SXSW Won’t Make You Famous

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Laura Carroll from music metrics startup NextBigSound examines the likely hood of a band breaking through primarily because of playing at SXSW.

The dust has settled on another year of SXSW. No immensely large festival would be complete without police brutality, injured fans and angry rock stars but the enormity of the conference has left a sour taste in the mouths of many artists. As the conference continues to grow, many bands jump at the chance to play, thinking it’s going to be their “big break”. Many of these bands leave Austin disappointed.

There are exceptions, of course. Odd Future (OFWGKTA) broke to the masses, finally! They were already on the verge of breaking and SXSW was perfect timing and a great environment to showcase their talents. It didn’t hurt to be on the cover of Billboard Magazine this past week, either. But what about the rest of the SXSW hopeful? Sorry folks! SXSW won’t make you famous, END OF STORY.

Let’s do some math here…

Estimated numbers say there are over 2,000 artists playing in almost 100 venues over a four-day period (so says Wikipedia). During the Music portion of the conference there can be up to 15 scheduled events from panels to showcases to sponsored parties all trying to capture attention from the 13,000+ industry professionals in attendance. Those people are also attending meet-ups, networking with other industry folks, eating, drinking, running their businesses remotely and sleeping (maybe), not necessarily in that order. The possibilities are quite mind-boggling. As you can imagine, the likelihood of being in the right place at the right time and getting that “big break” becomes nearly impossible.

With competition for time and attention so stiff during the conference, it’s no wonder SX hasn’t been the big break that bands have dreamed of. But isn’t that a reflection on the music industry as a whole? Market saturation is certainly a growing reality and the partnership between new technology and music has helped to make it that way. There are more artists fighting for the attention of people that make things happen. Artists that win at SXSW won’t be popular because of the conference, they were already gaining fans and attention long before and will continue to long afterwards.

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Laura is an advocate for the fusion of music and new technology to help the music industry adapt to changes in business functions and fan interaction. As the Co-Founder of MusicVagabond.com and the Director of Customer Support at Next Big Sound, Inc., she spends her time immersed on both sides as a music consumer and industry professional. Laura is nerdy by nature and has been working with social media analytics and research for four years, almost as long as Twitter has been around (crazy!) She specializes in research and strategy and loves helping customers find tasty nuggets of data that help them make better decisions about their businesses. Laura's love affair with music began at a young age and she grew up playing "radio station" with her cousins, picking tracks off their favorite albums and recording commentary between songs on cassette tapes. In her adult life, you can push Laura's buttons by talking about cool tech stuff you are working on, the show you saw last night, your favorite new artist, and most of all telling her that Green Day Dookie was your first album, too.

Discussion1 Comment

  1. I agree the days of being “discovered” at SXSW and landing a deal with a major record label are over. However, it’s still possible for hitherto unbeknownst artists to break in terms of landing festival gigs that gain them the exposure needed to make it to the next level. Roy Carter (Talent Buyer, High Sierra Music Festival) usually leaves 1-3 spots open for up-and-coming artists he encounters at SXSW to play HSMF.

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