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SXSW 2018: Keynote speech by YouTube Global Head of Music Lyor Cohen – 14th March 2018

By on Monday, 9th April 2018 at 11:00 am

Header photo by Sean Mathis/Getty Images for SXSW

My SXSW 2018 Wednesday afternoon technically began late in the morning at the Austin Convention Center, with an 11 AM keynote speech by YouTube Global Head of Music Lyor Cohen. I was a bit tardy in arriving to the Convention Center to queue for the popular talk, and I ended up sitting in the overflow room, where the speech was being simulcast on a big screen TV. This arrangement in no way detracted from Cohen’s message or the enthusiasm of the attendees, who nodded and occasionally even applauded as if Cohen himself were actually at the front of the room.

Lyor Cohen internal

Cohen began his keynote address by giving some background on the earlier days of his career in the music industry, as a way of explaining his lifelong passion for music and for promoting musicians. His career started in artist management for up-and-coming rap artists at Rush Productions in the 1980s, and his success eventually led him to high level executive roles at Def Jam and Warner Music Group. Cohen’s brief autobiographical sketch was accompanied by DJ/producer D-Nice, who supplied audio clips from a number of artists on Cohen’s historical rosters, including RUN-DMC, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Slick Rick, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Warren G, Sum 41, The Killers, and Fetty Wap. (Want to hear it for yourself? D-Nice’s playlist is available, of course, on YouTube. Click here to listen.)


In the context of his career highlights, Cohen made note of some of the biggest changes he’s seen in the industry, emphasising his own willingness to accept new ideas and his ability to adapt to an ever-changing landscape as the keys to his success. From that point, he moved on to discuss his current position at YouTube, including plans for some major changes that are already in the works. Cohen described his vision for music on YouTube in terms of three basic goals: (1) creating diversity of distribution through ads and subscriptions, (2) collaborating with label partners to promote and break artists and (3) giving artists, labels and managers the best direct consumer access across any other platform.

You read that right. YouTube will, in the near future, institute a paid-subscription service which will be layered on to YouTube’s current ad-based service. The new monthly-fee subscription model was supposed to launch in March, around SXSW, but has apparently been delayed until later this year. Nevertheless, Cohen was undeterred by the delay, saying, “There are plenty of leaned-in listeners willing to pay, so we will convert them to paid subscribers. We know we’re late to the music subscription party, so we are making an enormous investment to launch a music product that combines the best of Google Play Music’s context listening and YouTube’s breadth and depth of catalogue.”

As for breaking new artists, Cohen outlined his plans to continue in that arena as well. “Breaking artists is my drug and now, here at YouTube, I can do so on a massive, global scale. This past year we’ve partnered with Sony, Warner and independents to support artists like Camila Cabello, Dua Lipa, and Ozuna. We got to flex our platform to help promote their music, tell their stories and grow their global fanbases.”

artist candid

While I’m not entirely convinced about the wisdom of Cohen’s first two ideas, his third, regarding direct consumer access via YouTube, was at least partially on point. “The most powerful aspect of YouTube is our ability to allow artists, managers, publishers, songwriters and labels to engage with their fans with no hoops to jump through,” he said. “Whether it’s promoting a new video, an album, a tour or a live stream, the only place the music industry can play in both commerce and direct to consumer is YouTube.” Let’s hope Cohen keeps it that way.

If you’re interested in hearing Cohen’s hour-long keynote speech in its entirety, SXSW has made the full video available online. You can watch and listen just below.


SXSW 2018: Thursday afternoon at the convention center – 15th March 2018 (Part 1)

By on Monday, 2nd April 2018 at 11:00 am

Thursday afternoon at SXSW 2018 had some intriguing, music-themed SXSW Conference sessions. Thursday’s keynote starred a musical great the ‘90s version of me would have been squeezing over. To us who were kids then, Linda Perry was famous for her big hat and goggles in the video for 4 Non Blondes’ hit ‘What’s Going On’. Since then, she’s been a heavy hitter in the songwriting department: yes, she wrote Pink’s ‘Get This Party Started’ and Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’, just to name two massive pop hits. She appeared in Austin with Kerry Brown, her co-founder in We Are Hear, a hybrid of a record label (they call themselves an “artist empowerment record label”) and publishing company.

