SXSW stands out among other festivals, for good or bad, due to its chaotic and loose nature. Expect to stand in long lines, make compromises on who you want to see, and always have a backup plan. It’s not as bad as it sounds though if you do the much recommended homework before hand. The festival has grown so big and so spread out over the years that there is always something worthwhile for you to do. An assortment of showcases are put on by labels, agencies, and websites all competing to promote the artists they care about. “It’s like spread out hella much more than any other festival. I think it’s dope because it allows more people to come to it and still gives people room to breathe”, says rapper Jay Stone, here to promote his latest release with Monster Rally, Foreign Pedestrians.
The non-stop shows and free alcohol always sounds enticing from a festival goer’s point of view, but what about those who help make SXSW what it is? Artists and promoters have to deal with unpaid gigs and playing an insane amount of shows (Hinds played 16 this year) all to attract more fans. Does SXSW help further the career of the artists playing these showcases or is it something they feel they need to do?
Michelle Cable, who owns and runs Panache Booking, attended her 10th SXSW and hosted several showcases featuring an extended roster from Panache Booking such as Juan Wauters, Dent May, and Twerps. “I feel like it’s still helpful for the development of artist’s career, but maybe not as much recently because SXSW is so over saturated with bands these days. It’s hard to break out of all that competition. Every year though, and especially this year with 40 bands from our roster culminating in one place, I feel like it reminds me of the community we’re building and validates why we all work so hard on touring projects. It’s a big celebration for everyone to finally all be in one area and get to hang out and bond”, she says.
Panache Booking put on eight parties this year including four boat shows, three all day showcases, and a closing party that was also a dance competition. “It’s kind of like a crazy clusterfuck in both good and bad ways. There are so many people and bands on the streets of Austin it’s a bit hard to navigate. But I do feel like our agency has paved a pretty good path for utilizing SXSW to the best of its possibilities. It’s still more of a showcase festival which makes it very different from most other festivals. The element that everyone’s doing so many gigs for free or barely any money is still fascinating to me. Same goes with the agents, we’re booking hundreds of daytime parties for free”, Cable mentions.
“It’s like being in your real life twitter feed. If your twitter was in one city it’s right now and here”, says Ted Feighan, better known as sample based exotica producer Monster Rally. “It’s definitely like the internet in 3-D and…”, adds Queens D. Light, who helped out Monster Rally & Jay Stone’s set at the Liberty. “…putting it into flesh mode”, Jay Stone chimes in finishing his girlfriend’s sentence.
SXSW is so massive in terms of other festivals you have the entire city of Austin to wonder around and catch a show. “I don’t think I would call SXSW a festival. It’s more like a street fair with parties”, says Stas one half of the experimental hip-hop and R&B duo THEESatisfation, who put out the fantastic EarthEE this year. “It’s a good place to link up with folks who you wouldn’t normally see because of distance. It’s good press and a boozy kick back”.
“SXSW is interesting in that we pay them in a different type of currency”, says Hunter Mack, owner and operator of Gold Robot Records, who put on a showcase at the Liberty this year. Artist play multiple shows a day, mostly for free, at various venues looking to draw in more fans. “No one is necessarily getting discovered or getting a record deal and making it big, but other artists, a lot of people are finding out about other people that they would never see otherwise, because maybe they’re not being written about or maybe you just miss it in the flood of information”, mentions Feighan who is on Hunter’s label. “I don’t feel for unpaid gigs. I love performing and donating my time to a good cause but unpaid gigs are disrespectful. Luckily SXSW pays you in ‘exposure'”, Stas adds.
Listen to new releases from Monster Rally & Jay Stone and THEESatisfaction below.