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This week, industry professionals, artists, and the media gather in Austin, Texas for the 26th annual South by Southwest Music Conference. What started out as a meeting of the minds and a dog-and-pony-show for new and emerging artists has grown to become a popular destination for music fans. Consequently, SXSW increasingly attracts a broad range of entities with ties to the music industry, including participants, partners, platforms, and consumers of music. The convergence of entertainment media has brought the three SXSW conferences—music, film, and interactive technology—closer together. What was once considered anathema to artists (using rock and pop music to sell products, convey an image, or establish a brand) has become so common that the notion of “selling out”, once a label that could imperil an artist’s ability to maintain their integrity, has become quaint. In what has become a virtuous feedback loop, music helps sell movies and products, while movies and products help merchandise music. Music appears anywhere and everywhere, embedded in devices, advertisements, and film and television scores, no longer just existing as standalone works of art. Consequently, SXSW has grown from a glorified trade conference into a pop culture juggernaut.

To fully appreciate the ubiquity of music in our lives, and SXSW’s emergence as a major commercial force beyond its importance as a taste-maker and trendsetter, we take a look at a list of ten memorable performances from last year’s conference. If these moments trigger a sense of familiarity in the embedded SXSW experience, you’re probably the industry insider, hipster, local, or combined hip-local-industry-insider who refers to the conference as “South By”. If you are new to the SXSW experience, view this list as a crash course in what to expect from the conference.

The challenge: coming up with a list of 10—not 25, not 100 (really NPR, 100?), but 10—must-see music events at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas this year. For the music lover, the annual South by Southwest Music and Media Conference (taking place March 13th to 18th) presents an Olympic task that involves winnowing over 1000 performing artists down to a manageable shortlist, and then shoehorning one’s must-see happenings into a roughly four-day period.  Do the math: for even the most disciplined music fan, we’re talking a maximum of six evening slots, and maybe a potential half-dozen day party slots (assuming one attends to essentials such as eating, schmoozing, and checking mail).  Throw in a few random touches like running into Lou Barlow playing the convention center food court, and we’re looking at perhaps 50, tops.

Thankfully, SXSW has gone one better, expanding to a fifth night (corresponding with a Pitchfork showcase held on the eve of the festival last year). Having scanned the most recently-available list of announced showcase slots, we present for your consideration, a list of “oh see this” artists.  I had a friend last year who kept things simple—he simply went traveled to wherever his favorite UK band was playing, and ended up going to a lot of parties and gaining broader exposure through a wide range of support acts. Our list strives to provide some degree of balance in the musical diet.  So who’s on yours?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

The 2000s were a fine decade for film, and correspondingly a great decade for musical scores. Certain trends in film soundtracks became quite popular, notably Zach Braff’s indie mixtape formula so perfected in the music for Garden State and The Last Kiss (though most tout the former as his best, I prefer the latter). While mixtape soundtracks grew in prominence, certain composers rose to legendary status, notably Hans Zimmer, who by the decade’s conclusion had a prodigious body of work. In a world of increasing musical diversity, much is available to filmmakers in creating sonic backgrounds to their moving pictures.

The following list represents what I found to be the best in cinematic scores over the past decade. I’ve decided to narrow down my list specifically to scores, as comparing a soundtrack comprised of multiple songs by various artists to a body of music composed by one artist specifically for a film wouldn’t make for a fair list. Some of these soundtracks do feature a song that wasn’t written specifically for the movie, but all of the scores represented here are analyzed for their merit as pieces of music composed specifically for film.

Late into 1999, a single album caused a seismic shift in the progressive rock scene. That album, Dream Theater’s Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory, seemed like any other prog concept album. Yet despite its release later in the year, the LP would go on not just to be hailed as one of the year’s best progressive rock records, but one of the genre’s all-time classics. This set the stage for Dream Theater to shoot to the forefront of the progressive rock scene, while also serving as a prototype for the style of prog that would become even more popular over the course of the next decade. Just a year later prog supergroup Transatlantic released its debut record, still very much a prog favorite, which included much of the complex musicianship so masterfully displayed on Scenes from a Memory.

Oh, how times have changed. Dream Theater’s prominence—while no doubt still formidable—would wane in the latter half of the decade, as the band put out releases that just couldn’t match up to the brilliance of its prior recordings. Meanwhile, countless numbers of long concept records were released, with quality of music often being sacrificed for the quantity of minutes the musicians could keep on shredding.

To date, Madonna has released 75 singles across 13 albums, four soundtrack albums, and six compilation albums, with “Give Me All Your Luvin’” (from the upcoming LP MDNA) being her latest. She has had 12 number-one hits in both the United States and the United Kingdom (with different sets of songs), plus 24 chart-toppers in Canada, and 38 US, 60 UK, and 49 Canadian Top 10 hits. Madonna has dominated the radio and video airwaves for quite some time, and although the moniker of “King of Pop” is firmly affixed to Michael Jackson, “Queen of Pop” gets bounced around to every new fluffy pop tartlet who claims to integrate music and fashion like it’s something that’s never been done before

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