South By Southwest, which kicked off Friday with SXSW Interactive (March 7-11) and SXSW Film (March 7-15) followed by SXSW Music (March 11–16), is one of the year's most prominent music events and, as is often said, the most overwhelming. For at least a decade, industry pros have complained the confab is marred by overpopulation, innumerable events at all hours of the day and night, corporate sponsorship ad nauseum— all of which beg the perennial question: Has SXSW jumped the shark? In 2012, the number of people who attended at least one SXSW activity totaled some 155,000.
With that in mind, Billboard polled a brain trust of veteran music execs to get expert strategies for how best to approach the conference; and to explain why, exactly, it's still worth the ticket to Austin. Today, Billboard.biz talks to Madeleine Bennett, marketing director at Mtheory, for her seasoned perspective on the industry's annual Texas takeover.
Marketing Director, Mtheory
I work for a company called Mtheory, which provides artist managers from all genres with enhanced capabilities. We help with everything from marketing to touring and live event production, and even financing, digital, and label services. I love supporting our amazing managers as they do SXSW -- especially those in my favorite genre, dance music. So I go to South By to be exposed to new artists and take a few meetings, but for me this year it’s really gonna be about solidifying the relationships we have with existing clients.
From an industry perspective, everyone is there. It is still the place to go to hang out with all the management companies, and everyone has a presence down there. The fact that things are so spread out and not in a contained environment like a Coachella or a Bonnaroo where you have a limited number of options is nice, too -- you kind of have infinite possibilities. I shared a pedicab last year with [DJ-producer] Skream on the way to the Illmore -- people are so jammed together you can’t help but form good connections down there.
"It’s interesting to see everybody in the unforgiving light of day."
I have an agenda that I’ll keep on my phone, and I keep an external battery charger so that I don’t get stranded in the middle of the night. We’re hosting a showcase with Hidden Track and AnD Publishing at the Black Heart, and Skrillex’s label OWSLA is having three days of parties. I’m also really looking forward to Mad Decent and Biz 3 -- they’ll have Liz, Hundred Waters and A-Trak playing. Zedd is playing iTunes on Friday, too -- there’s something changing about South By Southwest this year that you have some bigger-production, full-on shows happening, which is great for artists.
The priority for me is spending as much as time as possible with my clients and see them in as many different events as I can. Plus, for the electronic music scene, it’s the one time of year some of the guys are up at noon and playing afternoon showcases. It’s interesting to see everybody in the unforgiving light of day. I tend to start a little bit later so I can stay around for the hang at 3 or 4 a.m.
We have 13 people heading down together -- we’re renting two houses, and we even have some friends camping in the backyard. I’d like to expand my network, meet new people and come back with some amazing new music to get me through the rest of the New York winter. And maybe buy some cowboy boots.
As told to Andrew Hampp