How do you describe SXSW to someone who’s not in the music or film business? It’s a tradeshow and a series of live shows happening all over Austin, Texas. Back in the day, long before I was married I nearly got a record contract at the first SXSW in 1987. Back then it was for indie bands that were looking for labels, management, or deals. I’m not sure how real my deal was, as it turns out the A&R rep was gay and really just wanted to screw me. Either way, for about six months I was on the Atlantic Records roster for developing talent. Then one day my call didn’t go through. Keith had been let go.
“Who would you like to connect with?” the chilly receptionist asked.
“I don’t know. Who’s taking over Keith’s account?”
“I’m sorry, if you don’t have another contact, I can’t help you.”
I just about gave up music at that point. My three-song Atlantic demo stayed “in the can” and would never see the light of day or another dollar from Atlantic or Keith.
Today, in 2023, most of the bands playing SXSW have a deal and are shopping for better deals or promotions. It was ironic that I was playing the Atlantic Stage. There was zero connection with my previous deal. I had lobbied a local artist organization with tapes, videos, and press releases for about nine months to finally land the showcase gig on a Friday night of SXSW. It was a moment. It was go time. It was something I’d been working for since my 20s. Not a last gasp, necessarily, but certainly I was not getting any younger and would not be album art or heartthrob magazine cover material ever.