Five artists whose success proves the power of SXSW.
Every year, the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival attracts over 2,000 artists, representing all genres and all nationalities, to Austin, Texas, a city of under a million people. Things can and will get chaotic there, with the city's main drag, 6th Street, transformed into a sea of fans, performers, rappers, and their entourages. Shows are crowded and tough to get into, and making a name for yourself among all of the competition is difficult, but the wild, crazy environment does have its upsides.
Along with New York's CMJ festival, which recently seems to have gone under, SXSW is the premier coming-out party for up-and-coming artists. The multiple-venue approach means that you can play as many as four shows a day (perhaps more if you're insane), and the bar of entry is low, usually meaning that the music industry's biggest names shy away from the festival, though that's changed in the past few years thanks to big companies like Spotify hosting their own stages. Sure enough, a few unsigned or under-the-radar rappers break out every year, ending up at the top of critics' festival lists, or even causing headlines because of their antics.
The following are five artists who dominated the conversation during a particular year of SXSW, and have their success at the festival to thank for at least part of their ensuing careers. Be sure to check back, because we'll have the low down on who this year's break out artists are once the festival is over with.