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TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018: this year’s conference programming in the Music Industry track

By on Wednesday, 21st February 2018 at 11:00 am

Header photo of Shakey Graves by Greg Giannukos

SXSW Music Conference programming under the umbrella of the Music Industry track is intended to guide artists and other industry professionals through the promises and potential pitfalls of everyday business in the music world. This year’s Music Industry programming includes panel sessions on a variety of current trends and topics of interest, as well as touching base with the basics.

Music Industry Culture
Carrying on from programming at SXSW 2016 and SXSW 2017, this year’s music conference continues its meta-examination of music industry culture, starting with a question that digs down to the very root of the investigation. On Wednesday the 14th of March, a panel session titled ‘Is Culture Change in the Music Industry Possible?’ will consider “whether it is possible for such a complex, fragmented [industry] to develop a common culture, what an ideal music industry culture might look like, and most importantly, how we actually get there.”

A continued emphasis on feminism in the music industry manifests in several conference sessions, including ‘Women in Music: Break the Ceiling + Bridge the Gap’ on the 14th of March and ‘Sexual Misconduct in the Music Industry’ the following day. The former panel promises to “explore the challenges women face in negotiating and share tactics to become a better negotiator” as well as assessing “the current status of the gender and wage gaps and the impact these barriers have had on women in our industry.” The latter panel will specifically address sexual misconduct, with focus on “the pervasiveness of sexual misconduct and how this aggression affects the psyche of women working in music in regards to performance, promotions, equal pay and influence.”

Music Curation and Experience
‘Barriers to Innovation for New Music Experiences’ will begin the week on the 13th of March with a panel set to examine “current hurdles and roadblocks that face those building a new generation of music services and experiences”. In the spirit of an evolving music experience, a historical session titled ‘Curation, Collaboration & Community’ on the 14th of March “will outline the journey of Tileyard Studios and the revolutionary transformation of a dilapidated area of London to one of the most exciting music creators’ hubs in the world.”

Conference programming also reflects a continued interest in the ways modern listeners prefer to consume music, with topics ranging from terrestrial radio to digital playlist collaboration on the table for discussion. On one end of that spectrum, ‘Measuring What Matters in a Playlist-First World’ on the 14th of March will dive into the data on digital playlists with discussion about “how to understand and measure them” as well as what those measurements might reveal about “music consumption, marketing, and music creation”. At the other extreme, a session on the 16th of March called ‘Is This the Golden Age of Alternative Radio?’ finds that medium inexplicably “on the rise” and will examine how best to take advantage of its current popularity.

On the related topic of music curation and discovery, Pitchfork founder and editor-in-chief Ryan Schreiber will lead a panel on the 15th of March titled ‘Why Music Journalism Matters in the Streaming Era’, with discussion on “navigating new challenges, providing crucial context, and how to evolve as [music streaming] services threaten to push into the realm of content creation.” The following afternoon, ‘Stop the Scroll: Creative Strategy in Social Media’ will help online curators “learn how to make a creatively driven social strategy . . . [and] deliver campaigns that keep fans coming back for more.”

Artist Issues
Professional issues facing artists in the current music business atmosphere are, as always, at the center of this year’s Music Industry track. Early in the week on the 14th of March, ‘Beyond the Band: Shakey Graves’ will take a look at the “many different elements that comprise a successful career as a musician” in the context of Do617’s Beyond the Band partnership with Berklee College of Music and LATW Group. The featured artist on the panel is Shakey Graves’ Alejandro Rose-Garcia, pictured at top.

In the same vein of cooperation and collaboration, ‘The Band is With Me: The Art of Team Building’ on the 16th of March will talk about how to assemble a strong team of professionals behind a career artist, in the areas of “artist service platforms, PR, development/management, and marketing/touring.” More specifically, ‘What Does an Artist Manager Do and How to Get One’ on the 17th of March will find artist managers sharing “practical, concrete steps every artist can take to go about obtaining management” and ways for “up and coming managers . . . to help grow their clients’ careers exponentially.”

