The Three Big Conversations Dominating SXSW 2019: Inclusion, Indies & Hip-Hop

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Austin, Texas skyline.

As the music portion of the annual South By Southwest conference hits Austin in full force this week, attendees will have 100-plus panels to bounce between -- not to mention dozens of festival showcases and events. To sift through the noise, pay attention to these three major topics guiding the SXSW conversation this year. 

INCLUSIVITY

After a year of reckoning for the music industry, including a restructuring of The Recording Academy’s voters, several SXSW panels are tackling the path forward. The likes of Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson and singer-songwriter Priscilla Renea will talk navigating a male-dominated industry and positive changes to come, while a country music-focused panel will zero in on the lack of female representation in the genre. 

The events: “Country Music’s Struggle to Define Women” (March 13), “Music Keynotes: Shirley Manson and Lauren Mayberry With Puja Patel” (March 14), “#youtoo? Creating a More Inclusive Music Industry” (March 15)

INDIE’S IMPORTANCE

Independent labels now command 39.9 percent of the global recorded-music market. Coupled with social media, the rise of streaming and the proliferation of creator-first startups, today’s artists have more avenues than ever to build careers on their own terms. The American Association of Independent Music's head of label relations, Patrick Ferrell, will be on hand to present the advantages of going indie, while independent rapper Taylor Bennett will speak with SoundCloud CEO Kerry Trainor on the changing artist-discovery process. Plus: Learn how blockchain technology is revolutionizing the DIY sphere.

The events: “Why Be Independent?,” “First Play to First Platinum: The Evolving Creator Journey” (March 13); “Artists in Control: Technology and the New DIY” (March 16)

HIP-HOP'S BOOM

In 2018, R&B/hip-hop became the most popular genre in America, driven by artists like Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B and Drake. As rap music continues to reign over the airwaves, and hip-hop moments shape pop culture, several sessions dissect the genre’s rise -- and what comes next. Rolling Loud festival co-founder Tariq Cherif and founder of indie distributor EMPIRE Ghazi will swap strategies for taking the scene in new directions, and author Roy Christopher (Dead Precedents: How Hip-Hop Defines the Future) will discuss the genre’s cultural impact.

The events: “Hip-Hop Goes Indie: Distribution to Promotion,” “The Hacking of Hip-Hop: Dead Precedents” (March 13); “The Hip-Hop Bubble That Popped Culture” (March 14)     

A version of this article originally appeared in the March 9 issue of Billboard.

Festivals 2019