Tuesday, March 31, 2009

SXSW Part 4 - Day 2

My Day 2 activities at the Convention Center consisted of three panel discussions: Music Publishing, Placing Songs in TV & Film, and Doing a 360-Degree Deal With Yourself. Basically, only the TV & Film one was worth the time, with a few useful tidbits picked up there. The publishing one was given by the Brabec Brothers, who have written an extensive book on the topic. Trying to cram all the info in their book into an hour and fifteen minutes clearly was an exercise in futility. Didn't learn much I hadn't already read elsewhere. The last one turned into a theoretical discussion amongst the panelists on what it means to be successful in the music business these days and also on the advantages/disadvantages of being on a major label. Not sure what any of this had to do with the intended panel topic. Plus, this panel started an hour late. Quincy Jones was giving the keynote speech of the convention in the same room in which our panel was supposed to start at 330pm. Someone clearly didn't want to tell Mr. Jones to shut up, because we waited an hour before they moved us to a different location.

During my lunch break, I met Anthony, a guy who works for a new Web site called Worldsings.com. They're a social networking site for musicians and they're running a contest to find the "best song in the world." Feel free to submit yours. The finalists get invited to a big bash in, where else, VEGAS, next March, where the winner will be crowned. Let's hope the Web site is still around by then.

The lateness of the last panel precluded me from walking the trade show floor, and also precluded me from hopping a free shuttle back to the hotel, so I decided to hang out downtown until the musical showcases began that evening. So I spent some time walking around Austin. This is when I truly grasped the full extent of shitholery that encompasses the city. This was also when I had my near encounter with the Austin bat community. But, the downtime did provide me with the opportunity to get my entrepreneurial gears turning, so I spent a portion of the time taking notes.

9PM - time for the Meat Puppets to play at Stubbs, I'm assuming one of the larger venues on the SXSW circuit. They squeeze around 2,000+ people into an outdoor area...basically the backyard of the Stubbs restaurant. It was like a giant frat party, albeit with a slightly older crowd. The Meat Puppets are best known for their 90's hit "Backwater," which, naturally, they did not play. So that's the first demerit in my book. They're next best known for having penned two songs that Nirvana covered for the latter's MTV Unplugged in New York performance and CD. It was very apparent to me why "Lake of Fire" and "Plateau" were radio hits for Nirvana and not for the Meat Puppets. These guys looked like you could have run into them at a biker bar somewhere in Nebraska. Also very oddly distracting was Cris Kirkwood (the brother who's not the singer) not saying anything in between songs, yet making extremely peculiar vocal sounds and flailing his hands in the air for no apparent reason. Overall, I did not get the Puppets' vibe. It should be noted though, that their 2000 CD, "Golden Lies," is quiet awesome. I am listening to it right now, just to remind myself why I attended the show. Of course, they played nothing from this album :-) Overall grade: C-

I stuck around for the next band, Gomez. I'd heard of them but not known any songs of theirs. When I left in the middle of the third song, the same was still gladly true. Not a fan.

I had plans to catch other shows, but to paraphrase Roger Murtaugh from the Lethal Weapon movies, "I'm getting too old for this shit." Just didn't have the will or the energy, so I once again retreated to the palatial Travelodge.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

SXSW Part 3 - The Beginning

Nothing like taking an overnight flight and then having to sit through half a day of seminars - but that is how my adventures at South By Southwest 2009 started off. Landed in Austin around 930am, made a beeline for the aforementioned Travelodge, dropped off the bags and caught the SXSW shuttle down to the Convention Center.

First up was a "Quickie Session" on Promotions, Publicity & Press. Sounds a little suspect, but it was actually a speed-dating style gathering where the attendees were divided into several tables of about 5 or so, and we got to have around 10 minutes speaking with one of several industry experts. The experts would then rotate tables so we could speak to the next one...and so forth. I attended a couple of these over the subsequent days and found it to be an interesting setup. I've already followed up with several of these folks to thank them and heard back from a couple. Just good to know of some people in the business.

