It's tough enough to be a record executive these days. Your budget's shrinking, your staff keep leaving to join tech startups, and you keep having to figure out which one of your interns is the one who's leaking your biggest acts rough mixes to BitTorrent.
At least you always had SXSW to look forward to, right?
One of the kids at the Day Job actually asked me if I'd ever been to SXSW. (Never visited the Mothership, but have been to a few of their regional events, like NXNE in Toronto.) When I said that a few of my friends had gone when I was in college, they asked me about the kinds of code they discussed at panels. At least online, the Interactive element of SXSW has become so dominant, eighteen-year-olds actually believe that the music portion of the conference is just a party for the dot-com people.
Twenty years ago, SXSW was the only chance all year that alternative music journalists and record company execs could hunker down in one town and figure out what pop culture was going to be about. Nobody outside the business even knew about it. This year, I saw live performances from SXSW on DirecTV and watched a Twitter stream of details from friends and colleagues. Feels like I went, though I simply reinvested my travel budget into a personal vacation instead.
Therefore, for up and coming acts, building your own audience and developing a brand to carry you throughout the year have become far more important than making it onto a showcase at SXSW. Sure, it's still fun to get picked. But it's not the starmaker it used to be.