Linda Perry Thursday at SXSW 2018

We Are Hear was just launched last year, but they’re already making huge strides in showing that the traditional record label model isn’t the best way forward. They might just prove someday soon it’s broken entirely. Willa Amai is a 13-year old working with their company, and her cover of Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ blew up when it was used in a Quickbooks advert. As organic as is possible in the internet age, Amai got plenty of attention through the online Quickbooks spot, and loads of people were clamouring to purchase the song in digital format. And the song wasn’t even available for sale yet!

Both Brown and Perry were emphatic about how important it is to nurture artists as people as well as the artists they want to become. Perry was explaining that in the case of Amai, the artist is so young, she wants to be protective of her and respectful of her schooling. It seems like a no-brainer that record labels will get better returns on their financial investment if they listen to those artists signed to them and take care of them. But as we all know, that doesn’t always happen. Hopefully with the success of companies like We Are Hear, the music industry’s evolution will be a fruitful one as we go forward.

In How Tech Can Save the Music Industry, four trailblazers in the tech space spoke about what they’ve done to help a specific niche of our industry. PledgeMusic founder Benji Rogers has now cofounded another company, the dotBlockchain Music Project. The technology of blockchain is on everyone’s lips these days, and Rogers’ latest project is another entry into making sure everyone who needs to share information in the business so that music creators are paid. We all can get behind that! Eron Bucciarelli­-Tieger is the CEO of Soundstr, which is focused on getting the royalties due to artists performing their own music that should, in an ideal world, be tracked by the performing rights organizations so many artists already belong to and pay dues to.

How Tech Can Save the Music Industry session Thursday at SXSW 2018

Dae Bogan is the founder and CEO of TuneRegistry, software to help artists who aren’t represented by a bigger entity navigate the complicated, confusing world of music publishing. Given that so many artists over the years have been conned out of profits that should have been theirs, a product like this couldn’t have appeared soon enough. Jason Robert is co-founder and CEO of HelloSugoi, an alternative ticketing platform built on blockchain that, in theory, should revolutionize how event tickets are sold. Robert made a compelling argument that his company could resell tickets but instead of using a reseller model like StubHub’s, the artists would be able to get more of the money from ticket sales than to be held by the reseller. After I got my fill from this session, I caught the last song by Philadelphia’s Mt. Joy at the Radio Day Stage. They were wowing an admirable crowd of spectators, people probably just barely awake at half past 1 in the afternoon.

Mt. Joy Thursday at SXSW 2018 2

By this point Thursday, I felt a lot of positivity and good will from the speakers I had the opportunity to hear from. Then I entered the Why Music Journalism Matters in the Streaming Era, starring editors from major print and online media outlets you’ve all heard of. I stopped taking notes after a while because I felt frustrated. Andy Cohn of FADER reveled in the fact that his outlet was still available in print, whereas SPIN is not. Sure, some friendly ribbing. Cohn also said that outlets like theirs are no longer chasing after being the first to break a new artist. Um, when did that go out of fashion? I’m pretty sure people still want to be the first. Maybe what he meant was that outlets like theirs cherry-pick who looks most promising from the coverage of smaller sites? Or perhaps click bait is more important? The up-and-coming artist is no longer up-and-coming by the time they reach outlets like theirs. Cohn also insisted, “there’s less of a purpose for music criticism than for music curation.” Okay, so not everyone is interested in reading reviews, but unless your gaze is fixed on the playlists on Spotify or Apple Music, what are the chances you are actively thinking about curation?

Music journalism session Thursday at SXSW 2018

The most troublesome statement during the session to me was Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber saying that nobody blogs anymore. He may not know anyone who still blogs, but we blog, and I know plenty of other people who do, too. TGTF will never be as big as a Pitchfork or a magazine with a national run. I made my peace with that a long time ago. But just because we’re not on his radar doesn’t mean we’re not valid or useful. For a lot of up-and-coming artists who don’t have a chance getting coverage in a major magazine or online outlet, blogs like ours are their first opportunity to get noticed. I just sat there in my chair, gritting my teeth, imagining my fist going through a wall.

