Music

SXSW Panels: This Is Contemporary Music Industry and Culture

Jayson Harsin

The first day exceeded all expectations. Though several new unsigned, or recently signed artists, had been heard, the day started with the music industry conference.

I attended two panels. The first was "The Convergence of Music on TV and Online", and the second was on social networking and music. Both tended to repeat the general themes of viral marketing and branding, regardless of product. But the special case or problem of music as a cultural product and commodity did pop up from time to time. It featured marketers from major labels as well as branders and promoters. It's all about bands having a "project" said Mark Shimmel of Turner Entertainment Networks. "It's no longer about a band that comes to you and says, ‘Listen to my single.’” Now, one needs to have a vision of all sorts of tie-ins and long-term mileage: associating oneself with brands, cars, films, clothing, lifestyles, TV shows, websites, and just demographics in general. In addition, an often repeated, and accepted, marketing mantra was heard: These days no one wants email lists and Facebook bands/friends that constantly bombard you with calls to buy their album -- fans want to be part of a community. One should let them participate and embed your music and identity, your brand, in their community. Tell them about films you like as well as music. It should be "check this out," not "buy this, please!"

Also repeated ad nauseum: Times have changed. But it's not clear in any easy sense who are the winners and losers. Obviously new media technologies for reaching audiences and promoting have made it possible for artists to go directly to potential audiences and try to seduce them, to say nothing of radio stations that used to play nothing but material that was filtered by labels. Of course it's also made recording cheaper, eliminating the necessity of major label support. And while labels have been negatively affected by the flood of free content online, they have also benefitted from the fast and free means of viral promotion and data gathering.

Attention and quality gatekeeping were major themes. "I sell audiences" to bands and labels, said Andrew Bentley of LP33.tv. But an audience member objected that music is not like other forms of marketing because people have adjusted to free music. Bentley responded that if you get them hooked in a community, you build their trust, money will follow. Bentley also emphasized that a drawback of the shift from labels' filtering capacity was that we are swimming in a sea of crap; with five million bands on Myspace, we are being inundated by legions of delusional amateur artists peddling their musical poop.

Welcome to vertiginous postmodern music culture, where everyone is trying to tell you they deserve your trust and devotion while at the same time celebrating your power of setting your own filter. It's the paradox of having a sea of choice and few signposts. Finally, given the industry's obsession with monitoring (or surveillance, as Gang of Four's Dave Allen put it more critically), we were privy to the latest statistics on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, and email list use. Facebook is now the most popular means for bands and labels to organize and promote. Myspace's actual use is way down, despite the huge number of bands, fans, and myriad self-promoters and romance-seekers. In fact, email lists are on the rise as Myspace bulletins are falling. Two continue with the real-time stats produced in Q&A, half of the two hundred some audience members said they were packing two hand-held communication devices (cell and laptop), about a quarter had three (laptop, cell, and digital camera) while one luddite lone ranger admitted to going old skool pen and paper. The (obvious) lesson: If you're in this music culture you must constantly update with these rapid rollercoaster changes.

Oh snap! My computer and cell phone tell me I'm late for the Smokey Robinson keynote.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.