Financial issues are always at the forefront of an artists’ career, and there are many scheduled conference sessions surrounding the delicate topic of money. On the 15th of March ‘New Ways to Finance a Music Career’ will discuss artists’ “options [and] tools to self-finance their career outside of the traditional label/publisher system.” On the 16th of March, ‘We Will Rock You: Make a Big Noise with the Brands’ promises helpful tips on “how you can win that brand and help the brand tell a story [that will] come alive with your music.” In the same time slot, ‘Paid in Full: Fixing Music Rights for Artists’ covers the difficulties of “connecting billions of global streams to the right parties” and “how smart minds are working to find solutions.”

Mentor Sessions
A large number of Mentor Sessions with music industry professionals are listed under the Music Industry track. These sessions require RSVP, and access will only be available to badge types listed as having Primary Access. Featured mentors include record label executives, public relations professionals, artist development managers, marketing specialists and attorneys.

As with all of the SXSW 2018 events we cover here at TGTF, music conference programming is subject to change. We suggest you consult the official SXSW 2018 schedule for the latest additions and editions.


SXSW 2017: summary of SXSW Conference session Bella Union at 20

By on Monday, 3rd April 2017 at 11:00 am

In the course of its 20-year history, British independent record label Bella Union has become what you might call a “household name”, if your household were made up of musicians, music journalists, promoters, or other industry types. Headed by former Cocteau Twins member Simon Raymonde, Bella Union was originally founded as a vehicle for releasing Cocteau Twins’ own work, but it expanded to new ventures when the band broke up in 1997. Bella Union’s most acclaimed signees include artists like Fleet Foxes, The Flaming Lips, and Father John Misty, as well as TGTF alums The Trouble With Templeton, Midlake, Emmy the Great, and exmagician.

Bella Union internal 2

In celebration of Bella Union’s 20th anniversary, Raymonde was featured as a session panelist at SXSW 2017, along with Midlake frontman Eric Pulido (who also showcased in Austin with supergroup BNQT) and actor Jason Lee. Pulido’s appearance on the panel wasn’t surprising, but Lee was a bit of a question mark in my mind going into the Friday afternoon session. As it turned out, we had to wait a bit to find out what Lee’s role would be in the discussion, because he was delayed trying to find a parking space. Even featured speakers aren’t immune to busy downtown Austin SXSW traffic!

In Lee’s absence, Pulido took on the role of session faciliator, and he led a spontaneous conversation with Raymonde about the guiding philosophy behind Bella Union. As an experienced and successful musician himself, Raymonde emphasised the “gut instinct” aspect of his label’s work, saying that he strives to release music that genuinely strikes a chord with him on first listen. Pulido remarked that Raymonde’s diplomatic criticism often begins with the phrase “I don’t love it”, but doesn’t necessarily shut the door to future endeavours from promising artists. In fact, much of Raymonde’s success with Bella Union hinges on his openness to his artists’ perseverance. Midlake’s 2006 album ‘The Trials of Van Occupanther’ garnered critical accolades, despite Raymonde’s initial reticence about its unwieldy title.

Bella Union internal 1

When Lee arrived to take part in the discussion, he revealed that it was Raymonde who turned him onto Midlake back in 2004, around the band’s also oddly-titled debut LP ‘Bamnan and Silvercork’. Lee was immediately hooked and eventually directed a video for a single from that album called ‘Balloon Maker.’ The video, and Lee’s continuing enthusiasm for promoting the band, led to a more expansive collaboration, the documentary film ‘Midlake: Live in Denton TX.’

Raymonde highlighted the role of artist interaction and fortuitous timing in his discussion of Bella Union’s continued success. He named Midlake’s collaboration with American singer/songwriter John Grant as a prime example. Grant, who was a longtime fan of the Cocteau Twins, had initially contacted Raymonde during his time with The Czars, and though it took some convincing, Raymonde was eventually persuaded to take the production helm on the band’s second album ‘Before…But Longer.’ Raymonde’s dedication kept The Czars afloat until they broke up in 2004, but his relationship with Grant didn’t end there. Midlake’s artistic collaboration on Grant’s debut solo album, 2010’s ‘Queen of Denmark’ brought Grant back to Raymonde’s attention, and Grant’s fruitful partnership with Bella Union was renewed, continuing through 2013 album ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ and 2015 release ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’.

One of Bella Union’s more recent protégés, singer/songwriter Holly Macve, also started with stroke of luck on Raymonde’s part. Macve had taken a job in a café in Brighton where Raymonde had set up a basement studio, and he happened to hear her sing at an open mic night. His ear for talent and the aforementioned “gut instinct” immediately drew him to sign her to the label. Macve made her American debut last year at SXSW 2016, garnering accolades from NPR among others, and she returned this year with a stunning debut album, ‘Golden Eagle’, under her belt.