A local, disabled African-American journalist asked for the microphone and said she wanted “brown and black” journalists to be better represented in the media, hitting out that three of five of the panelists in this session were white men. I understand and am sympathetic to her point, but I think her swearing detracted from her message. Also, technically, I’m yellow, so I wondered, where exactly do I fit in this journalist spectrum? I’m neither white, brown or black. Hrm… I’m glad SPIN Editor-in-Chief Puja Patel was there; she said that when the SPIN position opened up and was offered to her, she took it with both hands because “when else will a woman of color get this opportunity?” Sad but true.

Thankfully, there were some positive notes from the session. I’ve always respected Bandcamp for providing a platform that can level the playing field for any artist who wants to release and stream music with them. Senior Editor of Bandcamp Marcus Moore quipped, “We’re for the people who read the liner notes.” That seems to ring true to me: the only people I know in my circle of friends who know of artists’ Bandcamps are true music geeks who are eager to collect and discover new music. If you haven’t checked out Bandcamp Daily yet, I recommend you do: I discovered their blog when I was researching SXSW 2018 acts, and they support those that choose to use their site.

Aryeh Bourkoff and Daniel Glass Thursday at SXSW 2018

My final session at the convention center was a conversation between Glassnote Entertainment Group’s Daniel Glass and Aryeh Bourkoff of Liontree. Everyone’s heard of the acts Glass and his label have made famous: he launched the American, and then global careers of Mumford and Sons, Two Door Cinema Club, Phoenix and CHVRCHES. Like Linda Perry and Kerry Brown said in the morning, Glass said that the secret to Glassnote’s success was their staff’s passion in nurturing their artists and supporting them every step of the way. Bourkoff asked Glass what made the difference in his artists succeeding and other artists with other management teams not having the same kind of success. He gave an example of his family having shown up in London at a CHVRCHES show during Thanksgiving weekend to give their personal support and to have dinner with the band. Glass also said that his staff have incredible attention to detail on what their artists are doing and where they are playing, so much that they know exactly where their artists are pretty much every day. In attendance at the session were English girl duo IDER, recent signees to Glassnote who are likely to skyrocket to fame just like labelmates before them.


SXSW 2018: Tuesday morning brunch with Output Belfast and my first taste of this year’s music conference – 13th March 2018

By on Wednesday, 28th March 2018 at 11:00 am

Header photo: emcee and organiser Mark Gordon with Touts

Following my frenzied Monday night at SXSW 2018, I started off Tuesday at a slightly more relaxed pace, with my third visit to the Output Belfast Boat Party. The party consists of brunch on a boat, floating down the Colorado River, with entertainment provided by the some of the finest musicians Northern Ireland has to offer. While the brunch and the scenery are always pleasant for this affair, it’s really the high quality of the music that draws me in every year, and Output Belfast didn’t disappoint in 2018.

Lost Brothers internal 2

Following brief speeches by organiser and emcee Mark Gordon of Score Draw Music and Lord Mayor of Belfast Nuala MacAllister, the music began with folk duo The Lost Brothers, who had a hand in organising the inaugural Northern Irish boat party back in 2015. They were back in Austin this year with an excellent new record in tow, titled ‘Halfway Towards a Healing’. You can read editor Mary’s review of the album through here.The album was recorded in my adopted hometown of Tucson, and the distinct southwestern desert flavour of the new songs, along with The Lost Brothers’ yearning vocal harmonies, actually made me feel a bit homesick. Midway through their set, the Lost Brothers were joined by Austin musician Ragtime Willie, who had also appeared here back in 2015 and who added the bright tone color of resonator guitar to the muted sonic mix.

Joshua Burnside internal

After a brief stage break, 2017 Northern Irish Music Prize winner Joshua Burnside began his set. As our Adam McCourt reported in his review of the prize-winning album ‘Ephrata’, “the album seems to serve a pivotal point in Burnside’s career, transitioning him from indie folk to a strand of alt-folk that incorporates world music, found sounds, synths and subtle experimentations with techno.” Burnside’s eclectic sound was more rock oriented than I expected in this live performance, where he was accompanied by a brilliant band comprised of drums, bass, and trumpet alongside his own electric guitar.

