NPR Music at SXSW

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In the past few years, NPR Music has grown into a powerful force in exposing new music.  Yesterday at SXSW, there was a very informative panel hosted by Fast Company featuring top correspondents Bob Boilen (All Songs Considered) and Carrie Brownstein (Monitor Mix).  They spent an hour or so describing how they listen to music (without bios or accompanying pitch letters/spiels and in a passive mode awaiting a sparkling moment), how much (about 100 records a week) and most significantly, what influences their choices.

NPR Music is a massive site that you should all visit.  It has a ton of music performances taken from its member stations as well as created in their home office, archived for your listening enjoyment (and education).  One of the most appealing aspects of their collective taste is that it generally ignores genres, and seeks to surprise and delight its audience (like Whole Foods mission statement – my interpretation, not theirs).  There are also themed playlists, listener participation and best of all, it’s commercial-free.

The team at NPR Music were kind enough to let the world know what the best showcases at SXSW would be this year, and shared the music via a sampler you can download here.  If there is a blind spot with these folks musically, it’s hard to find. While metal and hip hop do not generally get covered on the programs (see SAT Scores and Music post), that is also true of SXSW.

There is just a dearth of those genres in this festival, and I’m not sure it matters to the bulk of those attending the conference. The NPR sampler includes a typically “progressive” (live band, non-aggressive vocal style) hip hop artist, K’naan and a “neo-soul” artist Mayer Hawthorne with a repetitive but catchy song that recalls Philly International. I was very impressed by David Byrne and the Dirty Projectors‘ song “Knotty Pine,” one of the best records I’ve heard by him in a long time.

And considering the crowds, this might actually be a list of showcases to avoid!   Like Yogi Berra might say, “no one goes to that place any more, it’s too crowded.”

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