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South by Southwest

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Overview:

  • Location - Austin, Texas
  • Costs - It depends on what portions of SXSW you want to attend and when you reigster. Tickets range from $225 to $950 (US dollars).
  • Attendees - Record labels, distributors, radio and print media, unsigned and signed artists, managers, and agents.

A Little Something for Everyone:

Since 1987, The South by Southwest Music and Media Conference (SXSW for short) has grown from being a regional music showcasing event to one of the most important events on the music calendar. For an up and coming band, an appearance at SXSW is essential. While the emphasis at SXSW is still largely on indie music, the big labels are now flocking to the event every year.

In addition to hosting one of the most exciting music festivals around, SXSW also hosts a Film Festival and Interactive Festival, aimed at web designers and bloggers.

SXSW Days:

During the day, SXSW attendees hit the Convention Center, where they can network and attend panel discussion dissecting the most important issues facing the music industry. The Convention Center during the day is where bands have the chance to approach record labels, managers and agents, where record labels can approach distributors or create a buzz about their new artists, and where anyone hoping to get a foot in the door in any aspect of the music business can try and make an impression.

SXSW Nights:

While the daytime is good for doing business, SXSW nights are where the action really is. SXSW handpicks a few hundred bands - from thousands of applicants - to play showcases in venues all over Austin. For bands, this is a big chance to get your music heard by the people who can take you to the next level, and for labels, this is a chance to attract media attention and distribution opportunities. For all the work that goes on during the day at SXSW, it is usually the relationships forged over drinks at clubs during gigs that really drive things.

Applying for SXSW:

Bands who wish to play at SXSW need to apply. The deadlines for applying to play vary from country to country, because of work visa regulations, so you should check the SXSW website to see the deadlines for your area. The website also details what information you will need to include with your application, like demos, press clips, and band photos. Make sure you follow the application directions exactly, or you may miss out on your chance to attend.

Should You Go?:

Is SXSW for you? That depends. For people trying to build a name for themselves on the business side of things - record labels, distributors, manufacturers, press, agents, etc - SXSW is a great way to let people know who you are and what you are doing. If you purchase a ticket in advance, in terms of music festivals, SXSW offers great value for money.

For bands, the SXSW story is a little different. The festival emphasizes bringing bands to showcase when they are "ready." What that means is that the festival is looking for artists who already have a little bit of interest and buzz around them and have some experience

playing live shows. The reason for this is to make sure that bands who are unlikely to garner a lot interest don't waste their money traveling to the show. There is nothing to be lost by applying, but keep in mind that your chances are better if you can send in some press clippings talking about your band and if you can show that you have some live experience under your belt.

Some bands decide to travel to SXSW without shows and either hand out demos or try to book their own shows in the area. Keep in mind that SXSW showcase are heavily promoted and attendees of the festival will very rarely end up at non SXSW shows during the festival. Handing out demos never hurts, but it might not get you much, either. If you're a new band, your money would be better spent on your own recording, promotion and touring outside of SXSW. You might find that going that route may help you get a SXSW invitation for the following year.

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