Touts internal

Lest we in the audience be lulled to sleep as our boat ride drifted from morning into afternoon, the final act on the docket seemed deliberately designed to recharge and revitalise our senses. Derry punk-rock outfit Touts gave off a sullen demeanor that disguised their raw, frenetic energy, and they made more much more exuberant noise than might be expected on a polite brunch cruise. These lads are young and still relatively new on the scene, but in terms of unfiltered potential, I’d put them high on the list of acts to watch from SXSW 2018. Touts also appeared on the BBC Introducing showcase at Latitude 30 on Tuesday night; you can watch part of that performance just below.

After disembarking from the boat, Mary and I parted ways (you can read her Tuesday afternoon recap here), and I headed to the convention center to catch my first conference session of the week. In The Horseshoe: The Roots of Canadian Rock n’ Roll, author David McPherson shared his thoughts on celebrated Toronto music venue The Horseshoe, drawing from his recent book on the topic, titled ‘The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern: A Complete History’.

David McPherson

McPherson was joined by Horseshoe owner and concert promoter Jeff Cohen, who talked about the challenges of maintaining a high quality music venue in an age when so many mid-size venues, notably New York’s CBGB and The Bottom Line, have been forced to shut down. Cohen emphasised his focus on two main factors: his customers and the artists they come to see. Patrons are consistently drawn in by food, drink and the opportunity to interact with other music-loving patrons, while the artists are rewarded with a quality performance opportunity, including full crowds to play for each night. From the sounds of things, the Horseshoe is likely to be a mainstay in the Toronto live music scene for many years to come. If you find yourself in southeastern Canada for whatever reason, it might be worth your time to check the Horseshoe’s schedule of events–chances are one of your new favourite bands will be gracing its stage.


SXSW 2018: Wednesday afternoon at German Haus and a conference session on Music and the Brain – 14th March 2018 (Part 2)

By on Monday, 26th March 2018 at 1:00 pm

There are two nice things about afternoon showcases. You get to see acts in less claustrophobic confines, and you can see them without really worrying about running off to your next showcase. Two excellent reasons, if you ask me! Following my time at the JW Marriott for The Original Celebrity Chefs and Restaurants session, I returned to German Haus at Barracuda for two German acts I was excited to see and hear live. When I arrived, a bald Brit with a guitar was on the Barracuda indoor stage, playing to a small, but entirely appreciative crowd. I was confused. Hrm. He definitely didn’t have a German accent. What was he doing there? I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t recognise Midge Ure of Ultravox and Visage fame. Don’t hit me. I feel embarrassed enough!

Midge Ure at German Haus Wednesday at SXSW 2018

You have understand that during SXSW, most of us aren’t checking our emails, and I certainly did not see the German Haus missive that he would be part of the screening of Conny Plank – The Potential of Noise and its related panel that afternoon on which Ure would appear. I can see this was one of those times that it probably would have helped to have the event to all, or at least wristband holders in addition to badgeholders. But maybe Ure appreciated playing to a small crowd for once?

Blackberries at German Haus Wednesday at SXSW 2018

I ran out of time to write up my best bets of groups from the Continent showcasing at SXSW, but I have an Excel spreadsheet with many tabs to prove I did all the research if you want to see it. Blackberries were on my list because they’re exactly what you don’t expect from Germany. I think these days, German artists from outside Berlin are overshadowed by the electronic scene in the capital. Blackberries hail from Solingen, in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany, and have their unique perspective on what krautrock means in 2018. How often do you see psych rock being performed with maracas? I had an idea in my head even before I got to Austin that British artists would be less important to my experience at SXSW than in past years, and that prediction turned out to be right.

Munich experimental electronic duo Joasihno were set up back inside Barracuda. Synth heads, this was a wet your pants moment. If Cico Beck and Nico Sierig’s extended tabletop setup was filled with the usual keyboards, synths and sequencers, I might not have been as impressed. I might have even yawned. Instead, their unusual collection of equipment, which included a mechanically activated xylophone, rods that spun around and what looked like rocks connected to wires (???), plus loads of other things that looked like something out of a mad scientist’s laboratory. This kind of music couldn’t be further from Taylor Swift and other pop stars who top the charts.

