TANGLED DIGITAL WEB
While big record companies like RCA were once the industry's gate-keepers, today's bands must negotiate a tangled web of cultural paths, from digital distribution of songs to utilizing songs in movies and television to video games.
"If you can get tracks into these shows and movies it just opens up a whole new audience," said Phil Patterson, an industry veteran who promotes new bands for UK Trade and Investment, the music promotion arm of the British government.
For example, the song "Friends" by Band of Skulls was featured on "New Moon," the latest in the "Twilight" trilogy about teenage vampires.
About one quarter of the bands showcased at this year's SXSW were from the United Kingdom, the number two exporter of music behind the United States. British music exports are worth about $2 billion a year, Patterson said.
"While everything has changed, ultimately the bottom line is you need a good artist, great music and an audience that wants to buy it," said Patterson, who formerly worked for record labels like EMI and RCA and represented musicians like David Bowie and Billy Idol. "That hasn't changed since the day."
For Internet company AOL Inc, the festival was a chance to tout its brand after Time Warner Inc spun it off last year. AOL recently launched a music blog called Spinner, which attempted to profile each of the nearly 2,000 bands at the festival.
AOL sponsored "pop-up" shows in Austin by bands like Broken Bells, which performed in a parking garage. The festival is important because "you're not just getting music industry folks," said company spokesman Kurt Patat. "You're getting a wide array of taste-makers."
The Library of Congress in Washington sent a group of librarians to tout a digital preservation project. The library holds the nation's largest public collection of sound recordings -- nearly 3 million in all.
But though old-fashioned formats like records can preserve recordings nearly indefinitely, about 44 percent of sites available on the Internet in 1998 had vanished a year later.
"We're here to make sure that the music that is happening now is preserved for the future," said Matthew Barton, curator of the library's recorded sound section.