Conventions & Awards

SXSW Music: Worth The Trip For Unknown Acts?

Fat-white-familySXSW Music has changed quite a bit over the years. Though now sharing the stage with successful film and tech festivals, it's grown rapidly over the last decade from a place for unsigned and emerging acts to a crowded city in which unknown artists compete for attention with major label and major indie artists. Some are still making the trek including a growing international presence. But often more developed acts are reaping the benefits of SXSW Music because, as Tom Windish points out, SXSW has become more of a marketing platform than one for discovery.

UK Bands Finding It Worth The Trip

The Guardian took a look at the prospects for UK acts looking for exposure at SXSW. She includes some examples of acts that have made the trip and gotten signed, including Syd Arthur and Sohn.

These acts also benefitted from govenment support in the form of the International Showcase Fund but for a full band needing visas the trip exceeds what artists like Fat White Family receive in funding. So they held a fundraiser and also a successful PledgeMusic campaign.

Fat White Family will use SXSW to kick off a brief U.S. tour. For them it seems well worth the expense as part of building their act. For 82% of the acts receiving International Showcase funding, the trip resulted in "new deals or bookings as a direct result of playing SXSW."

But What About Unsigned Acts That Are Largely Unknown?

As Tom Windish, Founder and President of The Windish Agency, notes SXSW is "becoming more of a marketing platform than a discovery platform."

He says that:

"A lot of the bands there now that are getting attention from the industry and the media already have agents and management teams and labels…There’s a level of band that’s still going there to be discovered, but they’re very small and not very well known."

But Windish does point to the international presence as a way for bands to expand what they're doing:

"People from Australia and Europe and Asia all go. It might take one of our bands years to make it to those markets in person, but at South By they’ll be able to meet those people and form relationships with promoters, publicists and labels. Usually we have bands that end up doing business that way."

Obviously that doesn't make it impossible to get discovered at SXSW but if the folks looking for new acts are starting to shift attention to other aspects of SXSW, that speaks to its changing nature. And the emphasis now seems to be on more developed acts taking things to the next level.


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/Facebook) is currently relaunching All World Dance. To suggest topics about music tech, DIY music biz or music marketing for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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