The Best in Festivals & Conferences: SXSW


CH. II – South by South West

Established in 1987, South by Southwest Music & Media Conference and Festival (SXSW) is one of the biggest music conference in the US. “By day, thousands of conference registrants network in the halls of the Austin Convention Center on their way to do business in the SXSW Trade Show, sit in on informative panel discussions featuring some of the industry’s key players, gain insight from legendary keynote speakers or plan out their abundant party schedules. At night, SXSW showcases hundreds upon hundreds of musical acts from around the globe on over one hundred stages in downtown Austin” (

SXSW is held yearly in Austin Texas, in March and lasts 10 days. Like all music festivals, it’s a big party. In 2012, more than 2000 performers were playing in about 90 venues. This year, headliners included Talib Kweli, Lil’ Wayne and Kanye. But it’s also one of the most important showcase events for artists that want exposure. While lots of established artists perform at SXSW, up-and-coming bands can also apply online, through Sonicbids to get the chance to be selected to showcase in front of the most important players of the music industry, from artist managers to producer, publishers, and so on. If they are selected, they usually have 30 minutes to perform their set and give it all they got. Unlike bigger names, most of these rising artists showcasing do not get paid. The exposure is the main purpose here.

There is also a bunch of established artists from other countries that play at SXSW to gain exposure in the United States. A good example is the talented British singer/songwriter Michael Kiwanuka (watch video here). His performance at SXSW 2012 helped increase awareness for the release of his album Home Again in the US a couple months later. Therefore SXSW is a good first step for non-US rising artist to export their music and penetrate the US market.

To finish, here’s a little video by Forbes about how rising artists end up playing at SXSW, sorry about the first 20 seconds…

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