SXSW 2018: Thursday afternoon at the convention center – 15th March 2018 (Part 1)

By on Monday, 2nd April 2018 at 11:00 am

Thursday afternoon at SXSW 2018 had some intriguing, music-themed SXSW Conference sessions. Thursday’s keynote starred a musical great the ‘90s version of me would have been squeezing over. To us who were kids then, Linda Perry was famous for her big hat and goggles in the video for 4 Non Blondes’ hit ‘What’s Going On’. Since then, she’s been a heavy hitter in the songwriting department: yes, she wrote Pink’s ‘Get This Party Started’ and Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’, just to name two massive pop hits. She appeared in Austin with Kerry Brown, her co-founder in We Are Hear, a hybrid of a record label (they call themselves an “artist empowerment record label”) and publishing company.

Linda Perry Thursday at SXSW 2018

We Are Hear was just launched last year, but they’re already making huge strides in showing that the traditional record label model isn’t the best way forward. They might just prove someday soon it’s broken entirely. Willa Amai is a 13-year old working with their company, and her cover of Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ blew up when it was used in a Quickbooks advert. As organic as is possible in the internet age, Amai got plenty of attention through the online Quickbooks spot, and loads of people were clamouring to purchase the song in digital format. And the song wasn’t even available for sale yet!

Both Brown and Perry were emphatic about how important it is to nurture artists as people as well as the artists they want to become. Perry was explaining that in the case of Amai, the artist is so young, she wants to be protective of her and respectful of her schooling. It seems like a no-brainer that record labels will get better returns on their financial investment if they listen to those artists signed to them and take care of them. But as we all know, that doesn’t always happen. Hopefully with the success of companies like We Are Hear, the music industry’s evolution will be a fruitful one as we go forward.

In How Tech Can Save the Music Industry, four trailblazers in the tech space spoke about what they’ve done to help a specific niche of our industry. PledgeMusic founder Benji Rogers has now cofounded another company, the dotBlockchain Music Project. The technology of blockchain is on everyone’s lips these days, and Rogers’ latest project is another entry into making sure everyone who needs to share information in the business so that music creators are paid. We all can get behind that! Eron Bucciarelli­-Tieger is the CEO of Soundstr, which is focused on getting the royalties due to artists performing their own music that should, in an ideal world, be tracked by the performing rights organizations so many artists already belong to and pay dues to.

How Tech Can Save the Music Industry session Thursday at SXSW 2018

Dae Bogan is the founder and CEO of TuneRegistry, software to help artists who aren’t represented by a bigger entity navigate the complicated, confusing world of music publishing. Given that so many artists over the years have been conned out of profits that should have been theirs, a product like this couldn’t have appeared soon enough. Jason Robert is co-founder and CEO of HelloSugoi, an alternative ticketing platform built on blockchain that, in theory, should revolutionize how event tickets are sold. Robert made a compelling argument that his company could resell tickets but instead of using a reseller model like StubHub’s, the artists would be able to get more of the money from ticket sales than to be held by the reseller. After I got my fill from this session, I caught the last song by Philadelphia’s Mt. Joy at the Radio Day Stage. They were wowing an admirable crowd of spectators, people probably just barely awake at half past 1 in the afternoon.

Mt. Joy Thursday at SXSW 2018 2

By this point Thursday, I felt a lot of positivity and good will from the speakers I had the opportunity to hear from. Then I entered the Why Music Journalism Matters in the Streaming Era, starring editors from major print and online media outlets you’ve all heard of. I stopped taking notes after a while because I felt frustrated. Andy Cohn of FADER reveled in the fact that his outlet was still available in print, whereas SPIN is not. Sure, some friendly ribbing. Cohn also said that outlets like theirs are no longer chasing after being the first to break a new artist. Um, when did that go out of fashion? I’m pretty sure people still want to be the first. Maybe what he meant was that outlets like theirs cherry-pick who looks most promising from the coverage of smaller sites? Or perhaps click bait is more important? The up-and-coming artist is no longer up-and-coming by the time they reach outlets like theirs. Cohn also insisted, “there’s less of a purpose for music criticism than for music curation.” Okay, so not everyone is interested in reading reviews, but unless your gaze is fixed on the playlists on Spotify or Apple Music, what are the chances you are actively thinking about curation?

Music journalism session Thursday at SXSW 2018

The most troublesome statement during the session to me was Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber saying that nobody blogs anymore. He may not know anyone who still blogs, but we blog, and I know plenty of other people who do, too. TGTF will never be as big as a Pitchfork or a magazine with a national run. I made my peace with that a long time ago. But just because we’re not on his radar doesn’t mean we’re not valid or useful. For a lot of up-and-coming artists who don’t have a chance getting coverage in a major magazine or online outlet, blogs like ours are their first opportunity to get noticed. I just sat there in my chair, gritting my teeth, imagining my fist going through a wall.

A local, disabled African-American journalist asked for the microphone and said she wanted “brown and black” journalists to be better represented in the media, hitting out that three of five of the panelists in this session were white men. I understand and am sympathetic to her point, but I think her swearing detracted from her message. Also, technically, I’m yellow, so I wondered, where exactly do I fit in this journalist spectrum? I’m neither white, brown or black. Hrm… I’m glad SPIN Editor-in-Chief Puja Patel was there; she said that when the SPIN position opened up and was offered to her, she took it with both hands because “when else will a woman of color get this opportunity?” Sad but true.

Thankfully, there were some positive notes from the session. I’ve always respected Bandcamp for providing a platform that can level the playing field for any artist who wants to release and stream music with them. Senior Editor of Bandcamp Marcus Moore quipped, “We’re for the people who read the liner notes.” That seems to ring true to me: the only people I know in my circle of friends who know of artists’ Bandcamps are true music geeks who are eager to collect and discover new music. If you haven’t checked out Bandcamp Daily yet, I recommend you do: I discovered their blog when I was researching SXSW 2018 acts, and they support those that choose to use their site.

Aryeh Bourkoff and Daniel Glass Thursday at SXSW 2018

My final session at the convention center was a conversation between Glassnote Entertainment Group’s Daniel Glass and Aryeh Bourkoff of Liontree. Everyone’s heard of the acts Glass and his label have made famous: he launched the American, and then global careers of Mumford and Sons, Two Door Cinema Club, Phoenix and CHVRCHES. Like Linda Perry and Kerry Brown said in the morning, Glass said that the secret to Glassnote’s success was their staff’s passion in nurturing their artists and supporting them every step of the way. Bourkoff asked Glass what made the difference in his artists succeeding and other artists with other management teams not having the same kind of success. He gave an example of his family having shown up in London at a CHVRCHES show during Thanksgiving weekend to give their personal support and to have dinner with the band. Glass also said that his staff have incredible attention to detail on what their artists are doing and where they are playing, so much that they know exactly where their artists are pretty much every day. In attendance at the session were English girl duo IDER, recent signees to Glassnote who are likely to skyrocket to fame just like labelmates before them.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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