“Sensory overload” is the first term that comes to mind when trying to sum up the SXSW experience. Second, the parallels between Austin and Toronto are numerous: the homeless squeegee kids, impoverished black ghetto residents, clean metropolitan streets, rich independent music culture and diverse club district.
Toronto has all the artistic potential in the world, but the industry isn’t evolving nearly as fast as in Austin. A whole new culture of business is at work here, and it’s as simple as making eye contact to connect to potential partners, customers and allies. Toronto just doesn’t operate like this, but we need to learn, like yesterday. CMW has its benefits, and I am not one to disparage any conference, speaking engagement, networking summit or showcase, but it’s just not the same as SXSW. Opportunity radiates from everyone here; there’s so much self-promotion and unbridled expression by so many people, it’s refreshing.
Canadian music is seeping into America at high speed, and if we don’t start to cherish, nurture, empower and invest in our own excellent artists, they have every right to leave home, find success abroad and come back saying whatever they want about Canada.
I’m not just saying this for shits and giggles: Canada is the next big thing in music, like never before. From hiphop to electro to rock to whatever-nameless-genre is being invented today, our time is now. Let’s not feel sorry about taking our spot in music history and shining bright for the world to discover.
I realized how enormous this festival is on the way to my hotel room, when I got in an elevator with six people and one asked, “What’s the best band you saw today?” Everybody answered with three different bands I’d never heard of. I wanted them to know my own bet-the-farm discovery (Game Rebellion, whom some might try to squeeze into a black Rage Against The Machine box, but they’re more Parliament than that). My head was spinning at how much great music there is to discover.
I also realized that the corporate kings of the music industry are the only ones hurting these days, as the dozens of innovative artist/entrepreneur networking ideas attest. The playing field is as close to level as it’s ever been.
I’m coming back to the future next year to see Canada finish what it started this year.