11 SXSW Music Panels You Absolutely Must Attend

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Welcome to March! Having survived the wintery tundra most of the world refers to as January and February, we have finally arrived at the third month of the new year. There is a good chance the cold that has our country in a stranglehold will largely remain in place during the weeks ahead, but for those of us in the industry we know that this month does provide a temporary escape for those able to afford a week in Texas. South By Southwest, otherwise known as the world’s largest music conference and festival, takes place the second and third week of this month. We’ll be on site from March 17 all the way until March 22, and we hope any of you planning to attend will make it a point to say hello. In order to do that however, you will likely have to find us as we move from panel to panel throughout each day.

Concerts and screenings always steal the spotlight during SXSW, but the panels (sometimes referred to as ‘sessions’) are where to real work is accomplished. It’s in these gatherings, which can range from one on one chats to one speaker addressing hundreds at a time, that the state of the industry is openly discussed, questioned, and (hopefully) made better. We will be conveying much of the information we gain through these sessions on the blog, but we’ll be the first to tell you that our secondhand advice is nothing compared to getting your information from its original source. With that in mind, we’ve settled on a list of 11 panels we feel everyone who wants a leg up in this industry should attend. This isn’t to say the rest of the panels offered are subpar, but these topics are one we feel passionately about, and we’re excited to see how some of the industry’s greatest minds hope to see the conversation around these ideas evolve moving forward.

1. Why Curation Will Save the Music Industry

When: Wednesday, March 18 (330-430PM)
Where: Austin Convention Center (Room 15)

What: With over 20 million songs available instantly to all of us through various streaming and download services, the way we consume music has changed drastically. The average user is confronted with an abundance of music at their disposal with limited means to navigate. We will highlight why we need human editorial guidance in times of algorithms and automated recommendations.

2. Street Team 2.0: Digital Marketing For Music

When: Friday, March 20 (1230-130PM)
Where: Austin Convention Center (Room 15)

What: The “Street Team” model was originally developed as an affordable and highly effective bridge to a target audience that did not require the traditional outlets found in print, radio, television, and large scale distribution deals. Today, budgets are required to do more. Labels and artists must be efficient, creative and effective in leveraging technology and reaching fans. This requires labels and especially legacy artists to adapt to a start up culture where music is the driver for brand extensions and artists see themselves as brands that are constantly engaging their fans. What would take deep pockets to reach the masses, can now be done with the use of the internet and social media.

3. Behind The Curtain: How Data is Changing The Modern Music Business

When: Thursday, March 19 (2-3PM)
Where: Austin Convention Center (Room 17B)

What: What data is helping to shape the music industry decisions in today’s new world? Explore the new analytics that are arming managers, labels, agents and brands to make informed decisions on touring, which singles to release and which bands are going to be the next big thing.

4. Takin’ Care of Bits-ness: Reshaping Music Data

When: Thursday, March 19 (330-430PM)
Where: Austin Convention Center (Room 15)

What: The global reach of digital is creating opportunities for artists and music companies to maximize their value by cutting deals across a variety of territories, labels, and publishing partners. But many players are missing out because of their primitive practices and poor data management. The new rules are empowering progressive teams and enslaving those stuck in the past. This panel will showcase processes and technologies forward-thinking companies are using to build leverage by harnessing their own data and intellectual property.

5. The New Interactive Music: Music’s Visual Future

When: Wednesday, March 18 (1230-130PM)
Where: Austin Convention Center (Room 11AB)

What: What is the successor to the LP, MTV, and YouTube? How will music meld with video, graphics, and interactivity? And will any of it make money? Hear some history, and recent examples of interactive and visual music experiences, and discuss the coming rise of user-generated-content in social music video platforms, which just this year eclipsed official music videos in both popularity and monetization.

6. Next Phase of Digital Discovery & Content Curation

When: Wednesday, March 18 (11AM-12PM)
Where: Austin Convention Center (Room 12AB)

What: Discovery is still broke, with arguments both for and against human and technological curation, a successful balance exists that incorporates both methods to create the ultimate digital jukebox. Learn more about the continued conversation on creating the best methods for content curation.

7. 24/7 Fan Engagement in the 21st Century

When: Thursday, March 19 (5-6PM)
Where: Austin Convention Center (Room 15)

What: You mean it’s not enough for me to just make music and play for the people? Now I have to “surprise” fans in order to keep “the love” alive? 200 people signed up to my emails, I have 50 views on YouTube, no one interacts with my tweets, Facebook blocks my posts (that or my friends are ignoring me), my parents are the only people that heart my Instagrams, AND I’m supposed to compete with a bunch of 12 year olds for dominance on Vine? FML. We speak with mgmt teams about what it takes to keep the love flowing 24/7.

8. The Art of the Interview

When: Friday, March 20 (5-6PM)
Where: Austin Convention Center (Room 18D)

What: As an artist, what can you say in an interview that will get the world’s attention? What does your audience want to find out from you? How does one balance privacy with the need to catch the attention of editors, bloggers, podcasters, and fans? As media, how should one prepare for an interview? How do you get a great interview out of an artist uninterested in speaking with you? We’ll deconstruct the art-form from both sides of the microphone, providing an excellent discussion about what works, and what doesn’t. Some techniques accepted as standard will be dismissed and an update of the art-form for new technologies is discussed.

9. Fest Forward: The Future of Music Festivals

When: Friday, March 20 (2-3PM)
Where: Austin Convention Center (Room 17A)

What: There’s a renaissance underway in the music festival space. From wearables to mobile ticketing technology and beyond, high tech has enabled today’s music festivals to be virtually boundless. Music festivals around the world are seeing significant new commercial and experiential booms, and there’s more interest in attending communal music experiences than ever. Hear a new analysis of all social media conversation on music festivals in 2014, the drivers behind the boom, and what lies ahead.

10. Give It Away Now: The “Value” In Free Music

When: Thursday, March 19 (1230-130PM)
Where: Austin Convention Center (Room 15)

What: Free music is everywhere. Music fans listen to Pandora and Spotify all day at no cost to them. Publishers grant gratis synch licenses to low budget productions for promotional value. Across the industry, artists, songwriters and those who represent them are bombarded with “opportunities” to give their intellectual property away, and many do for various reasons. Granting access to music for free or at rock bottom fees has become standard in the industry; whereas the significant implications of doing so remain largely unexamined. We’ll take a look at how giving music away can change the course of your career or business and how to use the practice to your advantage.

11. I’ve Got 99 Problems, But PR Ain’t One

When: Friday, March 20 (330-430PM)
Where: Austin Convention Center (11AB)

What: For any artist, transitioning from home grown media efforts to hiring a publicist or marketing expert can be a challenge. From helping form their image/brand to handling an entire press tour, most artists do not know what to expect when they allow agencies or labels to take the reins on promotional efforts. In addition, as important as it is to provide these services for your client, keeping them informed and confident in their work is the number one priority of the everyday publicist’s job. We will explore the art of client relations and educating musicians on what it means to have a publicist.

For more information on SXSW, as well as a complete guide to every panel that will be held, click here.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.