Bella Union co-hosted a 20th Anniversary showcase with TuneIn Studios on the Wednesday night of SXSW, featuring current artists BNQT, Holly Macve, Mammut, Pavo Pavo, Will Stratton and Horse Thief. High-calibre artists like these represent the future of Bella Union as the label moves into its third decade of excellence among independent record labels. Stay tuned to TGTF for our coverage of Holly Macve at the British Music Embassy in our roundup of Thursday night at SXSW 2017.


SXSW 2017: summary of SXSW Conference keynote by Zane Lowe

By on Friday, 31st March 2017 at 11:00 am

Header photo courtesy of SXSW

Former BBC Radio 1 presenter Zane Lowe made radio history back in 2015 when he became Creative Director and Los Angeles anchor for Beats 1, Apple Music’s first free global radio station. His keynote speech on the Thursday morning of SXSW 2017 split its focus between Lowe’s own career in radio and his vision for the future of radio as a relevant medium for artists trying to share their music.

Lowe might well have been pre-destined to make radio history, as he explained near the beginning of his speech. His father, a journalist in Lowe’s native New Zealand, had set a fine example for him in that regard, as one of the founders of New Zealand’s first private commercial radio station. The pirate station Radio Hauraki, as it is still known, began its operation in 1966, broadcasting from a boat in international waters off the coast of New Zealand. In 1970, the New Zealand Broadcasting Authority broke its monopoly and allowed Radio Hauraki to operate on land, opening the door for privately owned radio in New Zealand.

Lowe’s mention of Radio Hauraki grabbed my interest straightaway, as I already knew the pirate radio station had been an early champion of New Zealand art-rock band Split Enz. I’m a card-carrying member of the Frenz of the Enz fan club, which covers associated New Zealand acts Split Enz and Crowded House, as well as solo efforts by bandmates and brothers Tim and Neil Finn. Without diverging too much from the point Lowe was trying to make, the idea of radio presenters having the freedom to play music they genuinely love on air was the grand idea behind Radio Hauraki, and it has been, quite naturally, a foundational tenet of Lowe’s career as well.

Zane Lowe internal

Lowe discussed his early career in New Zealand, inspired largely by brick-and-mortar record stores and his love of bands like the Beastie Boys and Nirvana, and his eventual move to the UK, where he worked for XFM and the BBC, as a way of putting the the volatile current state of radio into context. Despite the rapidly changing landscape of radio as a medium for sharing music, which we as music fans are all too aware of, Lowe made the salient point that the ultimate job of radio presenters and music journalists—providing an avenue for musicians to connect with their fans—has remained, and will remain, fundamentally constant.

He emphasised that as artists begin experimenting with new avenues of music promotion, radio will have to continue to adapt in order to stay relevant, and radio personalities will have to be prepared to take on new ventures, such as the one he himself has taken with Beats 1. “Fans [are becoming] followers, and followers [are becoming] data”, as Lowe observed, but he still stands by the innately human element of the music experience: the importance of collective listening, whether via live performances, online streams, or the ever-enduring radio broadcast.

If you’re interested in hearing Zane Lowe’s keynote speech from SXSW 2017 in its entirety, you can watch the livestream video just below, courtesy of SXSW.



SXSW 2017: summary of SXSW Conference conversation with Mick Fleetwood

By on Thursday, 30th March 2017 at 5:00 pm

For me, the name Fleetwood Mac immediately conjures up mental images of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. This is a function of my age—as a child born in the late 1970s, I’ve always associated Fleetwood Mac with songs like ‘Go Your Own Way’ and ‘Gypsy’, ‘Landslide’ and ‘Rhiannon’. I think it was my father who told me, on some late night cross-country drive as we listened together to 1980s FM radio, that Fleetwood Mac had once been a blues band, that their history went back to London in the 1960s, that the Buckingham-Nicks years were a sort of re-invention of the original band and its sound.


