News SXSW: Less To Discover For The Avid Music Lover?

Photo by Dustin Finkelstein at SXSW 2011

Showcase: a word that I’ll forever associate with SXSW. I’ve been to plenty of gigs and festivals, and even the odd premiere, but a showcase? That sounds far too exciting, an event reserved only for ‘the next big thing’. SXSW is full of them, each with the latest buzz bands to get excited about. Only, most of these act’s music is already easily accessible, often through the same blogs that are promoting their showcases. The reputation of South-by-Southwest as a festival to discover new bands is starting to dwindle whilst its role in the music industry grows.

Don’t get me wrong, I have respect for all the acts that perform at the festival, the standard is huge and if I ever attended I’d probably go sick looking at all the gig clashes on 6th Street. It’s just, the hype that SXSW used to generate for a band is now largely cultivated online through music websites and blogs and with this SXSW’s main appeal has changed. I love Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen but I expect they’re not acts concerned with the hype machine or getting signed, and it’s these established acts that ultimately take the spotlight away from those who deserve the coverage.

In my teens I would waste a day on SXSW website’s band A-Z, downloading all the obligatory free mp3’s, an act which has ultimately seen me presenting a radio show entirely of new music. I’m not interested in Lil Wayne’s new clothing line or 50 Cent forgetting lyrics at Austin Music Hall this isn’t a festival for these artists. Or perhaps this is an elaborate gig exchange project that will see a bunch of small Pacific North-Western bands play MTV’s VMAs in September? It’s as easy to say ‘this festival has got too big’ as it is for a fan to denounce a band after they make Radio1’s playlist, but this was solely SXSW’s niche. Sundance Festival has suffered a similar backlash in recently years with Paris Hilton gaining the most column inches at last year’s event. Of course, music-wise, there are plenty of brilliant UK equivalents that have popped up recently, all presumably not exotic enough to garner Jay-Z or 50 Cent’s attention…yet. South-By-Southwest was never the ‘golden ticket’ some bands may have perceived it to be but these days, it’s looking likely to to lose the unique ‘showcasing’ appeal that built its reputation in the first place.

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