Outside the Box

SXSW panels

Outside the Box

Austin Convention Center, Saturday, March 18

Although lightly attended, this was a panel for record geeks. Yet it wasn't until raconteur Andy Schwartz threw out the idea that the 1990 Robert Johnson box marked a turning point in how both record labels and music consumers thought about such packages that the panel came alive. In fact, although writers Sylvie Simmons and Jaan Uhelszki were the moderators, it was Schwartz, an 11-year veteran at Sony Music, who kept things interesting with facts and questions. James Austin of Rhino Records explained that Germany's Bear Family label manages to release elaborate, megadisc collections of folks like Wynn Stewart and still stay afloat because of a business model that's drastically different from anything found here in the U.S. While a couple questioned the need for artists to have several box sets, Shawn Amos of Shout! Factory spoke about the balancing act reissue labels face. "How do you keep something alive and make it commercially viable?" he asked. He also claimed that there are artists who deserve such collections – mentioning Herb Alpert – yet have no interest in doing one. Austin also revealed that he's working on a box for Gram Parsons with the assistance of Emmylou Harris. In the end, this was just a fun conversation among music freaks that could have gone on for hours and is something SXSW needs to do a lot more often.

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