Music conference to take place March 17-21

The 24th annual South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival announced its initial salvo of 55 bands confirmed to perform over the course of the event’s five days beginning March 17-21. An astounding 1,900 artists will be featured on the fest’s 80 stages in Austin, Texas.

L.A.-based bands Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, She & Him and L.A. deejay Steve Aoki are firmed for the bill. They will join Austin trio Spoon, Canada’s Broken Social Scene, New York based Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and London’s The XX.

Expecting between 11,000 and 12,000 attendees this spring, fest execs say the recession hasn’t slowed sales projections for this year’s edition. Organizers anticipate attendance to parallel that of previous years in terms of concertgoers, conference attendees, performance exposure and film viewing. Last year there were 11,687 registered conference attendees.

Largely regarded as music’s version of Sundance — ground zero for signing independent artists — the fest remains, according to SXSW helmer Roland Swenson, “a tool for artists and the companies that work with them to expose their work to a broader market, and advance their careers.”

While spokespeople might downplay the event’s dealmaking nature, Swenson admits that “deals for management, agency or legal representation are often initiated.” More probable, he says, are “bookings for clubs and festivals around the world.”

This year, Motown legend and “American Idol” mentor Smokey Robinson is on the roster of keynote speakers, and John Doe, of L.A. punk band X, along with music and technology veteran Ian Rogers are slated to key note as well.

Doe and Rogers will speak on the cultural significance of direct-to-fan marketing through social networking.

The film fest portion of SXSW takes place March 12-20, while the Interactive event is March 12-16.

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