I feel like an entire calendar year has passed since my last blog entry. The thought of "how much time has passed this year" is instantly canceled out by the perplexing conclusion of that it's really only April. This year has been one long workweek for me and I honestly would not have it any other way.
The main focus of these past few weeks has been the preparation and actual duration of South by Southwest (SXSW), the largest music festival/conference in the USA. This event is best described as organized chaos, with almost 2,000 bands performing showcases on 80 or so stages with about 500,000 running around a small downtown setting in the evening. This does not include the 2,000 or so “unofficial” artists that come to play free events during the day, basically creating a microcosm for a week that involves live music, networking, workshops, cheap beer and even cheaper tacos. Most people have a love hate relationship with it, yet still return each year for the spectacle.
This year was very unique experience for myself, not only because I was not preforming (I did for 3-years in a row and last year came down just with The Counter Rhythm Group), but for the fact that my main focus was not necessarily on music/artists (crazy, right?). This year, rather, I was down to unveil Musicians’ Desk Reference to a select few individuals that are considered important in the music industry (and rightfully so, I might add). These meetings were strategically in place for equal parts discussion, pre-endorsement and even some initial shock value.
I cannot describe to you the feeling of anxiety and pride you have when presenting something to the world that almost no one has seen. A blogger that is way more full of themselves may describe it as close to bringing a new life into the world, but I'm definitely not that guy. Still, it is pretty amazing indeed. For any music fans out there, Haim and Alpine were definitely my highlights this year.
While I cannot technically say whom/what companies I met with down at the festival (legal blah blah blah), I can say that they are significant entities designed to help musicians in this ever-changing industry and all of the meetings went extremely well, even vastly exceeding my expectations at times.
The overall week went better than I had hoped and there are definitely some tricks up my sleeve for the release of Musicians’ Desk Reference this fall.
The actual informal networking at SXSW is what absolutely amazes me. My job (in addition to Izzi Krombholz’s, employee extraordinaire) was to literally go hang out with other people in the music business, dip in and see a few songs of a set and then find a quiet corner to have a drink and talk shop about what both parties do and how they could potentially help each other in the industry.
Maybe my next written venture should be titled, “How to Network at SXSW: Drink, Talk, Drink, Talk, Drink, Drink, 15-minute Nap, Tacos, Talk and Drink.” I see a fruitful career move here.
By now you’re asking, “Why has he spent the entire duration of this blog yapping about SXSW?” Because this single week has such a large impact on the music industry, if you are a fan that has the slightest interest in music culture you should be paying attention. This organized chaos dictates what you are going to read about in music magazines and blogs for months to come, what videos you’ll see go viral, the secondary headliners that you’ll pay hundreds to see at music festivals, the fashion trends for the summer and fall, the soundtracks to the latest electronic commercials featuring artists that win all of the awards and your annoying “mainstream/generic” friends are going to be bugging you about next year.
My favorite part of SXSW is not the festival itself, but its sound waves that echo year-round in music venues like The Comet and Mayday and mid-sized festivals such as Midpoint and Bunbury. If you are not one of the individuals willing to pay hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to make the musical exodus, I strongly encourage you to exhaust the minimal amount of research required to see if the bands playing in venues around town have made the trek to perform at such an elite event. If so, consider it a stamp of approval by the music industry and, most importantly, give these bands a chance when they come to you. I often hear chatter from people wishing that they could go be a part of the festivities and see these “unforgettable performances” from “groundbreaking artists” in “intimate venues,” yet they have no clue that their chances of seeing that same scenario in a city like ours (often times for FREE) is extremely high and is tirelessly being written about week after week by poor Mr. Breen and Mr. Baker. Open your eyes and ears people; you’ll probably be glad you did.
Sorry for the rant, but I do feel it was necessary. Next month I promise to write more about the book, as we have some major updates taking place, in addition to having what we hope to be 99% completed prototype in our hands. Exciting times for sure! But for now, go appreciate some awesome live music (April is the busiest touring month of the year due to post-SXSW tours) and have some fun for me … I will not see the light day for several weeks to come. Send help and some Thai Express if I don’t turn in my next blog on time next month.
Brian Penick of local music promotions company The Counter Rhythm Group is guest blogging for CityBeat monthly to provide a behind-the-scenes look at his journey to release his interactive industry guidebook, Musicians' Desk Reference