There aren’t many people working in the UK music industry who know more about new music than Huw Stephens, which makes him an ideal candidate for a grilling about South By Southwest.
This week, the BBC Radio 1 DJ is in Austin once again for the festival’s annual new music merry-go-round.
Stephens appears alongside an array of executives in Music Week’s special SXSW report in our current issue, out now.
Already this week we’ve heard from UK Music boss Michael Dugher, got the lowdown on Shame’s SXSW campaign for 2018 and caught up with PPL’s Dan Millington to hear his thoughts on SXSW.
Here, we present Stephens’ Q&A in full.
Why is SXSW important for British acts?
It's such a great opportunity for bands. I think it's important because it's a lot of fun for bands to go out there and play. I know a lot gets said about the industry side of it, but the experience of a gang of you heading out there, meeting new people, having all those laughs, is so important for artists. Not everyone makes it out there, so when a new artist does make it to Austin, having things in place is important. The meetings, the invites to people to come and see you. It can really be a life-changing trip. Seeing artists like Ben Howard or Dave play their first ever gigs in the US out there, to a really enthusiastic, packed crowd is very exciting. SXSW provides an amazing opportunity to have a huge impact for the first ever US gig.
What do the UK artists playing this year say about the state of new music in 2018?
It's great to see so much grime on the line-up this year. There's a lot of great new bands playing, from the weird and wonderful Superorganism, who have made London their home, to Idles, who have just signed a new record deal. The state of new music in the UK is really healthy, as long as you do a bit of digging and look in the right places. So I think it looks good, and I hope the artists out there from the UK find it beneficial.
Has the role of the festival changed in terms of how it can help new artists?
Back in the day, say 10 years ago, there'd be one or two bands everyone was talking about. I remember seeing Fleet Foxes playing to about 30 of us. Now everyone has a different artist they're excited about. And that's the way it should be really! You come back from there with a list of bands you love and want to champion at home. So for me that's been US and Australian bands like Haim, Pinegrove and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever over the last few years. It's brilliant to see the US artists playing, and to see the UK artists playing to new audiences out there.
Can SXSW still break new talent?
Absolutely. Although what does breaking mean now? It's a tough, hard slog. But SXSW definitely helps.
Why is it important that the BBC is at the centre of showcasing talent at SXSW?
The BBC is recognised around the world, and BBC Music is all about championing all kinds of music. To be at the heart of the world's biggest new music showcase is really important, with artists we believe in playing in front of new audiences, and bringing that music to an audience on air and online. We love it!
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