Lineup changes have been a consistent part of Fleetwood Mac’s history, going back to the band’s origins in 1967 under founding member Peter Green. Through it all, the one constant has been drummer and co-founder Mick Fleetwood. Fleetwood has recently penned a memoir of the band for Genesis Publications, titled ‘Love that Burns – A Chronicle of Fleetwood Mac’. Volume One of the memoir specifically covers the years 1967-1974, the period of time that most modern listeners would be least familiar with, which naturally prompts a look back at the band’s remarkable evolution over the past 50 years.

Fleetwood joined the SXSW Music Conference for a well-attended panel session on the Wednesday afternoon, called simply a ‘Conversation with Mick Fleetwood’. The informal discussion was facilitated by Rolling Stone contributor and well-known music critic David Fricke, who is also a knowledgeable longtime fan of Fleetwood Mac. Fricke had clearly done his homework on this assignment, and he deftly led the discussion from the band’s early years in England, through their relocation to America and their later pop-rock orientation. While Fricke directed the trajectory of the conversation with a number of astute questions, he also wisely allowed Fleetwood ample space to relate interesting first-person accounts and expand on the multitude of characters who crossed paths with Fleetwood Mac’s storied history.


For lifelong music fans like myself, the conference session with Fleetwood and Fricke was a chance to experience music history as a living and present entity, rather than as a discrete set of far-removed past events. I was interested to learn about Fleetwood Mac’s part in the British blues revival of the mid-1960s, when blues and rock began to come together, creating a foundation for the current proliferation of blues rock artists like The White Stripes and The Black Keys. But Fleetwood Mac has proved its own staying power over the course of 50 years, and their work has already begun to find its way into the accepted canon of “serious” music discography and literature, especially as the defining line between “pop” music and “art” music becomes ever more indistinct.

Mick Fleetwood currently spends most of his time running a restaurant and bar in Hawaii, where he makes his home. But he insists that Fleetwood Mac is alive and well, though they now work intermittently around the individual schedules of their members’ other projects, notably Stevie Nicks’ solo career. Our readers across the pond might remember the iconic band’s 2015 UK/Irish Tour, and American audiences will have a chance to see Fleetwood Mac this summer as part of The Classic Concerts in New York and Los Angeles.


SXSW 2017: summary of SXSW Conference sessions starring Nile Rodgers and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels

By on Thursday, 23rd March 2017 at 2:00 pm

SXSW is never the same from one year to another, so it’s like comparing apples to oranges. That said, this year, we SXSW Conference attendees avoided the craziness of last year’s sessions, marked by a zoo-like atmosphere due to the increased security designed to protect then President of the United States Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. I do wonder if people who had been inconvenienced by the scheduling issues caused by the Obamas in 2016 stayed away this year, because the queues definitely seemed shorter than in any past time I’ve been in Austin for the event. I had no trouble getting into two of the three massive sessions I had earmarked to attend, which was great as a music journalist eager to soak up as many anecdotes and as much advice as possible. However, I did wonder, where is everybody?

I was truly excited for Nile Rodgers’ keynote talk on Wednesday morning. As a longtime Duran Duran fan, I’ve always assumed that their ‘Notorious’ album would have never happened without him. Of course, he worked with artists as varied as David Bowie, Madonna, Daft Punk, Disclosure and Lady Gaga. The man has tons of experience and so many stories he could tell, he could probably have his own documentary running continuously for weeks. (At the start of the talk, a fast-paced, hard to follow who’s who of people he’s worked with and all the work he’s done over the years helped make this a humourous point.) It was, then, disappointing to find out from the first few minutes that the focus of his talk would be music discovery and to some extent, how to write a pop song and promote it. I mean, music discovery is what music editors do with their lives and what makes them tick, right? While Rodgers was as much an engaging speaker as I’ve seen in past documentaries starring him that I’ve watched, I personally didn’t get out of his talk what I had hoped. To make up your own mind, I do invite you to watch the entire keynote speech below. An interview with Rodgers by NPR is also available here.


Darryl “DMC” McDaniels is best known for being in trailblazing hip-hop group Run D.M.C., but his conversation with journalist Nick Huff Barili had many different directions taking off from the music he’s famous for. He was very candid – and very funny! – telling how he unable to play basketball with the public school kids because he felt ‘marked’ by his Catholic school uniform. Until this talk, I had no idea he and his brother were obsessed with comic books as children, and he used them as an escape. The waterworks nearly opened up when he revealed they sold their comics because unlike their peers, they didn’t sell drugs, and how else would they have the money to buy their first turntables and a mixer? It was even more sob-inducing to learn that he had suffered from depression, going through a painful suicidal period in the ‘90s. I had to fight back the tears.

