Students Get to Work in the Music Business at SXSW

Columbia College Chicago students go to Austin, Texas, to produce a live showcase featuring Chicago artists.

While South by Southwest (SXSW) features a film and TV festival, as well as a robust entertainment industry conference and expo, music has always been at its heart. And that’s why SXSW offers a host of opportunities to Columbia College Chicago students hoping to break into the music business. 

“It’s great to be immersed in the culture; there are industry professionals everywhere,” says Music Business Alum Mateo Canizares who is currently pursuing a master's degree in Arts Management at Columbia.  

SXSW draws thousands of music lovers and industry insiders to Austin, Texas, each year. It’s a place to see and hear new artists perform as well as to explore vibrant music venues. It’s no surprise, then, that Columbia integrates the SXSW experience into its Business and Entrepreneurship curriculum. For more than a decade, Columbia students have come to SXSW to produce and host a musical showcase on behalf of the student-led record label AEMMP Records, with students taking a Talent Management course also now attending to represent some of the performing artists.  

AEMMP Records Puts on Showcase at SXSW 

This year, the AEMMP Records class, which is taught by Associate Professor Alex Fruchter, produced an official SXSW music event entitled “AEMMP Records Presents: Chicago Soundz.” The showcase featured some of their label’s artists such as Alum PMARTT ’14 and students Anessa Rivera and Moses the Marauder as well as headliner Mother Nature and the group Gardenia (see student-created flyer below). The class not only helped plan the line-up and promote the five-hour event, but they also worked on-site at the venue handling sound checks and problem-solving on the fly.  

“Putting on a showcase at SXSW is a rite of passage for so many young professionals. It offers troubleshooting experience and working with so many different types of people,” Fruchter says. “You can’t really replicate that in a classroom.” 

For students, it was an exercise in teamwork and seeing a vision realized.  

“All of our brains coming together to create such a beautiful thing is amazing,” says Senior Christine Nguyen who helped put on the showcase. 


The special nature of the event wasn’t lost on showcase performer and Columbia Alum PMARTT ’14, who participated in SXSW as a student in 2013. 

“It's really nice seeing the school outside of the school,” he says. “We are showcasing our talent, something that we learned in school. And me being an alum, just being here with the school that I graduated from, it is nothing but an honoring thing.” 

Students Manage Artists at Showcase 

Professor of Instruction Monique Maye’s Artist Management students collaborated with AEMMP on the event and represented the group Gardenia, who they met through a student in class and performed at the showcase. 

“South by Southwest is the place to be when it comes to artist management,” she says. “It's a great way for students to see how it all comes together. They get to work out the hiccups firsthand and do things that they didn't expect to do. But that's the music industry, that’s what live performance is all about.” 

One of her students, Senior Jackson Brandstadt, a Music Business major, described his role at the event this way: “It's a lot of keeping people happy to keep the scenario manageable.” And he learned that sometimes in the world of artist management you have to step on some toes to get things done and represent the interests of your artist. “You got to push for your artist.” 

While students saw first-hand that the music business can be stressful, SXSW and its music also proved to be inspiring.  

“Live music is just so fun to be part of,” says Dani Lioce, a graduate student in the Artist Management class. “Every day, everywhere [at SXSW], you get to hear great things and see people starting their careers, which is really cool.”