My big takeaway from SXSW this year is that the business side of music is still in a great deal of turmoil. Everyone just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks.
Artists that will never be signed to a major label, much less be heard on the radio are creating a massive amount of great music.
Often too lazy or greedy, the major labels have shown us that they seem to lack the vision or will to take the risks needed to find and develop new bands.
There are, however many individuals and small companies doing an incredible job of finding really high quality, innovative new artists and allowing them to be heard.
On the individual side, there are people like producer/engineers Mark Needham, Tim Palmer, Andrew Scheps and Sylvia Massy. All of these people work with the world's top selling artists, but also spend significant time finding and developing new artists; a role that at one time was almost exclusively the role of the A&R department of major labels.
On the company side, one that I discovered at SXSW (and they have been around for a few years) are the people from the Red Gorilla Music Festival. Headed by Brian Waymire, his partner Chris and the team they assembled find and promote music in a wide variety of genres.
Much like one of my music biz idols, Bill Graham, the folks at Red Gorilla seem to be somewhat fearless about mixing it up. They will book a hip-hop artist followed by a power folk band on the same stage. The glue that holds it all together is they have an ear for talent and quality.
The other element that people like Graham had going for them is that they put in the time to fine venues open to this sort of musical genre bending. The Handlebar was one of those venues. It is a funky little bar with a rooftop stage and a great staff. The guy who was mixing (didn't get his name..but if you know him, give him a shout out) also did a great job.
As tough as the music business is today, it’s always encouraging to find real innovation and passion about good music as well as visionary leaders out there plugging away at it every day.
Keep throwing your ideas at the wall and don't get discouraged by setbacks.