HITS Daily Double
It seemed like the new generation of the music biz were acknowledging their presence. And the feeling was a sense of unity—that we’re all in this together.


Our Man’s Farewell Adress from the Land of Shiner Bocks and BBQ

This year’s Austin confab is in the books. We can’t believe we endured seven nights of tech geeks, showcases and parties. However, it still stands as one of the best music experiences for industry folks and music fans alike. And the vibe and sentiment this year was surprisingly positive.

Industry folks attending this year decided to leave the “doom and gloom” attitude behind, which was clearly present at the conference in recent years. The Driskill Hotel bar was clearly the place to be at the end of each night and what was even more refreshing was to see artists hanging out with the industry set at the bar. Meanwhile, the music biz crowd at the Driskill was diverse, including new and old A&R players, media reps, journalists, booking agents, label execs, publishers and artist managers.

There was a buzz and excitement in the air. It seemed like the new generation of the music biz were acknowledging their presence. And the feeling was a sense of unity—that we’re all in this together. Conversations at the bar acknowledged that our business is in transition, but with a “let’s help each other” attitude.

The Four Seasons lobby is passing the torch as the old industry hang, but it still made for an ideal location for daytime meetings. For yours truly, it continues to be the hotel choice during our conference stay. As for the showcases, HITS South-By Correspondent Jeff Leven once again did a fantastic job with his artist reviews in his daily dispatches, so we decided to assemble a day-by-day report of our confab shenanigans:

Wed (3/12): We scheduled our Tuesday to be a mellow evening, yet we ended up closing the last night of the Interactive Conference past 4am. Getting up Wednesday morning was tough, but we managed to stop by the convention center to check out a few panels. Surprisingly, the badge registration lines weren’t as long as Tuesday’s.

After an afternoon of meetings, we hosted a dinner at Fleming’s Steak House with Capitol Music Group’s David Wolter, Louie Bandak and Vlad Bar; BMI’s Myles Lewis, Tracy Verlinde and Joe Maggini; and my Treadstone Music partners Berko Pearce and Paula Moore. We moved on to the ASCAP showcase at the Dirty Dog to check out Voxhaul Broadcast, Abigail Warchild, Bad Veins, Constellations, Happy Hollows, Johnny Foreigner and Oh Juliet. It was a big A&R hang featuring a who’s who of major label talent scouts left in the biz. The evening highlight was Tom DeSavia’s ‘70s porn mustache as well as the 20-person tequila shot slam initiated by Interscope’s Jeff Sosnow.

Thurs (3/13): After a full day of meetings, we started our evening connecting with Pulse Recording’s Jason Bernard and Pulse client, actor/singer Lukas Haas for the annual Davis, Shapiro, Lewit & Hayes party at the Shoreline Grill. As always, the party was a great hang to reconnect with new and old industry friends. Afterwards, we hooked up with Geffen’s Evan Peters, Artist Arena’s Debra Herman and Suretone’s Andrew Freston for an impromptu dinner at Fleming’s once again. Our dinner was joined by a bevy of Geffen staffers as well as Linkin Park manager Rob McDermott and uber-attorney Danny Hayes, who gave us the inside scoop on his tussle with Allen Kovac at the Four Seasons in L.A a few weeks earlier.

Meanwhile, dining at an adjacent table were EMI Music Pub’s Dan McCarroll, super producer Jack Joseph Puig, manager Darren Gilmore and our Saturday panel member, legendary studio whiz Steve Lillywhite. As we close our dinner, Suretone head Jordan Shur stopped by to say hello. We then headed to Club de Ville for the BMI showcase. Eli “Paperboy” Reed had the standout performance that night. We roll through 6th Street stopping by four different venues to catch four separate performances. We make a quick stop at the Pure Volume Ranch and we close our evening back at the Driskill bar for more drinks and a game of quarters. Man, we were really digressing.

Fri (3/14): We have a 10am breakfast with producer manager Frank McDonough at our hotel restaurant. It was followed by a brief hang at the annual BMI Acoustic brunch in the Four Seasons lawn. The afternoon involved a quick stop at the SideOne Dummy showcase and the Manatt Phelps & Phillips showcase/party, where I run into former Killers manager Braden Merrick and Manatt legal eagles Jeff Biederman and Jordan Bromley. Hey, where’s Gary Gilbert?

Our evening dinner plans at Las Manitas were sidelined when the restaurant was closed. Our party ended up at another Mexican joint across the street with an hour wait. Fortunately, one of our dinner mates made a quick $20 slip to the hostess, who gave us an immediate table. We were pleasantly surprised by veteran pub exec Scott Francis, who stopped by and joined our dinner.

Then we rolled over to the Orchid to hang at the Viper Room’s showcase/club. It was great to see L.A. Viper Doorman Casper as we entered the club and then greeted inside by Viper Booker Joe Rinaldi. Joe and crew did a fabulous job recreating the Viper’s vibe in Austin. We caught a set by Myspace Records artist Nico Vega, who rocked the house. We hang and have drinks with Atlantic Records player Kevin Weaver and Epic’s Allison Hagendorf. And our night ends at 5am. Ouch.

Sat (3/15): We started the day with an early lunch at PF Chang’s with panelist Berko Pearce. But as we made our way to the convention center afterwards, we both made a mad rush for the bathrooms. Apparently, PF Chang gave us the Austin version of Moctezuma’s revenge, if you know what we mean.

At the panel green room, we were both hoping that we didn’t have to make any more bathroom trips during the panel. In hindsight, it was pretty funny, but at the time it was excruciating. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go and our panel was a huge success. We would like to thank this year’s panelists: Steve Lillywhite, Berko Pearce, Chrysalis Music’s Dave Ayers and Jive A&R Player Mickey “MeMpHiTz” Wright.

Panel highlights included Steve sharing with the audience that the key factor for him in reviewing music from new acts is the vocals. If he likes the singer’s voice, then he’ll move on to the merits of the song. It may take him four-five listens for a song to grow on him, but his reaction to a singer’s voice ultimately determines if he likes the act or not. Meanwhile, Mickey pointed out that labels have to focus back on artist development and that music companies need to be run by entrepreneurs again. And there was plenty of comedy going on that resulted in big laughs.

We extend special thanks to SXSW Panels Director Andy Flynn for inviting us to moderate the A&R panel this year. Later that evening, our festivities started with drinks with RCA’s Matt Marshall, managers Chris Allen and Jon Davis, and American RecordingsDino Paredes, who made the trip to Austin from L.A. on his Ducati motorcycle.

Afterwards, a few of us head back to the Orchid for the Viper Room hang since we had a great time the night prior. Inside, we find ourselves entertaining a group of off-duty Miller Beer girlsall seven of them. And we soon realize that we could use another wingman to keep them all entertained. Hey, we’re not greedy. Luckily, we manage to recruit a few back to the Driskill for more late-night drinks. And while we were expecting our last day in Austin to be mellow after enduring a week of festivities, it turned into one of the busiest of the trip. All in all, it was a fun and exhausting week, but definitely one of the most memorable South-Bys ever. Once again, we sign off. Pedro out…

BUZZIN’: Chris Allen, Scott Harrington, Maureen Kinney and Airborne Toxic EventHit me up: [email protected].