Every year at about this time, there is an unofficial bit torrent of the free songs from the South By Southwest Music Festival. The person who runs these torrents simply aggregates the free downloads from the sxsw.com site and the sites of related artists who are performing there. Then he puts them together in a single bit torrent which people can download. (Actually 2 different torrents. Part One - released today -- is 6 gigs and contains 1000 songs. Part two -- which will be released in early to mid March -- will usually contain 2 or 3 gigs). http://www.sxswtorrent.com/2016
This is my main method for learning about new music. A substantial portion of the SXSW performers have labels (20-30%?), but most are unsigned artists looking for deals and exposure.
Over the years, People have discussed about whether it is "legal" to make such a torrent available. The person who does it says he is simply providing a public service by making the free SXSW downloads easier to obtain. The home page says, "Disclaimer: This site is in no way affiliated with SXSW or any SXSW artists. These torrents are provided as an alternate means to sample the songs available on the official SXSW site." Over the years it has gotten coverage from Wired.com, Boingboing, Gizmodo, Time.com Neither SXSW nor any labels or artists have taken legal action against the site that does it.
The torrents from the other years are still available, and I admit it can be overwhelming to download and listen to them. I find that I delete about 15-20% of the tracks on first listen, though there is a lower crap-to-awesome ratio with each successive year.
Listening to the 2015 torrent resulted in my purchasing 28 albums from emusic last year. (and my sxsw-inspired 2015 buying spree isn't even halfway over!) The prices and the links below are all from emusic.
- Walk by Suboi (9 tracks, 32 minutes for $4.41). Suboi is a Vietnamese rap singer whose songs are peppy and bilingual and fun.
- It’s Alive
by La Luz. (11 tracks, 33 minutes $5.39). Good upbeat girls surfer rock
by a featured Los Angeles group at SXSW 2015 with hints of anarchy
- Bernhari by
Bernhari. (11 tracks, 46 minutes, $5.39). Energetic Canadian
instrumental band with elements of dream pop. Absolutely original.
- Your Old Droog
by Your Old Droog. (18 tracks, 59 minutes for $6.49). It is rare when I
stumble upon a rap album which 1)is not laced with profanity, 2)has
nice musical elements and clever lyrics. This album is the pleasant
exception. Ironically the singer (who was initially mistaken for NAS) is
actually a young Ukrainian-American living in NYC.
- Total Strife Forever (Deluxe Edition),
East India Youth. (12 tracks, 107 minutes, $8.99). This great
electronic album also contains the 54 minutes “20,000 Leagues under the
- Kalaboogie and the Prosper Project
by Doomsquad. (Each about 45-55 minutes for $5.99).
Electronic/percussion Toronto-based band with moody hypnotic effects —
including the occasional vocals. Think Yo La Tengo with a dance beat.
- Another Way to Live and the World You’re Living In
by Amber Digby. (35 minutes for each $5.88 album). This Houston native
sings unassuming and winsome country songs which remind me a lot of
- Hanging Spoons
by Gina Chavez. (12 tracks, 55 minutes, $5.88) Eclectic half-Mexican
Austin singer-songwriter who alternates between the Latino sound and
Texas country — a little like Rosie Flores.
- Ways Over Water. Fritz Kalkbreiner. (13 tracks, 72 minutes, $5.19) Berlin electronic artist.
- Obsidian Spectre by Crosss. (8 tracks, 42 minutes for $5.99). Grandiose and Symphonic-sounding heavy metal.
by the Heaters. (8 tracks, 26 minutes, $3.92). Fierce surf-psychedelic
garage rock by a Michigan band. A hard pounding drum beat ensures that
you don’t get lost in the haze. This band has become one of my fave
discoveries from this year’s SXSW.
- Life as a Dog by K-Flay (11 tracks, 44 minutes, $5.39). Gnarly and Arty rap by a San Francisco girl.
by Sno that Product. (17 tracks, 49 minutes, $5.99). Latin rapping by a
tough-talking California girl. Think of Eminem, but it’s a lot more
danceable. Actually she’s the Latino M.I.A. with lots of
electro-pizzazz underneath the lyrics. Some pottymouth-ery, but
generally there’s a social purpose behind it.