Darryl McDaniels at SXSW 2017

Sometimes, though, the darkest days lead to the brightest, as McDaniels came back with a new outlook and was tapped by friends and acquaintances to help others through similar struggles. Music was important to getting McDaniels the stage from where he can speak about things that have far further reach than music alone can give. In that respect, I found his SXSW Conference talk much more uplifting and relatable than Nile Rodgers’ own: instead of a rock star talking to us from the stage, McDaniels, sat in an armchair, spoke to us as if we were in his living room and among friends. I haven’t seen the video of his talk surface yet, but I hope it does soon, so we can share it with you. Oh, and you know those comic books that he sold off years ago? Well, now he has his own comic book publishing imprint, Darryl Makes Comics. Everything does come full circle.


TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: this year’s conference programming on Activism and the Arts

By on Friday, 10th March 2017 at 2:00 pm

If you follow any of your favourite musicians on Twitter or Facebook, you might have seen them post to social media about causes that are near and dear to their hearts. Many artists, like recent SXSW alumnae Natalie Prass and Lissie, go a step further and elect to donate proceeds from their work to charitable causes, contributing to both fundraising and awareness. Conference programming at SXSW 2017 has taken notice of this kind of artist activism, recruiting an eclectic variety of speakers and panelists to highlight the trend.

For a bit of background, the SXSW 2017 Music Conference and Festival officially begins on Monday the 13th of March but the Interactive and Film portions of SXSW start ahead of the weekend on Friday the 10th. The intersection among the three conferences, where participants from all three disciplines come together, is known as Convergence. One of the seven Convergence tracks at this year’s SXSW is titled Social Impact, and its conference sessions are intended to “highlight innovative ideas from the creative industries that are contributing to a better, more equitable world.”

Cecile Richards press photo

On Friday the 10th of March, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards and Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp will start the Social Impact proceedings what will likely be a heavily attended conference session called ‘Activism, Allyship and Where We Go from Here’. Another popular choice will likely be ‘The Celebrity (Activist) Industrial Complex’ on the 13th of March, in which panelists Anne Helen Peterson of BuzzFeed, Elisa Kreisinger of Refinery 29 and Glen Weldon of NPR will tackle the question: “Do celebrities have a responsibility to use their power and privilege for good?”

Two sessions more specific to music activism will happen on Wednesday the 15th of March. ‘Creating For a Cause: Music for Action & Awareness’ will “discuss currencies and methods of giving to communities, organisations and nonprofits”, as well as building philanthropic partnerships and creating cause awareness. In a session on the ‘Healing Power of Music’, Chris Funk of The Decemberists will join a panel which focuses on delivering music therapy alongside medical services to hospitals and vulnerable patient populations.

Chris Funk press photo

Under the auspices of the Music Conference proper, sessions in both the Music Industry and Music Influencers tracks take aim at artist activism. In the aptly-titled Talk 20 session ‘Artivism’ on the 17th of March, artist, educator and activist Malcolm London will engage audiences by sharing original poetry and discussing his work with community arts organisations and social movements. Management teams for Usher and Panic! At the Disco will appear on the panel ‘Cause Marketing for Musicians in 2017’, scheduled for the 16th of March, where they “will share how entertainers are building measurable support for amazing charities while growing their brand affinity.” Extravagant Records founder Weldon Angelos, joined by rapper Snoop Dogg and attorneys Vikrant Reddy and Mark Holden, will comprise a panel titled ‘Artist to Advocate: Fighting for Criminal Justice’ on the 18th of March. Angelos will talk with members of the music community gathered in Austin about his unjust prison sentence for a minor drug crime and will also discuss “how artists can work together to achieve lasting reform.”

Weldon Angelos press photo

Activism and the arts have evolved from a fringe concept to one of the key components of conference programming at SXSW 2017. Given the current political climate here in America, we expect to see a variety of in-person examples of social activism during the music conference and festival in Austin next week. Keep an eye on TGTF for our ongoing coverage; as always, any information we bring to you about SXSW 2017 is subject to change. You can stay up-to-date on the official SXSW schedule by clicking here.


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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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