The South by Southwest (SXSW) festival is held in Austin Texas every year and is a place for emerging artists to strut their stuff and get a record deal in the US. Last year Franz Ferdinand was the breakout star, The Darkness were the year before that and four years ago saw Norah Jones begin her journey to fame.

This year aussies such as Little Birdy and After the Fall flew the long flight to the home of the ape like president with the hope of maybe making it big. The festival is now long over so you can forget about buying a ticket – however you can pretend you are there by downloading the music of some of the artists. Isn’t that illegal you say? Well, in this case no.

SXSW has become one of the first festivals to utilise the swarming technology of bittorrent with the blessings of all the artists involved. You can go to their website and get a tiny file that allows you to download a 2.5gb bounty of mp3 music. The reason their server doesn’t go down under the load of thousands of people downloading a very large file is because it is a torrent.

Bittorrents work by sharing the download with everyone that is also downloading the file. You get a bit of your file from Fred, a bit from Barney while sending a bit of what you have to Wilma and Betty. Unlike other downloading technologies such as Kazaa or IRC, bittorrent actually goes faster the more people are downloading. It’s this cool fact that has pissed off all the big entertainment moguls because it has made it quick and easy for people to get tv shows and movies. Once a show has been broadcast you can almost expect a torrent to appear for that episode in the hour after it has finished. Techtalk over, back to the music.

I have of course downloaded this huge file and am slowly working my way through the artists (I’m still on the letter A!). The main reason I got the file was to listen to more of Vagenius. I’m completely digging their song “Educated Fool” which sort of sounds like Pavement mixed with Rilo Kiley mixed with Erasure (synths). I’ll probably end up purchasing the EP because I dig any woman who dresses up like Sigue Sigue Sputnik and plays a keytar.

Hats off to SXSW for rising above all the copright argument fray and providing the punters with what they want. Offering a sampler of all the artists before the festival is sheer brilliance and provides an audience that is wider than the festival organisers surely anticipated.

Interestingly enough, SXSW is also about films and the web which solved a lot of confusion I was having when visiting some web design blogs. They were all going on about the festival and I was wondering why the heck they were there! Did they also like Vagenius? The whole thing looks bloody cool – I wish I had some sort of junket where I could combine all three of my loves and get it paid to go by work. 🙂

As Skunk Anansie once said “I can dream”.



2 thoughts on “What is SXSW and why should you care?

  1. Amyo says:

    That’s a great idea Mike, I’m gonna bloody steal it off you and do one of my own! 🙂 Stay tuned for that.

    I listen to a lot of new music, so the ones that catch my ear I mark as two stars. After one listen it is too soon to give it a proper rating, so a few weeks of listening to my “Listen again” playlist (just a smart playlist with two star songs) every couple of days, I go through them and decide if they deserver a three, four or five star. So far the process is working really well.


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