Should a band go to SXSW at all costs?
January 30, 2010 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Band is invited to play SXSW, it's a pricey proposition from England. Should they go? If so how do they make the most of it?

Their record label will not stump the cash but is happy for them to go. They are on the fence because of the expense. Should they beg and borrow the money to go? How would they get the most out of it for their long-term career?
posted by terrortubby to Work & Money (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think it would be worth it just to get a six word review by Paul Ford
posted by mearls at 3:30 PM on January 30, 2010


The answer is Yes if they are an absolutely kickass live band. And not just in their own opinion. If they are just a good live band then no, they'll be wasting their money as the press will be covering the absolutely kickass live bands.

If they've already got *great* ink off their live shows in their native town then that's an indicator that they might shine live. If they haven't, they're not, and should stay home.

Of course, that's just from a "Will someone see us who'll help?" perspective, which I think is most bands' main concern.

There are other reasons to go: meet other bands; see great shows; have fun. If none of those is worth going into debt for then again I say no.

I'm also assuming they
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 3:32 PM on January 30, 2010


Yes. They should go. It's quite an experience. Austin, TX is also a wonderful city.

More importantly, it will be an opportunity for the band to introduce themselves to industry people (there are PLENTY attending SXSW).
posted by jchaw at 3:34 PM on January 30, 2010


You can get free lodgins if you go through the international housing coordinator. I hosted a band from England a few years ago and they didn't pay us anything but taking us out for dinner one day (which we didn't expect for them to do).

It's a really fun few days. The band that stayed at my house had a blast. Though, they did have trouble with their visas or passports or something and almost didn't get to come, so watch out for that.
posted by ishotjr at 3:44 PM on January 30, 2010


*lodging, not lodgins
posted by ishotjr at 3:45 PM on January 30, 2010


I wouldn't count on this being a sure-fire hit but a chance at having something magic happen. if they can afford it, I'd recommend they do but seriously... practice your show as much as possible. you want to be on top of your game there because you never know who might be in front of you. you want to rock that damn roof off and you have fantastic competition.

also consider telling them to give all their tracks away as free mp3s to anyone with an ipod. sit there and give, give, give. I saw a band announce on stage they would just copy their whole album over to anyone who wanted it and next thing I knew friends who hadn't been at the show had it even before I could give it to them. it was awesome and I still listen to those kids sometimes.
posted by krautland at 3:47 PM on January 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Y'all Brits always hog the gun range when you're here but seem to have a great time. The networking is priceless - everyone whos anyone is here. Also, once you're here it's pretty cheap. Transporting gear is pricey - hook up with a local band for help. I wouldn't pass it up!
posted by kristymcj at 3:58 PM on January 30, 2010


Last year at SXSW, one of the best and most kickass groups we saw was a band from Norway called Katzenjammer that was playing in the street, basically busking, between their gigs. They were a lot of fun and we went to see a live showcase that they were in that wasn't an official SXSW show, and almost went to see them again at a paid offsite showcase they were doing, only failing because we were exhausted after four days straight of shows.

Apparently David Byrne also saw them during SXSW and they were on the stage he curated at Bonnaroo in the summer. So I can't say the band you know should go at all costs, but if they're a kickass live band, the sky is the limit. And if they do go, play every opportunity they can, even in the middle of Sixth Street in the middle of the afternoon. That's how we found Katzenjammer and I know a bunch of people who found them, saw their show, and bought their album on the strength of busking.
posted by immlass at 4:47 PM on January 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Book a tour around it to help recoup expenses.
posted by chillmost at 6:48 PM on January 30, 2010


My main concern re: the label, is what are they going to do to get people to see the show(s)? It might be worth it many times over to come to SXSW, but not if no one sees or hears you!

There are plenty of MeFites in Austin who'd probably help put the word out or even host the band - especially if they really are great (!) . . . so for that matter, maybe you should mention the band's name and point us to a website or something. It might not be a bad weight to quickly test the waters.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:11 PM on January 30, 2010


I think it would be worth it just to get a six word review by Paul Ford

He gave my song five stars on the page you're linking to. It made me feel good, but very few people attended our showcase.

The answer is Yes if they are an absolutely kickass live band. And not just in their own opinion. If they are just a good live band then no, they'll be wasting their money as the press will be covering the absolutely kickass live bands.

It's not really quite so meritocratic. The press is going to be covering the bands that are hyped, whether the hype is deserved or not. If nobody knows who this band is going in, why would anyone cover their show?

Anyhow, if they can afford to go, they should go. It's a good resume type of thing. And if you can't find somebody to put you up for free you're not good at being in a band. But don't go in with expectations about how it's going to be some major career move. It's a fun time and a good opportunity, but it's also a lot of BS. Unknown bands don't blow up based on a SXSW showcase unless the deck is stacked in their favor going in, e.g. their set is right before a really big/hyped band's set.

To get the most out of it they should try to play as many shows as possible while they're there. It's already a little late in the game to be booking those, so they need to get on that ASAP. And they should have CDs to pass out for free.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:14 PM on January 30, 2010


Of course.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:05 PM on January 30, 2010


Oh, yes! Come on down we Texans love to have you......
posted by bjgeiger at 12:56 AM on January 31, 2010


Ludwig_van's advice is really good. Be realistic: you [er, your friend's band] will have a fabulous time, and if you work hard, you will probably come out with some new fan-types, but the chances of an unknown-ish, unhyped band getting their big break at SXSW are not NEARLY as decent as they used to be. Over the past few years, it has become an echo chamber for big-music-blog hype, so if you don't have that hype going in, it's tough to get anyone to care.

But it is SUPER fun. I wouldn't recommend going into more debt than it will take, arbitrarily, six months or so to pay off, but This Band will likely have a great experience if they go into it with realistic expectations.

Seconding a tour surrounding the festival, but be aware that scheduling a tour just before or just after SXSW is pretty tough. EVERY band schedules a tour at that time.
posted by nosila at 7:14 AM on January 31, 2010


It's not really quite so meritocratic. The press is going to be covering the bands that are hyped, whether the hype is deserved or not. If nobody knows who this band is going in, why would anyone cover their show?

Which is why I stipulated that they not just be great in their own opinion and said they had to have already got lots of great press. One of the ways music geeks and journalists find out who to hype is by reading foreign press.

If the band thinks it's great live and have gotten no press about it, chances are they aren't great and a trip to SXSW for the sole purpose of their "long term career" is gonna result in disappointment and, it appears, significant debt.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:59 AM on January 31, 2010


Speaking as a member of the music press, I wouldn't bother. SXSW is fun, and offers a one-in-a-thousand chance for unexpected attention, but honestly that proportion isn't an exaggeration. There is too much to see, and it's very rare for relatively unknown bands to receive an important SXSW boost without a big label, PR or media push. I don't know any Montreal indie band that continues to go, unless they want a holiday, have received funding, a major showcase coup, or have made it part of a tour. Professionally speaking, for a small band on their own, it is not worth the expense.

As you consider it, think about who you could persuade to come to your show. Chances are these will be (a) a small handful of curiosity-shoppers; (b) critics who already know your music and don''t have anything else on at that time; (c) one voracious blogger. It's your call whether this is worth it.
posted by Marquis at 9:18 AM on January 31, 2010


Thanks for the great answers so far. Am sending the page to them now. (It really isn't me.)

Any more input happily accepted.
posted by terrortubby at 10:55 AM on January 31, 2010


« Older Big tax bili. Not my fault?   |   I wanna play my Myst again Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.