SXSW | April 6, 2015
SXSW Recap: The Celebrity Economy in Music Panel

paul krugman arcade fire sxsw

In case you didn’t hear, All Things Go’s BFF Paul Krugman was the “breakout act of SXSW” 2015.

With SXSW, ATG curated one of the buzziest panel discussions in Austin this year; The Celebrity Economy in Music. To accompany Krugman, we enlisted Nicky Berger (CEO Berger Management, Manager: Grouplove and Holy Child), Tatiana Simonian (VP Branded Music at Nielsen) and Arcade Fire’s Win and Will Butler. ATG’s matriarch Lily Seidel introduced these new festie besties and the panel topics before handing it over to Rembert Browne (Grantland) to play moderator to this fine group.

When we organize the seasonal All Things Go Classic Festival series, we strive to create an experience that benefits the local economy of traditionally-ignored neighborhoods. We’re not alone — artists and producers everywhere are rethinking not only how they make money, but where that money comes from and goes. That’s why we wanted to bring together some of the brightest minds in (and out of) music today to talk about this changing landscape and look at what we might be discussing at SXSW in years to come.

Now that we’ve fully detoxed from Lone Star and food truck tacos, here’s how we think this discussion went down. Check back soon for official photos and video from the panel.

The discussion topics included the role of data, which Simonian championed for its value in informing but not making decisions, and touring as a consistent source of revenue, which Krugman backed up with data of his own, noting that the majority of touring revenue goes to the top 1% of performers.

But the most sensational and interesting part was the spirited discussion about “selling out” and corporate sponsorships. Berger and Simonian believed new creative, valuable relationships lie ahead for artists and brands that don’t compromise the music. Win Butler was quick to dispute that artists wouldn’t be selling out in that scenario; “artists have been getting screwed over at pretty much the same rate, but now slightly different people are screwing us over.”

Winner: Parents

Here’s one for the mommy blogs. Two of the coolest people on the planet, Will and Win Butler, cited parents as the great enablers of future musicians, providing the necessary startup capital for artists to get started. Will Butler explained, “a lot of artists will make money from their parents. That’s a giant way that a lot of bands are around, is their parents pay for things. And it’s great. As the rich get richer, their kids can do whatever the hell they want.” Win admitted that Mr. and Mrs. Butler purchased Arcade Fire’s first tour van.

Go send your parents a nice text.

Loser: Burritos.
The unlikely punching bag of the discussion was burritos, which became a symbol of selling out, financial management and excessive corporate sponsorship. On the topic of brand relationships and “selling out,” Simonian said, “I would have been stoked to get free burritos on the road instead of eating walnuts at Flying J.” Win Butler quickly replied, “You can afford to buy a Chipotle burrito if you’re managing your tour right.”

Ouch. While certain brands might be accurate representations of such themes, let’s not blame ALL varieties of this holy commoditized product.

Honorable Mention for Best Dressed goes to Will Butler. Do you have a crewneck sweatshirt that just says your name on it? Ok, do you wear it at major public events? Well, are you Will Butler*? Then you’re not the best dressed.

*If you’re this Will Butler, you do indeed qualify for this honor.