Backbeat: Billboard & BMI's Annual SXSW Brunch Brings Together Movers and Shakers from Across the Biz

Nikki Reed and Paul MacDonald pose for the cameras

Another SXSW, another full lawn at the Four Seasons for Billboard and BMI’s annual Acoustic Brunch Friday, which kept the music and coffee flowing long after the fruit and breakfast burritos ran out. Sponsored by SunTrust and Southwest Airlines, the event hosted a particularly impressive lineup this year, from British singer-songwriter Laura Mvula and indie-folk duo Nikki Reed (of “Twilight” fame) and Paul McDonald (a top 12 finalist on “American Idol” Season 10) to New York rockers Ambassadors and Seattle indie-poppers Hey Marseilles to Pistol Annie Ashley Monroe and alt-folk legend Billy Bragg.


Ben Parr, co-founder of #DominateFund, and INDmusic’s Brandon Martinez


Judy Tint, a New York-based entertainment lawyer, Jedd Katrancha, senior VP-creative services at Downtown Music Publishing and Billboard’s Andrew Hampp

Arriving on the third official day of Music and the eighth day of South By Southwest for several beleaguered attendees, the BMI Brunch saw industry execs in various states of exhaustion. The bright-eyed team from Pepsi arrived on Monday and Tuesday for the brand’s activation with SongBooth, and Brunch guests included the company’s cultural branding execs Adam Harter, Carlos Saavedra and Bozoma Saint John. On the other end of the spectrum were folks like Music Metric’s co-founders Gregory Mead and Marie-Alicia Chang, who’d been in town since the previous Saturday and, in the case of Chang, raged until 4 a.m. at an impromptu “bridge party” (a party on a bridge, as it turns out.) But no hangover could stop Billboard and MusicMetric’s Twitter Tracking from monitoring the most-tweeted artists of the moment, which kept readers, managers and showcase bookers alike up-to-speed in real-time on the hottest acts.


INDmusic co-founders Brandon Martinez and Jon Baltz talk “Harlem Shake” with Billboard editorial director Bill Werde


Leo Burnett’s Chris Clark, senior music producer, and Gabe McDonough, VP-music director

Elsewhere, BMI’s Samantha Cox, senior director of writer/publisher relations and the booking force behind the Brunch, greeted guests on the lawn with co-host Bill Werde, Billboard’s editorial director. Nearby, entertainment lawyer Judy Tint handed out flyers to her baseball-themed panel on Saturday with rock legends like Steve Earle and Mike Mills to industry friends like Downtown Music Publishing’s Jedd Katrancha, noting “nobody wants to see another lawyer on a panel.”


From left: Adam Harter, VP-consumer engagement for Pepsi-Cola North America Beverages’ sports, media cultural branding and packaging innovation groups; Carlos Saavedra, Pepsi’s director of cultural branding, Billboard publisher Tommy Page and Bozoma Saint John, Pepsi’s director of cultural branding, music and entertainment


Christen Greene, general manager of Onto Entertainment, with Whitesmith’s Emily White before catching her band Hey Marseilles’ acoustic set

The Brunch proved to be a good summit for people named Ben, too. Katrancha raved about catching the debut live show from Brooklyn electro-funk singer Benjamin the night before at Frank with Leo Burnett’s Gabe McDonough — a set that turned into a three-hour funk dance party. Ben Sheehan, a former Billboard intern who now works as a music consultant for Funny Or Die, teased a few big announcements coming from his company, including a new label division. And Ben Parr, former editor-at-large of Mashable and now an investor with #DominateFund, shared the news of a newly signed book deal.


Music Metric co-founders Gregory Mead and Marie-Alicia Chang