Freestyle: South by Southwest seeks bands

Jul. 11, 2014 | 2 Comments

The annual South by Southwest Festival returns to Austin, Tex. this week. (Associated Press)


The annual South by Southwest Music Festival attracts musicians from around the country.


South by Southwest, the family of conferences and festivals exploring interactive development, film and music in Austin, Texas, is open for applications from Hawaii musicians who want to bid for a showcase slot in March 2015.

The process is open earlier than ever, with an initial application fee of $33. Bands or solo musicians who apply early have an advantage, I’m told, because the staff making decisions has more time to listen to applicants before the mad rush of bands piles in later.

SXSW Music is a competitive, crowded field. Bands and musicians clamor for a slot because the exposure can lead to greater opportunities.

Buzz acts for 2014 included Future Islands, who’ve played at The Republik in Honolulu, and big-voiced country-punk artist Lydia Loveless, whom I hadn’t heard before the howls of gladness went up in Austin over her latest music.

Hawaii’s official reps this year were soulful, inventive reggae artist Mike Love and buzzworthy electronic/hip-hop music producer Mr. Carmack.

Hawaii doesn’t have many acts who apply — and are accepted — to the festival, but SXSW musicians’ liaison Phil Tripp, who works with acts in Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, would like to see the number grow.

Calling from Australia, where Tripp resides — he’s a former music journalist and music industry veteran originally from the U.S. — Tripp said he recognizes the hurdles facing Hawaii musicians. Still, he says, for the right artist, SXSW can be worthwhile.

“Hawaii could be a foreign country to most Americans,” he acknowledged. “And in rock and pop music, it doesn’t have a musical connotation the way that, say, Nashville does. … So you’ll have to be prepared to i.d. yourself.

“Musicians shouldn’t apply if they’re unreasonable. They shouldn’t apply if they feel entitled to success. Wait until you have your management under control, with publicity materials prepared and you’re ready to reach out to those in the industry.

“Don’t apply if you’re looking to be signed to a record deal,” he said. That’s not what happens anymore. “Save that for last, after you have a following. Be prepared to control your touring and music sales.”

Want to join the likes of Bruce Springsteen, who headlined a SXSW show in 2012? Submit your bid now.


Want to join the likes of Bruce Springsteen, who headlined a SXSW show in 2012? Submit your bid now.

MUSIC FANS: You can also influence awareness of Hawaii acts. Tripp has invited Hawaii music fans to email him your top five bands to alert him to who has buzz.

(Just one rule — you must include five acts. That means bands shouldn’t just email him their own pitch, though you’re welcome to include your own band in a list of five faves!)

The early application fee is in force until Sept. 12. After Sept. 12, applications are $45. Oct. 10 — note that previously, the deadline was in November, and SXSW warns deadlines are subject to change — is the final deadline to apply for a showcase slot.

To apply, go to or You’ll be directed to creat a Sonicbids electronic press kit, which allows you to share music, bios and photos online, and can also be used to send EPKs to concert venues and festivals.

Acts accepted for a showcase can opt to receive either a small cash payment for performance ($100 solo, $250 band in past years) or an artists’ package providing admission to all SXSW Music events, including conference panels, a trade show, a music gear expo and the showcase concerts.

SXSW is a vital event, where artistry, promotion and information meet. It’s not always pretty or easy, but it’s definitely where the action is. The full festival is scheduled for March 13 to March 22, 2015.

The conference is accepting proposals for daytime presentations on music, interactive or film topics at SXSW at until July 25. The proposals will be rated online to choose presenters. SXSW will begin accepting Film Festival submissions in August, with a deadline of Nov. 15.

Find out more about SXSW in its official publication, SXSWorld Magazine, and in coverage of SXSW events from the Austin Chronicle, which co-sponsors the event.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at or follow her on Twitter.

  • Phil Tripp

    Phil Tripp here. Thanks so much for laying out the reasoning and procedures for applying to SXSW. Just one thing… where the deadline for submissions was November 7 in years past, because we open earlier now the final deadline is October 12. But like you say, best to get in early with a band submission before our listeners ears get crisped at the rush towards the end.

    • ElizabethKieszkowski

      Thanks Phil, I’m correcting that in the blog!