Joasihno at German Haus Wednesday at SXSW 2018

And you know what? That’s okay. Some of us want to be entertained with new sounds and in new ways. Ryan Walsh said in his talk Wednesday afternoon that 1/3 of the world’s population makes music sometime in their lives. There’s plenty of artists out there now and will be in the future to satisfy all of our music listening needs. And that’s good news for everyone.

I returned to the convention center for one of the last conference sessions of the day, Music and the Brain: How Sounds Become Pleasurable. The first two talks were given by Dr. Alain Dagher, a neurologist and professor at McGill University, and Pablo Samuel Castro from Google. Dr. Dagher began with an explanation on how dopamine release mediating the desire for pleasure, whether it be in anticipation of listening to music or eating food we like. I guess this was a good starting point, as I would guess most attendees didn’t know how dopamine and reward-seeking behavior worked. (I took pharmacology in university and the classic example of dopamine activity is the abuse of cocaine and the feedback mechanism in the human body, so this was simply a refresher for me.) I guess, too, that it isn’t surprising that the reason why as children or young adults we remember music from those periods of our formative years. However, it appears that the reason for these memories is not because our brains were still developing at the time, but because the pleasure we associate with listening to those pieces of music when we were younger essentially burns into our memories. One step further, moderator and third speaker Indre Viskontas of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music showed evidence later in the session that our brains can anticipate specific moments in song that are associated with stronger feelings, such as that feeling of a pleasurable chill down one’s back.

Castro’s talk was about machine learning and artificial intelligence. He specifically had studied building requirements for a computer to learn how to write counterpoints, which J.S. Bach essentially cornered the market on. Read more about his mastery of counterpoint through here. I had a lot of trouble in my early piano-learning years trying to get through Bach, so I was amused to see someone had gone through the trouble to ape his music. Castro played a Bach original against what his computer had come up with and he insisted that the computer had done a pretty good job in approximating the intended counterpoint. My ears weren’t having it, though. As Gunter Loibl of REBEAT Digital said the day before at German Haus indicated, I have every confidence that human being-created and produced music will never be surpassed by AI-made music, at least not in my lifetime.

Music and the Brain Wednesday at SXSW 2018

Before the evening showcases, Carrie and I both checked in at the Townsend for the Focus Wales drink reception. The Townsend is a fancy-schmancy cocktail bar on Congress Avenue. I wondered if the reception would be well attended, as it was a bit off the beaten path when it came to the usual 6th Street-type haunts during SXSW. I don’t know why I was worried. We ran into plenty of friends there, friends who were no doubt tempted by the lure of free drinks and good company. Along with the actual musical performances themselves in Austin, having a drink with your friends is up there with the top experiences you’ll have during SXSW.


SXSW 2018: Wednesday afternoon at the convention center – 14th March 2018 (Part 1)

By on Monday, 26th March 2018 at 11:00 am

Carrie left for the Austin Convention Center early to catch Lyor Cohen’s keynote, so stay tuned for her report from that session. Shortly after that wrapped up, I was headed to the Beyond Music: The Secret Economy of Music session led by Ryan Walsh, current partner at Floodgate Fund, a venture capital firm. Walsh has a particularly interesting background, in that he was formerly VP of Product at Beats Music and also worked in product management for media at Apple. I think a lot of us have the impression that people who work in higher-up positions at companies like Apple aren’t as savvy about what’s going on in their business as they should be, or at least they don’t want to talk to people like us. I decided before the sessions that I would bolt if I was bored or felt talked down to. Spoiler: I was overwhelmingly pleasantly surprised.

I found Walsh an incredibly compelling speaker, with a down to earth manner as he spoke on the gaps he saw open in the music industry. This is a man whose passion about our industry is evident from everything he knows and all he is willing to communicate. Loads of people say they want to help artists get paid properly, but very few have communicated this in such a way that I felt they were genuine. It is hard to find people in this business who don’t ultimately turn out to be self-servers. I don’t know Walsh personally, but he doesn’t seem to fit the mold of a venture capitalist as I have imagined them, existing for the sole purpose to chasing after the next big thing that will make them loads of money and that’s it.

