SXSW: ‘Assholes, yellers and screamers’

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PHOTO BY LUIS MOLINERO/SHUTTERSTOCK
  • photo by Luis Molinero/Shutterstock

South By Southwest came to a close this weekend, just like many of the cordoned-off streets in downtown Austin, where careening pedicabs transported attendees from far-off parking spaces to more than 100 venues, all in pursuit of musical enlightenment and Facebook fodder. We’ll have a detailed wrap-up in next week’s issue, but in the meantime, here’s one last blog post on SXSW 2015.

Although weekend panel attendance benefited from an influx of actual Austin natives not having to work, that was largely counter-balanced by severe hangovers and considerable rain. One of Saturday’s most well-attended sessions was, predictably enough, “Power Networking in the Music Business,” where Emily White, cofounder of a crowdfunding platform called Dreamfuel, advised the gathering of ambitious musicians and aspiring moguls to collect at least five business cards when attending any business or social gathering.

White is also partner in a management agency and took issue with people characterizing managers as “assholes, yellers and screamers.”

Quiana Conley, who has directed music publishing and management companies representing clients from Beyonce and T-Boz to Taylor Swift and Motorhead, vouched for the fact that her co-panelists were nice people and said that the musicians in the audience should also strive to be nice. “But maybe you’re just not nice,” she added, in which case “you should get others who are nice people to represent you.”

The panelists who participated in “What Is Record Production and Why Do You Need It” also seemed very nice, even as they talked about sharing co-production credits with artists who had no idea what a producer actually does. They also discussed the challenge of translating musical intentions into all-too-vague words: “If you like something because it’s shiny,’ wondered UK producer Tarek Musa, “what does shiny mean?”

Stewart Lerman, a Grammy winner who’s worked with artists like Elvis Costello and Regina Spektor, echoed the concern: “I’ve never heard an artist say, ‘I’d like to make a record with a small sound that’s brittle and really annoying.”

Of course, sounds that are big and really annoying were easily found, thanks to the numerous Tom Waits impersonators performing in Sixth Street bars, their gravely voices and over-the-top theatrics approaching minstrel-show proportions. (Something has to be done about that, but no one knows what.)

Thankfully, all that was offset by a historic closing-night event at the Paramount Theatre where, at one point, more than four dozen incredible musicians were onstage together. More on that in next week’s issue.

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