Louis Jay Meyers, one of the founders of Austin’s South by Southwest music conference and the New Orleans music conference LMNOP (Louisiana Music—New Orleans Pride) passed away last month from a heart attack.
Meyers, an Austin native, started his career as a music promoter who managed the famed Austin music venue Liberty Lunch. Meyers was also a musician who played banjo and guitar. Being an avid member of the Austin music scene led to his involvement with SXSW. Meyers, along with four others, founded SXSW in 1987 and was its music director until 1994.
Meyers explained his departure from SXSW in an article published in The Pitch Music: “That year, there were 640 acts, and my goal was to scale that back to around 500… Now, of course, there are 2,300 official acts. And what you lose by having that many acts is quality. You can’t prescreen all that talent efficiently and put it out in a way where the industry can digest it. And so I felt that the continued expansion of South By was—I don’t want to say greedy, but find a nice way to say greedy.”
After living in Amsterdam for a while he returned to the States and founded, at the urging of OffBeat Publisher Jan Ramsey, the LMNOP Music Conference in New Orleans. Meyers worked with OffBeat Magazine, including myself and Jan Ramsey, and Scott Aiges, to develop the conference. Although successful, the conference failed to get the support of local government, making it financially impossible to continue. Meyers learned that unlike what he had experienced in Austin, New Orleans and the state government had little vision for understanding and supporting the music business. After three years the conference closed.
In 2003, Meyers was named General Manager of the Austin Music Network, a non-profit independent music television channel. In 2005, he was named the executive director of the North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance (the Folk Alliance International Conference is held in Memphis and Kansas) and he subsequently moved to Memphis. He left in 2014 and returned home to Austin and began where he started: managing bands.
His final project was an adaptation of the Who’s Tommy for bluegrass that was performed by the bluegrass band the HillBenders. The album was produced and conceived by Meyers, with Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry, being released in 2015.
Meyers’ Facebook page contains a post from a friend, Chris Morris: “I considered Louis Jay Meyers a good friend. Our acquaintance went back to the late ’80s, the early days of South by Southwest. He was a smart, funny man. My last meeting with him was at SXSW. I ran into him on Sixth Street, which was teeming with throngs of drunken maniacs. Louis’ eyes swept the scene, and he said to me, ‘You know, Chris, this isn’t exactly what I envisioned when we started this thing.’”