Ryan Walsh of Floodgate
Photo of Ryan Walsh from his Twitter

As he talked about the exponentially growing Soundcloud user base and where the holes were in the major label ecosystem, it was like listening to any number of hyper-engaging professors whose biology lectures I sat in on in university, wide-eyed with wonderment. It was the most positive, data-supported, forward-thinking industry talk that I’ve been to IN YEARS. (The music journalism talk I’d attend the next day, which you’ll read about soon here in on TGTF, made me want to punch my fist through a wall after it.) Instead of being yet another talk of doom and gloom, of how our industry is dying and will never recover to its former heights, Walsh painted an optimistic picture of its future. A future that sees artists collaborating, getting along with each other and sharing the spoils of success. A future that sees artists getting smart about how they work on record deals, like SZA and Top Dawg did on ‘Ctrl’, or partnering up with Kobalt’s AWAL, who have reinvented how to interface with and better work with artists so the artists get a bigger piece of the pie. A future that sees people who want to think out of the box not only survive but thrive.

As his talk progressed, I realised that despite how many years I have written about music and thought I was reasonable savvy about how things are done, I actually knew little about the mechanical (if you will) goings-on behind the creation and distribution of music. I clearly have a lot more to learn about all this stuff works. Like all industries, really, success in the music business will become even more being intelligent and agile enough to roll with the punches. Ryan, if I can think up something new and great to contribute to this business, I’ll run it by you!

On an entirely different subject and even outside of Music Wednesday afternoon was The Original Celebrity Chefs and Restaurants, starring moderator, journalist from the Daily Beast and cocktail enthusiast Noah Rothbaum, celebrity chefs and Food Network stars Tyler Florence and Amanda Freitag, and Ti Martin, co-owner of the famed New Orleans restaurant Commander’s Palace and several other eateries in Houston including Brennan’s. As a major foodie, I was very interested to hear each of them speak at the JW Marriott about their own experiences and what they have drawn from the greats in their profession who came before them and how they have made them who they are today. You can read more about Florence, Freitag and Martin on the internet, so I’m only including here the bits that impressed me the most.

Freitag is one of the several big names on The Food Network, most notably lately as a judge on Chopped. She appeared in Austin to sign copies of her book The Chef Next Door, along with appearing in this session. She spoke about the influence of seeing Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr. Both she and Florence noted that seeing chefs in French toques – those tall, brimless hats favoured by the French – impressed them so much that they knew they wanted to be part of that. Freitag also noted that even though she noticed she was the only woman in the kitchen at her first professional job, she never thought of ever being famous for being a female chef: it was more important to her that she was the best she could be in the kitchen. As one of very few female editors and owners of music Web sites, I relate to this entirely. While I personally understand the problem of missing out opportunities entirely because of being a woman and being a person of color, I think what Freitag said needs to be considered and repeatedly. Prejudice will always exist at some level to all of us. I can be difficult, I know. But work hard and rise above. It will pay off. (I want to be clear that my thought here does not extend to harassment, which should never be tolerated.)

Celebrity Chefs panel Wednesday at SXSW 2018 2
Freitag and Florence at The Original Celebrity Chefs and Restaurants session

Florence’s advice for the audience was “fake it until you make it”, citing his experiences as a young chef in New York, grabbing opportunities as soon as he could and then learning as he went along. It’s clearly paid off, with an empire of stores and restaurants in the San Francisco area and countless tv show concepts at the Food Network under his belt. An audience member asked the panel about the #metoo movement and how it has affected the culinary industry. Without naming or shaming, it was obvious who the audience member was talking about: Italian-American chef Mario Batali, whose career appears to be irreparably damaged by multiple allegations of sexual harassment. Florence volunteered that his staff at the Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco are not allowed to drink while they’re working, circumventing any alcohol-fuelled issues between employees and between employees and customers. Perhaps this seems like a little step, but given the restaurant world being male-dominated, why not take out of a variable that could cause some staff members to be inappropriate?

