”The problem is we are in a precarious situation. We need to win more! Are you going to SXSW in Austin this week? Don’t spend too much money.”
The above is from a meeting room scene of a film titled “Kill Your Friends.” Steven Stelfox played by Nicholas Hoult is an artist and repertoire (A&R) employee of London-based global record company Unigram Productions in 1997 when Oasis and Radiohead were extremely popular. The A&R team is similar to the talent development team in other companies, except that artists are the Alpha and the Omega of the music industry.
#1. “Hip hop, trance, heavy metal played on the bladder of a sheep…. It doesn’t matter as long as it is a big hit,” says Steven walking into a concert hall. This is a crude but appropriate description of SXSW. It is a one-week music concert composed of about 2,000 performances by a wide range of musicians around the world. Members of countless record companies and media try to wake themselves up with strong cups of coffee every morning and hop from one concert hall to another until late hours to discover new soon-to-emerge musicians.
#2. SXSW is the abbreviation of South by Southwest. It is a kind of exposition that consists of SXSW Interactive – business and technology market – and SXSW Music – music fair – and is held every year in Austin, Texas. The name has originated from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 film “North by Northwest.” It is SXSW Music where Steven is waiting in fury for an opportunity to make a comeback.
#3. Attending SXSW for five years was a true blessing as a journalist and music fan. The powerful experience is deeply carved into my brain and blood vessels with daily reminders of the experience. It was where I saw the performance of Dua Lipa, now a famous star from the U.K., in a small live music club with only 30 people in the audience. It is often the case at SXSW that those who perform in a small section of a bar become superstars in one to three years. The performances of veterans whose popularity and youth have passed their peaks are also notable. A case in point is a performance by Leigh Nash, the vocalist of “Sixpence None The Richer” known for “Kiss Me,” to the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar played by her husband in a small hotel bar.
#4. A number of performances and festivals around the world, including SXSW and Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, have been canceled this year due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. SXSW is supposed to be happening right now while Coachella is held in April every year in Indio, California. These two events are the festivals of all festivals, providing an opportunity to forecast the future of the music industry. Coachella, in particular, is a spearheading event and peek into the largest music festivals that will continue until the end of a year. Stars have amazing guests on their stage, hoping to have their names printed all over the next-day newspapers.
#5. Several festivals, including SXSW and Coachella, are considering postponing the event dates to fall. The global pop music industry will face a year of a formal dinner without appetizers and of a pop song without a prelude. A trade fair to predict the next two to three years of the pop industry has become unavailable.
I hope that this terrible virus will disappear as soon as possible. I would like to present the joy of art to those who have been hurt physically and emotionally from the virus. I hope we all can go to 2021 SXSW and Coachella with a bit of astonishing luck and blessing…. By the way, what would have happened to Steven in crisis?