Then, three back-to-back panel discussions where we basically sat in a lecture center and listened to a panel of 2 to 5 industry people speak on certain topics. I attended panels on Artist Management, Getting Gigs and Online Resources. The latter being, by far, the most comprehensive and fruitful session I attended during the festival. Online is where it's at folks. I was planning on attending a fourth panel on Merchandising, but couldn't quite make it any further without getting some food and then sleep, so...off to the Travelodge for a few-hour crash.

I headed back downtown late that night to catch my first musical showcase. It was the 90's 4-hit wonder, Fastball. The showcases featured short sets, mostly in small, hole-in-the-wall bars. This one was pretty good. They get brownie points for playing their biggest hits, which, as I'll write later, some acts feel is unnecessary. Overall grade: B+

More to come...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

SXSW Part 2 - Accommodations

Choosing a hotel online is always an adventure. To paraphrase the line from Forrest Gump, "You never know what you're gonna get." After having dumped over $1,000 on the festival registration and airfare, I was looking to skimp on the hotel accommodations. So I found a rate of $60 or so per night at the Travelodge. After all is said and done, it wasn't really that bad. It was clean enough, but certainly far from luxury. It's a beaten up motel that is flanked by the Highland Mall just across the way. As with many lower-end establishments, the drainage in the shower took a while to go into effect, but other than that, not too many issues. Except, ah yes, there was a leak seemingly coming from behind the toilet. The folks at travelodge quickly got the water cleaned up from the bathroom floor, but when I returned that evening, I discovered that water had seeped underneath the carpet in the bedroom section of the room. As the great Yogi Berra once said, "It's like deja vu all over again." Having just dropped a bucketload of money repairing water damage in my own bedroom, this was not a welcome discovery. But, at that point, I only had a couple days left there, so I simply advised the concierge to have the issue addressed quickly. Not sure if they did anything, but hopefully they won't have mushrooms growing through the carpet like I did at home. All in all, seeing as though I spent hardly any time in the room, it was passable. I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it though.

Monday, March 23, 2009

SXSW Part 1 - Austin, TX

Sorry, but I don't know what unenviable list you have to find yourself on in order to be considered for state capital. As someone who spent four years at college in Albany, NY, I can attest to the fact that being named the center of your state's government has nothing to do with the overall appeal of your city. To be more frank, Austin is a dump. I can't think of a single compelling reason why any human being would purposely go there during the 11 months when South by Southwest is NOT in session. Old, run down buildings, walking blocks and blocks before you can find something decent to eat and overall dreariness contribute to a rather depressing landscape. Not to mention the fact that, down by the lake or river or whatever it was, there is a sign extolling the virtues of Austin's ginormous bat community. Yes, apparently, under the bridge past which I had just walked prior to discovering this sign, resides a gathering (a flock? a herd?) of approximately 750,000 of your favorite winged rodents. No, I didn't type too many zeroes. That's seven hundred and fifty THOUSAND bats. I don't know if there are even 750,000 PEOPLE in Austin. In any case, it was approaching dusk, and I decided not to stick around for the nightly viewing of the bats emerging from their resting place. Folks, when this is your city's claim to fame, it's time to move. Austin, you clearly have a problem. Sorry.

Rumblings and Ramblings on Music

As anyone who is reading this likely knows, I just spent the better part of five days in Austin, TX at the annual music industry extravaganza known as South by Southwest. This event started in 1987 with 700 registrants for the music festival, and now, with about 12,000 attendees per year, it's regarded as the ultimate networking event in the music business. Given my revitalized aspirations to create, innovate and promote within the world of music, I took it upon myself to dive right in and make a beeline for the craziness.

Since to write one, stream of consciousness bloviation on my experience there would likely result in incoherent blabbering that none of you would want to devote the time to read, I am going to post a series of shorter blog entries over the next couple of weeks. I will post the first right now. More to come...