Beyond the celebrity sightings, film screenings, TV premieres, music showcases, and insightful panels, there's something else that makes South by Southwest (SXSW) magical each year. Yes, the shows are fun and the traffic is bad, but the networking is the best there is.
Whatever events locals do (or don’t) get into, there’s something to learn from these pinnacles of community gathering. Lots of unofficial SXSW events are the perfect mix of intentional and organic, and attendees and avoiders alike have to wade through valuable conversation starters just to get there.
Spaceflight Records, a groundbreaking non-profit record label based in Austin, is hosting a sold-out “Crawfish Boil & Austin Indie Label Mixer” in true SXSW spirit on Saturday, March 18. Friends, family, passersby, and especially other industry players will stop by to enjoy some live music, crawfish, and each other’s company, hopefully creating lasting connections for year-round mutual support.
“The Indie labels here in Austin have a pretty tight-knit community,” says Spaceflight founder Brett Orrison.
These remarks may sound surprising to people who see Austin as a low pressure zone for music industry infrastructure, or who see record labels as hypercompetitive, and both are at least historically true. That’s what makes the indie labels, and their commitment to each other, so important.
“We all do record bazaars and set up at different parties together. [The mixer is] just a chance for us to start an annual thing where we all … eat some crawfish and hang out, and talk about the recording industry here in Austin and what everybody's got going on for the next year,” Orrison says.
Seven sponsors join the ranks for this inaugural event. Four main sponsors — Hardcharger Records, Nine Mile Records, Keeled Scales, and Juice Consulting — are running the show. The three record labels are known for Southern styles, roots music, and artist-led support, respectively. Juice Consulting, the only non-record label in the mix, represents some of Austin’s most established talents, often in unexpected or nonprofit spaces.
Three additional sponsors, Feels So Good Records (relatively fresh from a rebrand), Mr. Pink Records (specializing in short-run cassettes and 45 RPM records), and Australian Cattle God Records (a small, fringe label) join in.
“I think just being a record label in the modern day, you're not competing with other labels,” says Orrison. “You're competing with a really hard business model and some really large companies. It's more like you have respect for the other labels because you know how hard it is, and when you can collaborate and do things together, it's always a win.”
Similarly, Orrison’s philosophy extends to the final product: making music outside of a monopoly is a good thing for music in general. Shinyribs, one of Nine Mile and Hardcharger’s artists and the headliner at the mixer, is a peak example of what can happen outside the pop machine putting artists on the cover of Rolling Stone.
The large and eccentric band has been an Austin institution for more than a decade, playing creative, distinctly Southern folk tunes and creating memorable moments at local festivals. Garrett T. Capps & Nasa Country (Spaceflight) and Meernaa (Keeled Scales) will also take the stage.
Spaceflight is not a new organization, but it is still building a SXSW presence. The mixer is its first independent effort, having booked the famous SXSW-official Outdoor Stage as a nonprofit partner in 2022. The label chose Croy and the Boys, Kalu and the Electric Joint, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Heartless Bastards, and Golden Dawn Arkestra for an eclectic indie mix.
“This year it's more about presenting our bands. We do have a lot of eyes on us right now just because we are one of few nonprofits that are releasing music,” says Orrison. “We're trying to harness that and get people out to the shows, and … around our artists and managers or booking agents. We're a launching pad, so if an artist can get signed to a more established label that's going to treat them well, we're all about that.”
More information about Spaceflight Records and its artists is available at spaceflightrecords.com.