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Greg's SXSW 2019 Recap

Instagram/Cimafunk

The 32nd South By Southwest festival wrapped up last weekend in Austin, Texas. The music industry spring break has long been one of the best places to discover ambitious new bands for record labels, managers, promoters and critics. Jim was sad to miss the event for the first time in 27 years, but was eager to hear what Greg learned while down south.

Greg was happy to report that after years of expansion (the film and tech conferences are in some ways bigger newsmakers now) and over-the-top corporate presence (Doritos vending machine stage, anyone?), the music festival was scaled-back this year. There was less focus on major stars and more emphasis on acts from around the world.

The decline in corporate influence at SXSW could be heard in the keynote address from T. Bone Burnett, the producer of many Coen brothers film soundtracks. He didn't hold back, claiming that tech companies like Facebook and Google were a threat to our humanity.

"To stay human, to survive as a species, we have to wrest our communications out of the control of the lust for power, the avarice, larceny, hubris, deceit, and self-delusion of the heads of Google and Facebook. I am confident that we can do this," Burnett said.

Greg juxtaposed Burnett's comments against a panel with Nile Rodgers on songwriting as an investment. In that discussion Rodgers' business partner made a plea to keep streaming platforms like Spotify alive until they can become worldwide platforms despite the low dividends they provide artists now.

As for new music discoveries, Greg shared three:

  • Cimafunk, a project of Erik Alejandro Rodriguez that blends Afro-Cuban polyrhythms with Fela Kuti trance vibes.
  • Trupa Trupa, a Polish band he saw last year at SXSW and signed to Sub Pop Records as a result of that visit.
  • Tasha, a Chicago-based solo artist with radiant stage presence who reminded Greg of the folk soul movement of the 1960s and 70s.
Go to episode 695
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Music News

Wherever there's youth culture and protest, there's rock and roll. So it's not surprising that heavy metal is at the top of many playlists in Bahrain right now. According to Evolver.fm, the mood of that country is“triumphant”and“warlike”if the music's any indication. Lastmood.fm uses Last.fm's audioscrobbler to monitor people's listening habits and gauge the vibe in almost real time. The most popular song in one hour was "The Ivory Gate of Dreams" by Fates Warning. But, activists and musicians from the region are also popular. A Bahraini activist, Esra'a Al Shafei, started mideastunes.com which highlights everything from Jordanian punk to Palestinian trance.

Fast Company has named its top ten most innovative companies in music, and a the top of the list is Pandora. It's remarkable, considering that Pandora was nearly put out of business by royalty debates a couple of years ago. Now it's valued at $55.2 million and has gone public. The streaming site has also inked a deal with GM. Last year's #1 Spotify didn‘t even make the cut, but it’s been reportedly valued at $1 billion — despite the fact that the digital music service has yet to launch stateside.

Go to episode 274