PPL CEO Peter Leathem at SXSW 2018

CEO Peter Leathem was joined by Director of Member Services Sarah Mitchell, Senior Membership Manager Dan Millington and Senior Events and Outreach Manager Sarah Wall as PPL travelled to SXSW. Below, Peter shares his thoughts:

What were your first impressions of SXSW?

It’s manic! There is so much great activity happening that it is impossible to experience it all. It’s a real hub for celebrating all types of music and provides a unique opportunity for mixing with the industry behind the scenes.

Why does PPL attend SXSW?

PPL has attended SXSW for 10 years now, ensuring we play a part supporting music at this international festival. 2018 was my first visit to SXSW and it allowed me to see first-hand how our contribution helped some of the most talented UK artists attend one of the biggest showcasing festivals in the world.

In 2016 we were excited to announce a new partnership with the PRS Foundation to provide financial and career development support to new and emerging talent via the International Showcase Fund. The PRS Foundation has played a pivotal role in the success story of many UK artists who have gone on to have their own successful headline tours.

It has been wonderful to see how working in partnership with the PRS Foundation, PRS for Music, AIM and BBC Music has provided high quality opportunities for emerging artists to showcase their ability in such a renowned environment.

It is also worth remembering that PPL is a global business.  We collect money from around the world and currently have 87 international agreements in place in 41 countries to make sure our members get paid when their music is played outside of the UK. Attending SXSW gives us another opportunity to meet with our international counterparts to help us continue to grow our global services.

We hear a lot about “The British Music Embassy”. What is it?

For the last 11 years, The British Music Embassy has taken over the Latitude 30 venue for the week, playing host to some of the most exciting UK talent. Right in the thick of Austin’s downtown district, the line-up this year ensured that there was something for everyone, from Frank Turner to AJ Tracey.  With a wide spread across a variety of genres, from brand new grassroots acts to more established artists, these showcases are starting to become the go-to hub for many SXSW attendees 

With so much going on, was there a chance to network and get business done?

As well as music fans and talented artists, SXSW plays host to some of the industry’s leading business people. It is very rare to have so many CEOs, broadcasters, thought-leaders and even politicians in one place, in an environment where everyone is celebrating outstanding talent.

As well as attending a number of events at the British Music Embassy, I was able to attend events such a networking breakfast organised by A2IM the US record company trade body, a breakfast hosted by the Music Managers Forum, a showcase organised by SoundExchange, and an acoustic brunch hosted by BMI the US collective management organisation. These were all really good networking opportunities. 

What were your highlights?

Seeing the British Music Embassy showcases were of course a highlight; the energy, passion and quality of all of the performances was inspiring.  All of those involved in making SXSW 2018 a successful and memorable event should be proud. I would encourage everyone to listen to as many of the artists that played in Austin as possible, and I am looking forward to seeing them develop.

I was particularly impressed by Jade Bird who appeared in the British Music Embassy Showcase that Radio 2, PPL and PRS supported, and I see has received a lot of positive feedback following a number of her appearances at SXSW. It was also really good to meet AJ Tracey following his set at the Radio 1Xtra, PPL and PRS showcase. He is one of my son’s favourite artists and someone how gets a lot of airplay in our house.

What would your advice be to anyone thinking of attending SXSW in 2019?

SXSW really is a special festival. If you want to see the next big artist perform at a unique cultural festival, then you should make sure you attend in 2019. Music really does make the world a better place, and SXSW does too.

Oh, and wear comfortable shoes!