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SXSW 2015: The Library of Congress Heads to Texas

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On March 13-22 Austin, Texas was overrun with tens of thousands of music, tech, and film practitioners (and fans) for the 2015 SXSW Interactive, Film and Music Conference & Festival. Several Library of Congress staffers participated as presenters and attendees, showcasing the Library’s collections and the critical role that Copyright plays in the arts and technology sectors. The SXSW Conference and Festival was founded in 1987 and has exploded over the years as a place for different industries to converge, with live performing arts at the core of the programming. According to SXSW, the Music component featured over 23,000 performing entities playing 100+ venues, with 28,000 music practitioners in attendance.

The Library of Congress held a prominent role at SXSW through direct references to our collections and as the steward of Copyright in the United States. On Saturday, March 21 the American Folklife Center (AFC) participated in a panel discussion about Alan Lomax’s centennial year, which will be celebrated throughout the coming months in Washington, DC (full schedule). Lomax, who was born in Austin, was a preeminent American ethnomusicologist and folklorist during the 20th century. Betsy Peterson (Director, AFC) and Todd Harvey (Folklife Specialist, AFC) discussed the Library’s Alan Lomax collection, the process of digitizing Lomax’s field recordings, and the Library’s ongoing partnership with the Association for Cultural Equity, the custodian of the Alan Lomax Archive. They emphasized that the Library is a true leader in the field of audio preservation. One interesting facet of AFC’s work is the process of repatriating Lomax’s recordings to the localities where they originate from. This is accomplished through a growing network of grassroots partnerships throughout the country that maximize the digital reach of the Library’s Lomax collection.

Alan Lomax at 100 Panel, SXSW Music, March 21, 2015 (By Nicholas Alexander Brown)
“Alan Lomax at 100” Panel, SXSW Music, March 21, 2015 (By Nicholas Alexander Brown)

Copyright proved to be a hot topic at SXSW 2015, on the heels of the U.S. Copyright Office‘s release of the groundbreaking report “Copyright and the Music Marketplace” (February 2015). As the featured topic of many panel discussions, understanding copyright law and the future of copyright are crucial to working within the music industry, whether as a content creator, artist, producer, publicist, manager, or techie. One Copyright panel, titled “Who’s Using My Music? Copyrights in the Digital Era,” featured Jacqueline Charlesworth, who serves as General Counsel & Associate Register of Copyrights, U.S. Copyright Office. Another discussion focused on the process of artists receiving payments from streaming music services, and tech innovations that facilitate the protection of copyrighted content that appears in free online streaming services.

Wyclef Jean discusses his work in rap and hip hop at SXSW Music, March 19, 2015 (By Nicholas Alexander Brown)
Wyclef Jean discusses his work in rap and hip hop at SXSW Music, March 19, 2015 (By Nicholas Alexander Brown)

The Library’s Music Division had representatives attend SXSW in order to increase our outreach to popular music audiences and learn about emerging talents across genres. Our team came back to the office with some fun new ideas for programs and collaborations that will manifest in future seasons of Concerts from the Library of Congress. They also got to hear about industry trends from figures like Snoop Dogg, Wyclef Jean, Bob Santelli (GRAMMY Museum), Frank Sinatra Jr., Alex Da Kid (multi-platinum GRAMMY-winning producer for Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Dr. Dre), Daryl Friedman (The Recording Academy), and John Alagia (record producer for John Mayer and the Dave Matthews Band). One of the highlights from SXSW for the Music Division team was seeing an engaging exhibit curated by our Federal government colleagues at NASA. All of their space programs were represented with engaging displays that even covered music! Several music headliners have performed live for astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

For further reading, check out a blog by Butch Lazorchak (Library of Congress National Digital Information Infrastructure and Prevention Program) that discusses the importance of Libraries, Archives and Museums attending SXSW.


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