Now only eight weeks away (eep), the SXSW machinery is running at full steam. Once again, the Music Festival received a staggering number of applications 7,000 or thereabouts and Creative Director Brent Grulke says he'd like to keep the number of showcasers to last year's total of around 1,200, if possible. "We're very much trying to keep it in the same ballpark, but we'll see how well we do with that," he sighs. Partially due to the breakout success of Scotsmen Franz Ferdinand at last year's Festival, Grulke says the number of international acts accepted into SXSW 05 is "sky-high," up to 300 over last year's 210. Besides a load of UK performers, Grulke anticipates large contingents from Canada, Australia, Scandinavia, France, and Japan. "Most of the international acts that we accept, the vast majority, are already well established in their native country, so the quality level is extremely high," he says. Indeed, most SXSW success stories arent quite as dramatic as Franz Ferdinand, who were already signed to Sony when they blew everyone out the back wall of Buffalo Billiards. "The expectations were pretty high that something big would happen, so its pretty easy to track that kind of buzz," Grulke explains. "It's a lot more difficult to track the buzz of, say, an Austin band that picks up an indie deal or a tour." Even if it's something as simple as picking up a booking agent or publishing deal, bands that move their careers forward during the Festival almost never do it by accident. "To reiterate the old saw, SXSW is a tool," Grulke says. "If people use it effectively, it means they've done work in advance, know who they want to meet with, know who they want to see them, to move along in a direction they had already charted."