Strong international presence at SXSW

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Artists, record labels and other music companies from across Europe and from Australasia are attending this year's SXSW in Austin.

While the U.K., Mexico and Canada are the three-biggest countries outside the U.S. in the terms of the number of artists performing, other countries are making their presence felt in Austin, Texas. SXSW music festival began March 18 and wraps March 22.

On Friday, the Berlin Music Commission (BMC) will be organizing the New Berlin Talent Showcases from 12 noon CDT to 1pm CDT at the Brunch Square Park. It will feature four Berlin acts: Booka Shade (dance & electronic), CLP (dance & electronic), Damero (dance & electronic) and Popular Damage (electro-pop).

Government export body Austrade will continue its long-standing association with the Australian presence at SXSW, and will contribute more than $50,000 Australian ($34,500) in cash and resources. Funds were also provided at state level.

"We have a lot of government support, and we are relentless in our approach," said Phil Tripp, SXSW Australasian representative.

Despite the financial help, cost and distances involved remain a heavy burden for traveling acts. "It costs a band about $25,000 Australian ($17,250) to go from here to Austin and return," said Tripp. "That covers visas, hotel, backline, flights, gear, transport. If you can add a few more shows on the way, then great. But that figure would be doing it on the cheap."

"SXSW can be a very effective platform for both artists and managers providing it's used strategically," added John Watson, founder of John Watson Management and Eleven: A Music Company. Watson has guided the careers of Silverchair, Missy Higgins and Wolfmother.

"People who just go over with the blind hope of getting something rolling are always likely to be disappointed. However, those who already have some momentum behind them often find that SXSW can be a great way to amplify that existing buzz."

U.K. indies have long found a receptive audience at SXSW. The 4AD showcase was held March 18 at the Central Presbyterian Church and featured Anni Rossi, M. Ward, Department of Eagles, St. Vincent and Camera Obscura. All acts will be playing numerous other showcases.

Future of the Left, another 4AD act, are also over there playing shows, including an NME showcase.

Spain is one of the best-represented countries this year, with the biz eyeing export opportunities as the domestic market shrinks. Sounds From Spain, an export and promotional body for Spanish music, has six indie acts it is supporting at SXSW: Nacho Vegas (Limbo Starr/Love To Art), Underwater Tea Party (Green UFOs), La Habitacion Roja (Mushroom Pillow), the Right Ons (2Fer Records), Los Coronas with Depedro (Bittersweet Recordings and PIAS), and SFDK (SFDK Records).

Vegas is the best known, having played in alt-rock bands such as Manta Ray in the '90s.

The Right Ons were one of the bands that played in SXSW last year by their own efforts. As a result of contacts made, they performed two tours last year around the New York and Baltimore regions, and recorded their second album in Boston's Q Division studios last fall. "Look Inside Now" (2Fers Records) was released March 2 in Spain, and talks are in progress for a U.S. release by Q Division.

"The United States is the only obvious territory outside Spain for an alternative pop/rock band like the Right Ons, who sing in English," said manager and 2Fers director Fernando Delgado. "We'd rather pay to attend the biggest festival of its type, SXSW, than to fund an ad campaign in Madrid."

Other Spanish indie bands scheduled to attend SXSW are La Carrau, Hyperpotamus, We Are Balboa, Suzy & Los Quattro, Guillamino, Sunday Drivers, Tokyo Sex Destruction, Capsula, the Pepper Pots and We Are Standard.

Additional reporting by Jen Wilson.
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