is the music and entertainment BUSINESS after all, and realizing a great opportunity could be a just sentence away.
CURIOSITY IS EVERYTHING.Whether your goal is simply to discover new music, find out about the latest tech innovations, do some solid networking, or begin making a name for yourself in the business, it’s vital to be open-minded and flexible. This may sound pretty obvious, but the truth is some folks still don’t get it. Mix it up a bit! There’s Hip Hop, folk music, electronica, indie rock, hard metal, business seminars, panel discussions, poster shows, tech displays and so much more all going on at once. Don’t try to get to everything, but don’t stay sectioned off either.
GET SNACKS.There is plenty of local fare going on all around you, from restaurants to street vendors to food trucks, but you don’t want to spend all your hard earned cash up. So stocking up on little nibblers before you head to Austin isn’t such a bad idea. Nutri-grain bars and almonds work pretty well.
WHATEVER YOU DO…LEARN!
SXSW has become the pinnacle of music festivals, the one after which pretty much all other conferences are trying to model theirs. But more than that, it’s an educational experience. You’ll do a lot of talking and selling of yourself and your skills, but you’ll also have to take the time to shut up, look, listen and observe. That sometimes gets lost, and this is too good an opportunity for that to happen.
Hopefully this small bit of information helps out if you plan to attend in 2014. And if so, it can’t hurt to start planning now. So get to it. I know I am!