Paste Magazine: SXSW Emerging Trends

Here’s a pretty good read by Caren Kelleher for Paste Magazine on some interesting SXSW trends: http://tinyurl.com/2om9cm
She also cites another article about SXSW’s founder fighting for control of the festival (no, really…) which if you’ve been you know all about: http://tinyurl.com/2ftxef
Every winter my email inbox is flooded with emails from publicists and record labels, all inquiring about this publication’s plans for South By Southwest (SXSW) coverage and event participation. The campaigning is starting earlier and earlier, even as far out as September! After all of the campaigning is over, we have a big convention in Austin, Texas, called SXSW. SXSW has become the election season of the music industry, with bands vying for the attention of fans, critics, record executives and the media. The playing field is deep and diverse. There are buzzed-about newcomers like Vampire Weekend (NY) and Bon Iver (WI) who excite America’s college students and NPR-listeners; seasoned veterans like R.E.M. (GA) and Dolly Parton (TN), who hit the right notes with the 25-54 crowd and Southerners. Some bands already have ties to major labels, while others are running as independents.
With both the expansion of independent music and the expansion of the SXSW brand, many members of the industry has become more critical of SXSW, citing that it has outdone itself in size and marketing clutter; at the same time, SXSW has become more critical of the industry, citing that it is fighting for control and that unsanctioned parties are damaging the SXSW brand. Yet the list of participants in SXSW keeps on growing, as the well-respected conference courts new artists, new sponsors and new attendees.
For the sake of comparison, in the US presidential election cycle, a Democratic candidate must earn 2,025 delegate votes to secure the party nomination; a Republican candidate needs 1,191. This year there are 1,594 artists confirmed for SXSW 2008. That’s more bands than Republican delegates! If all the SXSW bands formed a political party, they could nominate a president!
Given this staggering number, I was curious to look at the statistics of SXSW and find out what we can learn by looking at SXSW 2007 and SXSW 2008 side by side. Will ‘bear’ bands have a good year, or will they be trumped by ‘wolf’ bands? Will Brooklyn give us the musical darlings of 2008, or does London have better chance of being the 2008 tastemaker?

Before I reveal my findings from the data, here is some information on how it was compiled, since it is important to be fair AND balanced, as well as the most trusted source for music news.

In preparing this analysis, I utilized two sets of data, taken almost exactly a year apart. The first is the list of artists confirmed for SXSW 2007 as reported on February 8, 2007; second, the list of artists confirmed for SXSW 2008 as of February 7, 2008. This will provide for the best comparison in our analysis.

All percentages represented below are based on their respective data sets (meaning I divided the total number of bands in a category by the total number of bands performing at the conference).

This is a significant statistic (though it should be noted that other bands were announced late in 2007); still, a near 20% increase in artists cannot be ignored. Will additional venues be utilized to accommodate this increase?

Despite a downturn in the economy, more bands will be traveling to SXSW this year. Let’s take a look at breakdown by region, shining light on a handful of popular regions:

The majority of the artists playing SXSW are from its hometown of Austin. Is this because SXSW is biased towards its own city? Or are bands more likely to submit and pay registration fees when they don�t have to pay travel expenses? Unfortunately numbers cannot provide answers to these questions.

You’ll notice I’ve separated ‘Brooklyn, NY’ from ‘New York, NY,’ as many artists make this distinction themselves.

Even when Brooklyn and New York are combined, you’ll see just how many artists are NOT from these or any of the other prominent cities, proving that New York is not the center of the musical universe.

Not as many animal bands this year. Maybe they need to hibernate for a year and sleep off a successful 2007.

Is color a vital issue in this SXSW cycle? It seems not.

How about special interests?

Nothing telling here, though the exclamation point (!) is suffering this year, no doubt because !!! is not performing at SXSW 2008. There are a few less ‘F-Bombs’ this year too, and women will be glad to know that no bands are taking advantage of ‘Bitches’ or ‘Hoes.’

Stay tuned for more SXSW 2008 coverage in the coming weeks.

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