Sowell by Southwest

Sowell by Southwest

Started in 1987, the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music and Media Conference recently completed its 27th year, growing from a measly 700 registrants in its inaugural run to over 16,000 in this year’s festivities. According to its website, “SXSW’s original goal was to create an event that would act as a tool for creative people and the companies they work with to develop their careers, to bring together people from a wide area to meet and share ideas.” As someone who makes a living working in the music industry, I can attest that the convention is definitely an ideal place to discover new talent, network with like-minded people, and learn about current trends in licensing, publishing and social media marketing (not to mention checking out the latest gear, gadgets, apps, and even the best of the best in poster and merch design).

I have attended the convention with and without an official badge, and throughout the years I have met many wonderful and inspiring people and accumulated a wealth of amazing experiences. Indeed, part of what makes the conference so unique and special is knowing there are thousands of others out there like me who will make the journey to Austin, Texas every year in order to connect and mutually immerse ourselves in our love of music.

And certainly, the Atlanta music scene is no stranger to SXSW, with dozens of local bands making their way West every year to be a part of what is now the largest music festival of its kind in the world. It’s not difficult to understand why an artist might want to make the trip: experience, exposure, networking, partying, fun—the reasons are many. Still, I thought it would be interesting to speak to some of the bands directly and get their take on what motivated them to come to SXSW and what, if any, are the drawbacks. Below are a few of the responses from some of my favorite Atlanta artists.

Cloudeater

Cloudeater /// cloudeatermusic.com

YEARS IN ATTENDANCE: 3

2013 PERFORMANCES: 3

MOTIVATIONS AND EXPECTATIONS
“We never really have any expectations of being discovered or making major industry connections, we just enjoy hanging with our friends and getting to see people who we don’t get to see very often. Beer, food trucks, bratwurst and an endless stream of music in every venue are all enjoyable.” – Chris Hunt

Gringo Star

Gringo Star /// gringostar.net

YEARS IN ATTENDANCE: 5-6

2013 PERFORMANCES: 3

MOTIVATIONS AND EXPECTATIONS
“We have been going to SXSW as a band for five or six years. At first we played unofficial showcases, partied a lot and met up with friends from all over we met through touring, as well as our friends from Atlanta. About four years ago we ended up on official showcases and have been on at least one or two ever since. We still go to SXSW to party and have fun, and, of course, we try to network. As a matter of fact, last year at SXSW we met our record label, Gigantic Music, and this year we met a new booking agent, so it definitely has been worth it for us. As an artist, though, sometimes I feel like SXSW has desensitized us to the art of it all, because it can be so business focused… SXSW is kind of like spring break for musicians. Networking is important, but we just like to have fun and see what happens.” – Nicholas Furgiuele

von Grey

Von Grey /// vongreymusic.com

YEARS IN ATTENDANCE: 1

2013 PERFORMANCES: 5

MOTIVATIONS AND EXPECTATIONS
“We want more people to experience our music.”

Little Tybee

Little Tybee /// littletybee.com

YEARS IN ATTENDANCE: 4

2013 PERFORMANCES: 6

MOTIVATIONS AND EXPECTATIONS
“For the past four years we have battled the urge to make the pilgrimage to SXSW each March but usually succumb to its magnetic illusions of instant fame. This year was no exception except it was evident that SXSW has finally become overrun by corporate sponsorship and an over-saturation of bands. In the future, we would much rather play Austin outside of SXSW when we can actually get a good show lined up with a professional sound engineer. I will say that SXSW is quite the social experiment and does have its share of fun, but if you really want to listen to music in a way it is intended to be heard, I would suggest spending the money on an actual music festival.” – Brock Scott

The Dirty Magazines

The Dirty Magazines /// facebook.com/thedirtymagazines

YEARS IN ATTENDANCE: 1

2013 PERFORMANCES: 1

MOTIVATIONS AND EXPECTATIONS
“Perseverance. We plan on having a freakin’ blast. SXSW is awesome. I have put an unimaginable amount of time, energy, money, and emotion into making this happen. I can really network if given the chance. This is going to be just the beginning of the Dirty Magazines. It is also our first out of town gig. I’m the old man here, having been on several tours both regionally and nationally… there is a story to tell here—both for SXSW and the band. Not to mention my journey as a musician and drummer.” – Hunter Cook

The Electric Sons

The Electric Sons /// theelectricsons.com

YEARS IN ATTENDANCE: 1

2013 PERFORMANCES: 3

MOTIVATIONS AND EXPECTATIONS
“To be with a pool of incredible people—musicians and otherwise. The chance to just meet some of the talented individuals at SXSW is enough to go, let alone playing our music in front of them.”

DAMS

Dams /// damsband.com

YEARS IN ATTENDANCE: 1

2013 PERFORMANCES: 4

MOTIVATIONS AND EXPECTATIONS
“We are here to get the word out and meet and network with all the people who love music!” – Sarah Wilson

Pillage & Plunder

Pillage and Plunder /// wearepillageandplunder.com

YEARS IN ATTENDANCE: 2

2013 PERFORMANCES: 5

MOTIVATIONS AND EXPECTATIONS
“Our motivation for going both times is because of the festival’s reputation for being a good place for up-and-coming bands to get discovered and get their name out there. And since we’re pretty serious about pursuing music as a career and trying to make a living off of our art, we figured this would be a good step and opportunity for us towards achieving our goal.” – Hsiang-Ming Wen

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For all the blood, sweat, tears and heartache the music business can bring, the amount of joy can only be described as that feeling you get when you hear (or create) that song that speaks straight to your soul and latches on, kind of like the best embrace you’ve ever received in your life. It’s that feeling you get when you know you belong somewhere, and that you know you’re understood. For all the hardships, the payoff is beyond money and fame; it is truly a sense of completeness that only a spiritual experience can bring. As Atlanta artists continue to make the pilgrimage West to the “live music capital of the world,” our city gets to show the world that music is alive and well in the Dirty South. I’m left with a feeling of sincere appreciation for my city and the local music scene, and I feel very fortunate to encounter such wide-ranging talent on nearly an everyday basis.

Next year, I’ll see some of these guys there again. Undoubtedly, there will be others. SXSW needs us, and we need SXSW. In the meantime, I look forward to discovering more local music that can be shared with the world, one SXSW at a time.

Liz Sowell is a contributing writer and works as a talent buyer for the Masquerade Corp. in Atlanta. Follow her on Twitter at @liz_writes.