AUSTIN, Tx—While finding one’s own voice as a musician was the noble theme of Dave Grohl’s keynote address, the words I’ve heard mentioned far more often than any other during the daytime panels at South by Southwest 2013 are “creating your brand.”
The more calculated side of this endeavor includes potentially troublesome things like selling your music to advertising, as chronicled yesterday. But there’s a benign and human aspect to this meaningless jargon, too, as was made clear by the tirelessly fan-friendly Amanda Palmer, as well as by the super-social networking-savvy participants in a Thursday afternoon session entitled “Internet: How to Not Go Crazy Being Everywhere.”
Any band that’s the least bit ambitious in 2013 absolutely needs the following, and in this order, the panelists agreed: a Facebook page; a YouTube page; a SoundCloud page; a Twitter account and a Tumblr account. Optional but also potentially useful: SonicBids, BandCamp, BandPage... and Pintrest, but only if you want to reach moms in the Midwest. Oh, yeah: You also need an old-fashioned Web site, and maybe a blog.
To maintain all of this Internet presence, an artist should spend about an hour a day online—though how that can be accomplished while juggling a day job, eating, sleeping, slacking and, you know, making music was left unaddressed.
All of that seems daunting, if not depressing. But at its core it just means reaching out to people who might be interested in your music and then developing a relationship with them by staying in touch. Most artists have been doing this instinctively for centuries, long before Al Gore invented the Internet to house all of these platforms and apps.
Case in point: A few weeks before the festival, I got an email from Federico Díaz de León, a musician in Guadalajara, Mexico, a fan of Sound Opinions and an astute fellow who knew how to push my buttons: “We play [psychedelic] prog-infused Mexican folk-rock,” he wrote. With the band playing three official showcases here, and who knows how many other gigs, how could I not check that out?
The pitch and social networking only will get you so far, however: A band must then deliver the goods, or someone will tune out quicker than they can hit “delete.” But Díaz de León’s band Pumcayó absolutely lived up to his promises during a showcase at the International Day Stage, rising above the challenges of sound problems and another schedule running way too late to hypnotize with an unexpected magic mushroom idyll.
With a Spanish name roughly translating as “thump! it fell,” the group merges the genteel, folkie beard-rock sounds of indie heroes such as Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear with an older, freakier psychedelic/progressive-rock fondness for elaborate arrangements and virtuosic solos (think Renaissance, the Incredible String Band, or very early Genesis) and here and there the occasional spice of native Mexican folk music. It’s a rich and mighty musical mole—and I really need to go like all of their pages and accounts right now.
My complete coverage of SXSW 2013