Conventions & Awards

How Can We Help Two Bands Slam SXSW?

image from As some readers know, I also run booking agency Skyline Music. We have two acts at SXSW, Head For The Hills and MarchFourth Marching Band; and given the competition, we're looking for ways to stand out.  Since you guys include some of the best music marketers and companies, we're asking you for ideas. How can these bands – or any artist – slam SXSW? Here's a bit more info:

image from Head For The Hills – Named "Best of Colorado," at the Westword Music Showcase (Denver) and winners of the Northwest String Summitt, they recently released their 2nd studio effort which made the CMJ TOP 200 and boasted a notable guests including Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon and  Billy Nershi of String Cheese Incident.  Rooted in the tradition of bluegrass but described more accurately as progressive acoustic/modern roots,  HFTH music is mixture of homegrown compositions, traditional harmonies, and improvisation.  Watch some live video

  • Current SXSW perfomances:  Fri, March 18, 6PM Once Over Coffee Bar and Sat, March 19, 9:00PM  MOMO’s

image from MarchFourth Marching Band – A mobile 22+ piece big band spectacular propelled by electric bass, diverse percussion and a big brassy horn section all visually enhanced by costumed dancing beauties, acrobatic stilt walkers, unicycles, fire arts, life size marionettes, and many more theatrics.  The band writes its own material drawing from an eclectic range of influences including gypsy, latin, funk, afro-beat, big-band, rock, circus and vaudeville. Here's some live video.

  • Current SXSW Performances:  Sat, March 19, 2:30PM Auditorium Shores, Sat, March 19, evening, TBA

How do we help each of these bands standout at SXSW?

We're open to all marketing ideas (large and small), good gigs that might still have available slots and getting involved at more announcements and events at SXSW. Please share your ideas below. And if you've got a special opportunity, please contact me.

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  1. What about a guided venue tour by M4? Each member could pick a bar and the band could lead the procession between bars. Or, it could be more organized within the festival.

  2. If you can, get some air time with the local Austin radio station 93.3 KGSR. They devote a lot of time to SXSW bands in the weeks leading up to and during the festival.

  3. I know this will sound defeatist, but you should’ve been thinking about this two months ago.
    Unless there’s already a great level of awareness of the acts before their Austin trip, they’re not going to have a very successful time generating buzz aside from streaking down 6th Street while on fire.
    By ‘slamming’ SXSW, what do you exactly mean? What are the goals these acts are trying to accomplish?

  4. Well according to this blog’s many vocal contributors, all you need is to give all their music away in return for tweets and emails, or use the Topspin platform and they will be huge as they descend upon Austin.
    The truth is SxSW is a connected event, the deeper your rolodex the more likely you are to get the decision makers where you want them. Fans are not the focus there, decision makers are. A six month campaign will not be useful there, calling your contacts the day before even the day of is the way.
    If you have no contacts, then paying is good.

  5. For the Marching Band:
    I saw this happen a bunch of times when I used to live in New Orleans. A band (marching brass band, or otherwise) would play well into the night, and if the energy was right, they would march off the stage at around 4am and lead a Second Line (if you don’t know what this is, look it up) out into the street, with all the patrons of the venue following, with them playing and leading a mini parade down the street.
    One particularly memorable time this happened, the band did a second-line outside the club, and led the audience into the street, dancing and performing as the sun came up.
    This was one of the most memorable musical experiences I’ve ever had (as an audience member). Granted I probably drank my weight in Bourbon that night, but it was just unreal.
    If you’ve got a marching band, you’ve got a whole different musical aesthetic to work with. Take advantage of it. Take that shit to the street.

  6. Bruce, I have to ask since I know some of the M4 folks and have seen them around Portland pretty regularly. Have you asked them what has and hasn’t worked in the past (they do alot of Guerilla stuff here).

  7. Whatever you do, DO NOT do what JamesB said. Remember you are in Texas, not Louisiana. While taking to the streets is a common place and accepted activity in New Orleans, it is not true in the “live music capital”.
    Your band members will be arrested!
    Just ask Ozomatli, who tried to do the same thing a few years ago, and ended up behind bars.
    If I were you, I would try to get on as many underground parties as possible, and generate buzz that way. Most of the showcases are a waste of time IMHO, and the way to really connect with people is to have them stumble onto you at a late night event.

  8. The only band I remember from the last two years of CMJ was Surfer Blood. They played 15 shows in one CMJ festival. 15 good shows. That’s the best thing I ever heard a band do. Everything other good story I’ve heard is kind of gimmicky by comparison.

  9. For Head for The Hills, I would make beer glasses (customized not just red cups) and have them out everywhere during their showcase.
    The beer glasses should have the name of the band plastered all over it along with their website URL and a free download of whatever song they want to promote. That way people drinking at their show can download the song on their blackberry or iphone or whatever mobile device they have.

  10. OK, OK, fine …. free marketing advice for you then. Hrmph.
    The “make a splash at SXSW” thing is the wrong goal. There’s way too much noise to compete with and too many distractions to draw focus on you.
    Instead, I’ve been telling D.I.-Why clients that SXSW is the best lead-gen opportunity you’ll ever have. You’ve got a captive audience of key influencers, tastemakers, and self-important industry types for 4 days.
    Come up with a solid way to collect contacts and network. You’ll make a bigger dent re-connecting with them after SXSW when they’re not busy trying to find where Topspin is giving out free beer…

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