Hip-hop's presence at SXSW becomes stronger with each passing year. This year, hip-hop heavy weights such as 50 Cent, Lil Wayne and Jay-Z migrate to Austin, Texas to leave rumblings of their names.
Aside from hip-hop showcases, SXSW holds a range of panels benefitting the urban music world, from artistry, music business to social media. One of the festival's first hip-hop focused panels this years was Cashmere Agency's sponsored, "From The Blocks to the Blogs." The panel discussion which took place at the Austin Convention Center on Wednesday explored the impact social media has had on the hip-hop industry and it's growth.
The panel was moderated by Cashmere Agency's Vice President Ryan Ford and featured music tastemakers Rap Radar CEO Elliott Wilson, Beats By Dre Social Media Manager Karen Civil, MocoSpace CEO Justin Siegel, Stampede Management Strategic Brand Director Nicholas Adler, and SirusXM co-host "Sway in the Morning," Devi Dev.
Ryan Ford dove right into the discussion, mentioning the still-present "digital divide," especially in the multi-cultural community.
Elliott Wilson was the first to speak, touching on transitioning from print to online music journalism. "Magazines aren't as impactful as they once were," Elliott Wilson said. "So now it's shifted that everything runs through online first because of the desire of it, like [breaking] news. I have had to adapt [to] that way. My goal is to document the culture in the highest level, and things have shifted in my favor."
The discussion transitioned into artists embracing Twitter and bypassing their publicity teams when speaking to their fans. "When you put a statement out on twitter, you're going on the record," Wilson said.
Karen Civil chimed in to speak on how she's developed artists social media impact, such as Lil Wayne.
Devi Dev shared the impact that Twitter has had on her radio show. "We went from being in an age where you find out what people are listening to once a month," Devi Dev said. "Now I can instantly see when people tuned in and [when they] changed the channel. Twitter took it one step further and you can search and see what people like and don't like. We can harness [plays] to the taste of people now."
"We now have the opportunity to entertain fans non-stop," Nicholas Adler said. "We can also look at our fans through analytics and then speak directly to them. We've equipped ourselves for this new media revolution. Rather than waiting and trying to get the right production crews and worrying about budget and costs, we've invested. We have a studio in our facility where we can just curate content on a dime. It's paying off."
Adler continued to say that Snoop Dogg's online presence has grown in just a year with the help of Stampede Management's initiative to adhere to the digital way of the world.
Justin Siegel shared labels' quick response and desire to be involved with Mocospace."The record labels, like Def Jam, realized we were hitting the audience and they worked with us very early on." Nas joined Mocospace in 2008 and is currently active.
All panelists continued to discuss the impact Twitter has had for and on artists, from connecting with their fans to using their Twitter follower count as a way to prove to labels and tastemakers that they do indeed have a following.
One great point the panel brought out and closed the talk with is that although social media brings forth recognition of the artist's following, their talent is still the most important consideration.