- Ninety Thirty Thirty by Fielded. (11 tracks, 36 minutes, $5.39). Lyrical
self-produced album by Lindsay Powell, a girl with a voice like
Blondie, clever arrangements, surprising space melodies and deliberately
- Fantastic Negrito Deluxe EP. R& B with guitars. (7 tracks, 26 minutes, $3.43).
- Everyone you love will be happy soon. by Quiet Company (15 tracks, 60 minutes, $5.99). Plaintive country rock.
- Loose Ends by Francisco the Man. (10 tracks, 50 minutes, $6.99)
- Insides by Fort Rameau. (8 tracks, 52 minutes, $6.99).
- Under the Surface by
Marit Larsen. 11 tracks, 37 minutes, $5.99. Larsen is a Norwegian pop
sensation and songwriter who seems like a less angrier version of Alanis
- Where We All Live EP
by Wheelchair Sports Camp. 6 tracks, 24 minutes for $2.94. A sort of
rap/jazz/punk band from Denver fronted by a rapping girl in a
wheelchair. Sounds like a freakshow, but it’s actually good music — and
also very fun.
- Black Hole Lace.
by Kemp & Eden. (9 tracks, 30 minutes, $4.41) Slow and Arty
two-part harmony dream pop by two cute girls with offbeat lyrics.
- Selections from Analog Rebellion. Texas Songwriter
Daniel Hunter writes a lot of off the wall songs with bizarre themes
and lyrics, but the music is always remarkable. Hunter’s band is
prolific, and I ended up picking songs from all his albums. The albums I
took the most songs from included: Ancient Electrons, Evaders, and Cavanaugh, Something.
- 1993-2003: 10 Years of K’s Choice.
Compilation. 18 tracks, 64 minutes for $5.99 Laid back 90s grrl rock.
It probably needs to be rowdier, but a good restrained Greatest Hits
- Waving at the Sun by K’s Choice. 12 tracks, 34 minutes, $5.88. More recent album by the band which is absolutely ethereal.
- You can’t take a bad girl home. Fabulous Ginn Sisters. (10 tracks, 33 minutes, $4.90).
- Collection 1: An Embarrassment of richard.
by Richard Barone. (15 tracks, 63 minutes, $5.99). Volume 1
compilation album of Richard Barone, singer for the Bongos and music
producer who writes slow catchy pop songs. Update: I also bought Collection 2: Before and Afterglow (22 tracks, 76 minutes, $5.99) which I liked even better. It’s slower, more interesting and still fun.
- 2 Albums by Secret Colours: Peach and Positive Distractions.
- Selections from Extra Classic. (From Showcase and You Light like White Elephants). This San Francisco group plays a lot of easygoing dub/reggae (more). The songs are somewhat interchangeable, but the girl’s singing and the jamming guitars makes it refreshing to listen to.
(The list above comes from my emusic purchase list on my blog
(Personally, even though I have culled the SXSW stashes from years 2005-2014, I only started to rate them from 1 to 5 stars using the Amarok music player. In the 2014 stash (which includes the free SXSW samplers from emusic/NPR/amazon), I think I downloaded about 900-950 tracks, I kept 839 of them. I rated 200 tracks at 5 stars, 245 at 4 1/2 stars, 183 at 4 stars, 136 at 3 1/2 stars, 62 tracks, and the rest are 2 or 2 1/2 stars. Of course, these ratings are arbitrary. 5 stars are just gold, but the 4 1/2 stars are pretty awesome too. I often change my mind about the 3 stars too.
(Sidenote: Listening to all these tracks have just made me intolerant of profanity-laced rap -- although I do try to keep an open-mind; every year or so I find a handful of very well made rap songs with F-bombs. A lot of the low-rated tracks are things I have "downgraded" mainly because the audio quality is substandard or there was too much profanity in it. Strangely, although I used to delete a lot of tracks after first listen, I have started to collect many favorite "Worst tracks" (almost 100% of which belong to the rap genre).
(While my torrent client is currently downloading the songs, I recognize a few names but can't wait to discover all the unfamiliar names -- some of which is guaranteed to be gold).
The listening odyssey begins.....