Artists, record labels and other music companies from across Europe and from Australasia are attending this year's SXSW in Austin Texas.

While the U.K., Mexico and Canada are the three-biggest countries outside the U.S. in the terms of the number of artists performing, other countries are making their presence felt in Austin, Texas. SXSW music festival began March 18 and wraps March 22.

The Berlin Music Commission (BMC) will be organizing the New Berlin Talent Showcases from 12 noon CDT to 1pm CDT at the Brunch Square Park, sponsored by Popkomm, Berlin's international music market, conference and festival, and the Berlin Music Fair. It will feature four Berlin acts: Booka Shade (dance & electronic), CLP (dance & electronic), Damero (dance & electronic) and Popular Damage (electro-pop).

As well as promoting German acts, the event is designed to raise the profile of Popkomm for international artists.

Says Dirk Schade, event manager for Popkomm: "The North American market has become more and more important for Popkomm. There is a growing number of artists from Canada and the United States who perform at the Popkomm festival, they are attracted by Berlin's appeal."

The Berlin delegation under the leadership of the BMC comprises 12 music companies, including independents such as Budde Music, City Slang, Fahrenheit Music & Media and Pool Music & Media. The companies are active in live entertainment, computer software, management and music publishing.

Government export body Austrade will continue its long-standing association with the Australian presence at SXSW, and will contribute more than $50,000 Australian ($34,500) in cash and resources. Funds were also provided at state level.

"We have a lot of government support, and we are relentless in our approach," says Phil Tripp, SXSW Australasian representative.

Despite the financial help, cost and distances involved remain a heavy burden for traveling acts. "It costs a band about $25,000 Australian ($17,250) to go from here to Austin and return," says Tripp. "That covers visas, hotel, backline, flights, gear, transport. If you can add a few more shows on the way, then great. But that figure would be doing it on the cheap."

"SXSW can be a very effective platform for both artists and managers providing it's used strategically," adds John Watson, founder of John Watson Management and Eleven: A Music Company. Watson has guided the careers of Silverchair, Missy Higgins and Wolfmother.

"People who just go over with the blind hope of getting something rolling are always likely to be disappointed. However, those who already have some momentum behind them often find that SXSW can be a great way to amplify that existing buzz."

U.K. indies have long found a receptive audience at SXSW. The 4AD showcase was held March 18 at the Central Presbyterian Church and featured Anni Rossi, M. Ward, Department of Eagles, St. Vincent and Camera Obscura. All acts will be playing numerous other showcases.

Future of the Left, another 4AD act, are also over there playing shows, including an NME showcase. Simon Halliday, managing director of 4AD, says SXSW is still worth the expense despite the economic downturn.

"It is still a valuable platform to utilize," he says. "We believe we have a cohesive line-up that people want to see, with some really strong acts. Over the last five years, I think we have only showcased twice."

"We have two bands with albums out [Anni Rossi, Camera Obscura] around this time so I believe they are in a good position to break after their SXSW showcase, however all the bands we feature are strong bands."

Spain is one of the best-represented countries this year, with the biz eyeing export opportunities as the domestic market shrinks. Sounds From Spain, an export and promotional body for Spanish music, has six indie acts it is supporting at SXSW: Nacho Vegas (Limbo Starr/Love To Art), Underwater Tea Party (Green UFOs), La Habitación Roja (Mushroom Pillow), the Right Ons (2Fer Records), Los Coronas with Depedro (Bittersweet Recordings and PIAS), and SFDK (SFDK Records).

Vegas is the best known, having played in alt-rock bands such as Manta Ray in the '90s.

The Right Ons were one of the bands that played in SXSW last year by their own efforts. As a result of contacts made, they performed two tours last year around the New York and Baltimore regions, and recorded their second album in Boston's Q Division studios last fall. "Look Inside Now" (2Fers Records) was released March 2 in Spain, and talks are in progress for a U.S. release by Q Division.

"The United States is the only obvious territory outside Spain for an alternative pop/rock band like the Right Ons, who sing in English," says
manager and 2Fers director Fernando Delgado. "We'd rather pay to attend the biggest festival of its type, SXSW, than to fund an ad campaign in Madrid."

Other Spanish indie bands scheduled to attend SXSW are La Carrau, Hyperpotamus, We Are Balboa, Suzy & Los Quattro, Guillamino, Sunday Drivers, Tokyo Sex Destruction, Capsula, the Pepper Pots and We Are Standard.

(Additional reporting by Jen Wilson.)