Ballroom Dancing

SXSW panels

Ballroom Dancing
Photo by Gary Miller

Adult Rock Music Meeting

Austin Convention Center, Friday, March 14

It was a lesson in subjectivity. Using the über-scientific method of numbers on flash cards, the panel of seven programmers for various media and the sparse 11am audience scored new songs – from Dallas' Old 97's to Winnipeg newcomers the Duhks – on likability, usability, and uniqueness. This is "how gatekeepers make important decisions," moderator Sean Coakley, owner of promotion company Songlines, explained. With every track, scores ranged from one to 10, even on the panel stage. Chop Shop Music film supervisor Alexandra Patsavas chooses songs based on a scene: "I see elevators all over the place," she said of Martha Wainwright's "You Cheated Me." One-name Thorn, Minneapolis program director of KTCZ's Cities, concentrates on his female demographic: "There's a lot going on – probably too much for them," he said of Arctic Monkeys side project the Last Shadow Puppets and their "The Age of the Understatement." Late Night With Conan O'Brien music supervisor Jim Pitt looks for buzz; Chicago radio programmer Norm Winer looks for history. "This reminds me of something Ahmet Ertegun used to say," Coakley mused. "You always listen with two sets of ears: the first is from emotion, and the second is from a commercial standpoint." Some scientific method.

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