South by Southwest Music and Media Conference
POWER MOVE: SXSW attendance up more than 22%; brand expands to Las Vegas.
THE RUNDOWN: The South by Southwest conference in Austin — celebrating its 27th year in March — has become the go-to event for three major industries: film, music and digital. And the leadership of managing director Roland Swenson has been a key constant of SXSW.
“I describe South by Southwest as a promotional tool for creative people, and the companies they work with, to advance their careers,” Swenson says. “That’s what we set out to do from the beginning, and we’re able to provide that to most of our participants.”
Indeed, SXSW continues to help raise the profile of up-and-coming artists and serves as a platform for veteran acts and music executives delivering highly buzzed keynotes. Last year’s festival showcased more than 2,200 acts, with 547 of them coming from 49 countries. SXSW has also grown in attendance through challenging times — registration hit 60,047 in 2012, a notable jump from 49,126 the previous year.
“We’ve ridden out a lot of cycles in economic downturns,” Swenson says, citing the 2008 financial meltdown. “When the industry was freaking, we held on and continued to thrive. [In bad times], an event like ours can be even more important for people to get together and discuss ideas and trends, and look for new ways to do business.”
SXSW will further expand its brand this summer with SXSW V2V, a two-day event at Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan in mid-August. “It’s going to be focused on start-ups and raising investment for new companies,” Swenson says, adding that V2V has been well-received within the music industry. “Considering how far in the future it is,” he says, “we’re happy with the response so far.”