A Feminist Music Collective

Dear SXSW: A Hate Letter / Thank You Note

Well, folks -- it’s Thursday, March 16th, meaning we’ve reached the beginning of the end of this year’s SXSW Festival. As an Austin resident, I’ll admit I’m eager to see it come to a close, but I’ll spare you my typical, obnoxiously lengthy catalog of complaints that includes the crowds, the lines, and the god-forbidden traffic, all of which are rapidly growing with each new year of the festival. I know you’re not here to read an opinion piece by a local who found a soapbox to jump onto and shout from. Plus, I actually think SXSW once was a smart and beautiful concept, where people came together to appreciate art in a lovely city, and I’m hopeful it can find its original identity to revert back to again someday. With that in mind, I’ll keep this part brief: SXSW just isn’t what it used to be.

I know, I know -- I’m 23 years old; I’m not exactly a seasoned SXSW vet, and I typically find angry, old Austin nostalgia to be excruciatingly stuck-up, closed-minded, and, well… boring. But even the simplest Google search or conversation with my own dad (honestly, a great resource) will tell you the musical side of SXSW was originally focused on offering unsigned bands a chance to perform for label executives and scouts in hopes of being discovered. What a basic and important concept, right? What is now essentially one big week of big names, advertising and sponsored events used to be a simple celebration of music and a representation of hope for the underdog.

All of this being said, SXSW has brought so much incredible artistry into the mainstream. I recognize its place in history, and I am grateful. Additionally, my audience is not lost on me, and, as members of The Wimpact, we have SXSW to thank for helping create a space for some untouchably talented, inspiring, and downright kick-ass women in the music industry. Below are a few women and women-fronted bands whose SXSW performances helped launch the successful careers they have today. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

  • Norah Jones - 2002
  • Feist - 2005
  • M.I.A. - 2005
  • Amy Winehouse - 2007
  • Katy Perry - 2008
  • Janelle Monae - 2009
  • tUnE-YaRdS - 2011
  • Grimes - 2011
  • Alabama Shakes - 2012
  • HAIM - 2012
  • London Grammar - 2014
  • September Girls - 2014
  • Warpaint - 2014
  • Angel Olsen - 2014
  • Poliça - 2014
  • + so many more!

So here’s to hoping that, as I type this, there’s an undiscovered female musician warming up backstage in one of Austin’s countless venues, just hoping her performance garners even a fraction of the recognition she deserves. And here’s to hoping I’ll be listening to her on Spotify before this time next year. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go wait in one of those lines so I can buy overpriced beer and be smashed up against a wall in a dingy East 6th Street bar for an hour. Until next time!