The news as SXSW starts is the seeming disconnect between the state of the economy, the state of the music business and the music festival/marketplace in Austin, Texas. While the industry and economy continue to reel, there were more people at SXSW than ever on a Wednesday. Lines to register were over an hour long, and day parties for indie rock shows often had significant lines snaking out into the middle of 6th Street.
That doesn’t mean everybody’s in denial or mysteriously flush. Major PR firm Shore Fire has had an opening night party in recent years, but it decided against holding one this year, and Yep Roc Records decided this year to forego the costs of a day party to feature artists on its label. Instead, it’ll go with only its official festival showcase tonight at the Continental Club, where BeauSoleil will make their SXSW debut at 10 followed by the Iguanas.
What’s happening is the question for the weekend. My suspicion is two-fold. One is that being a part of the community who believes in the music you do helps people get through tough times, making trips to SXSW valuable; the other is the belief in the value of networking, and that somehow, the friction of a lot of brains focused on the same questions at the same time could actually produce interesting answers – small solutions to individual problems, any way. Or, it may be that though the music business itself is in bad shape, music is so connected to many people’s livelihoods that the masses here all depend on rock ‘n’ roll in one way or another without officially being in the industry.