The SXSW Music and Media Conference & Festival started in 1987 as a way for independent artists to promote themselves to music industry players, and back then, it had little (if anything) to do with digital audio. Fast-forward 20 years, when many emerging musicians are finding that digital downloads are an excellent way to get exposure. Though physical media is still the number one source of music for many consumers, countless industry insiders think that digital audio is the wave of the future. This and other factors likely contributed to the increasing presence of all things digital at SXSW. Naturally, this makes me a very happy camper because it means I'll be paying my first visit to Austin this year to cover all the techie goodness. And, you know, probably see a show or 20. So what can you expect in terms of Crave coverage of SXSW 2007? Here's a preview:
- A new MP3 player: From a brand new company. Actually, the product will probably be more of a convergence digital audio player, with an MP3 player and a satellite radio all wrapped into one. I'm not sharing too many details just yet, but suffice it to say that the creators of said product are seasoned digital audio professionals, well-equipped with the knowledge to create something truly exciting. The device is set to debut at SXSW, though I may be able to release some info ahead of time. Stay tuned.
- The ultimate music recommendation smackdown: And other digital music panels. I was able to find a preview description foir the one I've called out here: "With the unprecedented accessibility of recorded music, how can we find that hot new band when there are millions of possibilities at our fingertips? Fortunately, many companies address this very question. Find out which service creates playlists worthy of a veteran DJ and which service recommends tracks like an iPod set on shuffle as they battle it out in the ultimate playlist smackdown." Well, we all know how lazy I am when it comes to discovering new music, so of course I'm intrigued by this particular panel. However, I'll also be covering a selection of other panels, such as The Truth About Mobile & The Future of Personal Devices, Come Together: Mobile Phones and Portable Music Players Converge, and Record Labels: Who Needs Them?
- Online services: In the digital music domain, "online services" is a broad term, which can be applied to a variety of, well, services. It encompasses music stores such as the iTunes Store and Rhapsody; CD trading Web sites such as LaLa; even artist services, such as the Web-based copyright licensing company Creative Commons. I'll be able to chat with those who are present at the SXSW tradeshow and report the juicy details that I think you Cravers would (or should) like to know.
- Niche music technology: Ever heard of the Hercules DJ Console? It's a rather nifty piece of music tech that lets you mix digital tracks. Unfortunately, we rarely get to review such niche technology, since most of our time needs to be dedicated to covering more mainstream items. Luckily, SXSW affords me the opportunity to check out cool gear that I otherwise must pass over, such as specialty music electronics aimed at budding musicians.
- Artist interviews: OK, so this is a stretch for me. I don't really have anything to entice those performing at SXSW into talking to me, per se. It's not like I'm with Rolling Stone or anything--I'm just not that kind of music writer. However, if I can convince any of them to answer a couple of questions for me, they will be (a) What are your feelings about digital music distribution? And (b) What MP3 player do you use? Really, I'm mostly curious about the latter.