Martin told stories about how her mother started recruiting little-known chefs for their restaurant, including one Emeril Lagasse. Her mother invited the American culinary world to Commander’s Palace and gave them the kind of hospitality that has since made their restaurant a globally known, world-class destination. Remember that trying to invite a large number of people before the internet was a major undertaking. The whole session was a reminder, too, that before the Food Network and the fame of Lagasse, ‘the celebrity chef’ didn’t exist. Restaurants weren’t the destinations they are today. The hard work of people like Florence, Freitag and Martin and their moving the culinary world forward will make it easy when they are ready to pass the baton to the younger generations. The youngsters are excited to learn and work and innovate in this industry these greats helped to build.


SXSW 2018: Tuesday afternoon at German Haus – 13th March 2018 (Part 1)

By on Thursday, 22nd March 2018 at 11:00 am

We woke up at an ungodly hour – for SXSW, anyway! – to move into a downtown hotel and to catch the Output Belfast boat showcase, which you’ll hear about from Carrie soon. Following our good time watching Irish talent while going down the Colorado River and back, Carrie was off to the convention center, while my destination was Barracuda, home of German Haus for the week. In past years, I’ve given this place a pass. In the first few years I came out to Austin, I wasn’t even allowed in, as German Haus is badges only. Okay, so I was pretty bummed out when I didn’t have access. Now as badge-carrying press who can go in, I totally get their badges-only policy.

German Haus is unlike pretty much any other houses and venues across Austin during SXSW. Your favourite alcoholic drinks were available at the bar if you wanted to buy them but the people who brought us Oktoberfest weren’t in Austin to throw free booze at us. Therefore, there is no reason for them to welcome those in Austin who are only there to party. There was a complimentary Viennese Coffee House pop-up bar on Tuesday to keep the rest of us caffeinated and present for their interesting conference panels. I don’t drink coffee, so the fact that they also offered the most delicious hot chocolate during one of the coldest SXSWs I’ve experienced was priceless. It might sound strange and entirely un-rock ‘n’ roll that I am extolling the virtues of a hot beverage on an afternoon at a music festival. But believe me, when you are running around for days on little energy, think you’re going mad and often feel you might end up bawling because you’re exhausted, it’s the little moments of unexpected kindness and beauty that remind you why you’re here.

Tuesday was the takeover of German Haus by Advantage Austria, so strewn over the networking tables were scratch and sniff brochures of the natural fragrances of Austria (no, really), samples of the legendary Sachertorte (sadly, I got there too late to have one) and an invitation to visit one of their famous cafés. Maybe the chocolate was going to my head, but I fell in love with Austria that afternoon. I’ll get there one day soon.

German Haus - Advantage Austria - Tuesday at SXSW 2018

The session on Technology and Its Impact on Music, Marketing, and Culture was a positive one, starring panelists from Red Bull Media House, Linkfire and Columbia Records, as well as a successful musician. Martin Brem of Red Bull spoke of there being more money over the table than under the table, a sentiment that was echoed in other sessions I attended during the week. Gerald Hoffmann, aka Austrian rapper Gerard, offered up his unique perspective as an artist and how thinking outside of the box in terms of connecting with his fans. Specifically, he explained how letting them call his secondary mobile phone number and leave messages translated to them feeling like they have better connections with him, which in turn led them to buy his music in droves and give him more support.

German Haus - Advantage Austria - Tuesday at SXSW 2018 2

The session that followed, entitled Music and Artificial Intelligence, was one of many panels on AI offered across Austin during the week. While the fear of robots taking over our lives seems very real to many, the panelists were quick to dispel any worry that robots and computers were here to replace real live musicians. Gunter Loibl of worldwide music distribution company REBEAT Digital made the best statement of the panel: “It won’t be fun to sign an algorithm as an artist.” As handy as computers might be to create what could sound like a hit single, computers won’t be able to duplicate the personality, the charisma and certainly the spontaneity of a human being. So our musician friends will be in good shape for years to come, I reckon. If anything, as technologies progress, it will make music making easier and dare I say it, more fun, too, as evidenced by this female drummer who wore this amazing lace dress with tactile beat buttons on it. Want to wear a sequencer to your next party? It looks like you can do just that!

German Haus - Advantage Austria - Tuesday at SXSW 2018 3


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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