The South by Southwest (SXSW) music conference has always seemed to me like a place where a bunch of Texas musicians who don't fit any music format meet and get press from music critics who disdain anything popular. However, maybe I need to think again. Yesterday's SXSW Future of Music panelists made some great points:
Elise Nordling, music director at SomaFM, pointed to the important companion role that radio plays. Deejays do more than just pick songs, they often build a bond with listeners. "People want company."
Meanwhile, music industry consultant and KCRW commentator Celia Hirschman pointed to the importance of nurturing listener relationships, which are created by establishing trust and maintaining a high level of programming integrity. "The quality of the music is important."
The radio landscape is clearly evolving, but what do listeners ultimately want? Consumers now have access to virtually unlimited collections of music – both on-demand and through streaming formats. Outlets like Rhapsody deliver on-demand access to thousands of albums, while providers like XM Satellite Radio offer just as many niche genres. But somehow, having everything is only part of the puzzle, and listeners usually want someone else to sift through the barrage of possibilities. "Just having access to a sea of material is not going to push the ball forward," said Tim Westergren, head of recommendation service Pandora.