Thursday, March 19 marked the third day of the 29th annual South By Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival in Austin, Texas. The weather continues to be frustratingly humid, although I should be grateful that the rainy forecasts have not come to fruition yet.
How Sampling Saved Music
Arrested Development’s Speech (Todd Thomas) discussed his ideas on why sampling is still an understood musical tool and how it actually saves the music industry. Speech began by recounting the two most expensive music experiences of his life: $100k for Prince’s “Alphabet Street” in using one lyrical word in his hit song “Tennessee” and $50k for use of a Brand New Heavies record. While very expensive, Speech was happy to pay because he loved those records and was inspired to use them in his own music, which he argued was proof that sampling at its core is music appreciation because musicians who sampled love music, made great efforts to discover music, and bought music.
The Celebrity Economy in Music
After learning about this recently created session, I was excited enough to plan to attend this over the “Value” in Free Money session because the Butler brothers (Will and Win Butler of Arcade Fire) and Paul Krugman were panelists. Unfortunately, Rembert Browne (Grantland writer) moderated an unfocused discussion on the celebrity economy. Nicky Berger (CEO, Berger Management) and Tatiana Simonian (VP, Nielsen Entertainment) joined and brought a lot more of the substantive information (Krugman included), but it was interesting to get some perspective from current musicians, although Win Butler confessed his band’s success is somewhat of an anomaly given its lack of hit songs.
Topics included branded music – Simonian defended the practice to a degree, stating that “street cred doesn’t pay the bills” to which Win retorted that “it is selling out” – and branded partnerships (where Simonian stated that technically record deals are a form of branded partnership). Also discussed was corporate money, which Krugman related to the New York Times situation where paid advertisements and glitzy stuff pays for the in-depth investigative works (so it’s a give-and-take circumstance), current revenue streams (musicians currently make most of their revenues from live performances), and future band-branded endeavors (i.e., Mumford & Sons and Ty the Creator started their own festival series).
The (Real) Market Value of a Music Placement
This was a very informative session about the role of the music supervisor and the potential benefits to successful music placement. The panel included Antony Bland (Owner/Partner, CandyShop Management), Rochelle Holguin (VP of Music, Viacom/MTV Networks), Rebecca Rienks (Music Supervisor, E! Entertainment/NBCUniversal), and Lysandra Woods (Third Side Music) who definitely knew their stuff and emphasized that successful music placement means that everyone wins (e.g., the artist or band, the brand, the network, the television show, and the movie). Holguin described the process of MTV’s Artist to Watch series in which she and her team plan to feature approximately 20 artists (and between five and 10 to really push), but strives for flexibility and an organic feel to this promotion related to the ebbs and flows of pop music. An attendee posed a question about the possibility of buying your way into these sorts of promotions (a la the Super Bowl), but the panel was in agreement that it probably wouldn’t be the rule since the goal of this sort is to promote quality music.
Similar to yesterday, I decided not to stick to a single showcase, and I ran around trying to make it to as many shows as possible.
I returned to Hype Machine’s Hype Hotel presented by Feed the Beat in order to catch a few songs from New York-based Twin Shadow (George Lewis Jr.). Twin Shadow’s ’80s new wave sound fit fairly well inside the converted warehouse, moving from an uptempo version of “Castles in the Snow” to “Changes” (from his eponymous sophomore album) to “Run My Heart.”
From the sheer number of music acts performing this week, it was statistically probable that sound issues would occur. Unfortunately, it happened right before LOLAWOLF was set to perform at Parish. Even more unfortunate that it seemed to perturb the New York trio, especially frontwoman Zoë Kravitz (daughter of Lenny Kravitz), who had to make due with a corded microphone that hindered her vibe. The first few songs featured drum-heavy beats that even Kravitz participated in, and the set flowed into a more sensual electronic affair from “Start Now Stop” to “Dirty Feeling” before a strong ending with “Bitch.”
Emmy The Great
I must start by acknowledging that Emmy the Great (Emma-Lee Moss) is a total sweetheart, who started her set by stating the sound crew at Buffalo Billiards was “so nice” as well as everyone else in Austin. Joined by Mikal Evans, Emmy’s folk pop was a welcome reprieve of all the electronic and dance music I heard during the past week. Instead of blaring beats, I was subjected to pleasant, catchy melodies in a song about texting, a song about a family she knew while she lived in Los Angeles, her oldie but goodie “City Song” and the finale, “Swimming Pool.”
After missing Summer Heart the day before, I made it my mission to catch David Alexander’s solo project at The Iron Bear before something catastrophic happened. It might be because he’s Swedish, but Alexander struck me as being someone who would have still been happy performing even if there was no one else in the audience. Musicians like him make listening and seeing live so much more pleasurable, despite snickering at his weird happy-go-lucky dancing. Summer Heart performed “Ready to Cross” for only the second time (the first time being the night before, which coincidentally was its first time in the United States), the incredibly infectious “Sleep,” as well as the title track from its new Thinking of U EP.
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