5 SXSW Success Stories

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SXSW is right around the corner, and if you know even a little bit about the music industry, you are surely aware of the fact that the event draws bands and fans from around the world for one week-long music party in Austin, Texas. The fervor behind the music festival isn’t without merit; some of music’s biggest stars saw their careers blow up in a big way thanks to notable SXSW appearances earlier in their careers. Here’s a look at five artists who owe a good part of their success to SXSW:

1) John Mayer 

When John Mayer played SXSW in 2000, he was just another singer-songwriter looking for labels to show interest in the collection of songs he had developed early in his career. It was through one of the showcases he played in Austin that he caught the interest of Aware Records, who helped him land a record deal with Columbia and ultimately jumpstarted his career.


2) Odd Future 

It’s hard to imagine a time when notable acts like Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean, and the Internet were relative unknowns – but before the Odd Future crew made noise at SXSW in 2011, the collective was still on the brink of success, riding high off of a single late night television appearance (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) and a Billboard cover story. Their explosive live performances served them well at the music conference that’s held in the live music capital of the world; and today, we all obviously know how things panned out for the group.


3) Anderson .Paak 

It’s not like Anderson .Paak was an unknown before playing at SXSW last year; he had already cultivated his credibility as an artist via his collaboration with producer Knxlwledge with their NxWorries project, his own solo albums Venice and Malibu, and his array of show-stealing appearances on Dr. Dre’s 2015 Compton album. But the singer/rapper’s jam-packed SXSW schedule in 2016 showcased the explosive live show that he and his band the Free Nationals carry as their secret weapon, and certainly helped to build him into the marquee act that he is today.


4) M.I.A. 

The Sri Lankan rapper played SXSW in 2005 less than a week before dropping her debut album, Arular. Powered by the buzz surrounding her sole release at the time (her mixtape Piracy Funds Terrorism) and her attention-grabbing live show, M.I.A.’s SXSW appearance all but solidified her trajectory towards international superstardom.


5) James Blunt 

Sometimes it’s not about how many people show up to your showcase, but rather who is in the audience that really makes a difference. At the time of his first appearance at SXSW in 2004, singer James Blunt was without a record deal. Esteemed songwriter Linda Perry happened to be in the crowd for his small and intimate gig, and immediately signed him after she saw the British singer perform. Together, the duo would go on to record his debut album Back to Bedlam, which spawned the biggest hit of his career, “You’re Beautiful.”

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