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 Michael "Goldie" Goldstone, founder, Mom + Pop Records, for his seasoned perspective on the industry's annual Texas takeover.
Michael "Goldie" Goldstone
Founder, Mom + Pop Records
It’s spring break for me, too, in a way. I try to balance seeing people that I want to see for fun, seeing people that we work with, which is always fun, and seeing artists from all over the world and the country that are viable to check out. It’s a very sort of frantic, manic, awesome festival, but if you try to accomplish too much you end up not accomplishing much at all -- and it’s not as rewarding.
This year we have 5 or 6 bands playing a lot of showcases. Lucius, Cloud Nothings, Tokyo Police Club, Wild Cub and a couple others that haven’t been announced yet. Every year I try to refine how I allocate my time. You always want to be first and foremost present and engaged and committed to the artists that you work with. You start with your artists and identify the shows that could potentially be the most compelling, and you build your schedule around that.
"I'm not gonna lie, this year I'm not going in expecting much."
We’ve been able to get radio people from all across the country to come see our bands as a captive audience. So you could take the position of “I’m not sure what SXSW does,” or you can add up all the little intangibles about it and believe that you’re creating a presence.
When it comes to new talent, you’re getting a lot of tips from lawyers, publishers, managers, agents and more about what they’re showcasing. I make a list of artists I want to see based on where those recommendations are coming from. You have to comb the sandbox and do your homework and try to do as much research as you can and listen to as many things as you’re able to. I’ll build playlists and work through them.
Sometimes I’ve gone down there, gotten turned on to music while I’m at the conference and then weeks or months later I’ve been able to get involved with that artist. That happened with Poliça and it happened with Lucius. I was inspired and encouraged to go see a show and the show was great. A couple of months later, we were able to do a deal with the band. So you know, I love the fact that everything is possible. Obviously, South By is still valuable.
You have to have a certain level of flexibility down there and soak up the environment and enjoy it rather than trying to see every possible unsigned artist or every show that all of your bands are playing. It’s a process that has its own ebb and flow to it.
If there are 3 or 4 things happening at a given time, it might be best to just stay where you are if you’re hanging with people that you want to spend time with or having a conversation with someone you don’t really know. Do you really want to try and grab a pedicab and skip halfway across town to catch the last couple of songs of something that you’re not really sure about anyway?