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‘South By’ (as SXSW is known by locals) is either loved or hated by the people of Austin, there seems to be no middle ground. As the massive festival rolls into the Texas capital each March some will avoid downtown for the period, others will attend every day and embrace this unique event while trying to attend as many panels and artist showcases as possible into the wee small hours. By the end of the week some of my new Austin based acquaintances were beginning to flag. But I was was in no position to flag, it was PANEL DAY!


I had been invited to sit on a panel alongside Peter Bradbury (Sky TV), Mark Gordon (ScoreDraw Music) and Teri Nelson Carpenter (Reel Music Works LLC) “How Songwriters can Write Music for TV and Film”. After a double shot latte (rare for me), I was ready to go and Pete chaired the discussion. I played a clip from the BBC crime drama DCI Banks that demonstrated how I had used my songwriting skills in a TV drama context. Some of the  composers that came up in our discussion were: Danny Elfman, Mark Mothersbaugh, Neil Davidge, Olifur Arnalds, Atticus Ross, Ben Frost, Mogwai, Warren Ellis, Nick Cave and Jonny Greenwood.


Judging from the reaction of the audience afterwards it was a great success. There were a number of artists/songwriters and composers who wanted to ask me questions and I am always happy to hang around at the end of an event like this to give them some pointers and tips.


That afternoon I attended a fascinating panel (surprisingly!) on the Music Modernization Act about mechanical copyright and the huge changes about to happen for all composers and songwriters in the USA if this Act passes. Congressman Doug Collins (Georgia) from US House of Representatives, Dina LaPolt (LaPolt Law) and David Israelite from the NMPA really articulated clearly the positives in the Act for all songwriters and composers in this time of expanding digital streaming services (Spotify, Apple, Amazon etc).


It was around this time in the week that I let on to my panel friends that my host for the week, Dr Danger (stuntman extraordinaire and master of all things to do with fire) had offered to set me on fire. For some reason unknown to me, I had not said no to his proposal. Never mind Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’ USA premiere at the end of the week (for which one of my panel friends even had tickets), the ‘Lets set Sheridan on fire’ stunt suddenly became the Grand Finale to SXSW18 that they really wanted to see!


Highlights of the evening were: a very impressive 556 speaker array immersive sound demo by Sony Wow Studio, Rosie Flores at the Continental Club, a showcase from Michigan band The Accidentals (filmed by at least as 8 camera crew from Sony…not enough cameras!) and finally UK grime artist Bugzy Malone from Manchester. By 1.30am I was flagging…it was time to book an Uber.


To be continued…


What is SXSW?


South by Southwest is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences that take place in mid-March in Austin, Texas, United States. It began in 1987, and has continued to grow in both scope and size every year. Every year around 18000 artists and bands apply to play at the festival. There are panels and presentations throughout the day and exhibition halls demonstrating the latest technologies. Individuals and companies attend from all around the world.