In the frenzy of activity at SXSW, two Berklee parties (check out Magen’s posts and video of the Lucky Lounge and Friends events), showcases and parties happening at all hours of the day and night, it’s easy to forget that there’s an actual conference going on: four days of  topical panels, artist interviews, demo listening sessions, trade show, and more.The focus of the panels has evolved over the years to continue to reflect  the issues facing the ever-changing music industry.  Topics included The Cloud vs. the Paradise of Infinite Storage; The Convergence of Music on TV and Online; How Will We Listen to Music in 2020?; and Green Touring: Stupid, Dumb, or Best Idea Ever.

Not surprisingly, Berklee innovators in the industry were represented in the conversation.  Panelists included alumni Derek Sivers ’91, founder of CDBaby, holding court on Successful SXSW: The Tao of the Conference; Panos Panay ’94, founder of the electronic press kit hub Sonicbids, who moderated Meet Bookers for Top Festivals Worldwide; and composer and music producer Quincy Jones III ’87, who participated in Demo Listening 3: Hip Hop.

In addition, Al Kooper H ’01 was on the panel Meet the New Soul – Same as the Old Soul?, and SXSW’s keynote speaker this year was Smokey Robinson H ’09.  The catch? I wasn’t able to make it to any of these events due to the timing of Berklee’s parties on Thursday and Friday, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

I did see Smokey Robinson’s concert at the Austin Music Hall Friday night and he talked quite a bit in between performances of some of his biggest hits – highlights included “I Second That Emotion,” and a spontaneous sing-along of “My Girl” (which he wrote for the Temptations) complete with harmonies by the audience. I’m guessing he talked about some of the same things he covered in his keynote.  Chief among them, the three year-celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Motown, where Smokey made his name performing with the Miracles and writing hit songs for artists like the Temps and Stevie Wonder.  He quipped, “[in the early days of Motown] People would always ask me, ‘What do you do when you hear your song on the radio?’ I said, ‘Turn it up!'”

Today I have a bit time, so I’m headed to the Convention Center to try to catch I Never Travel Far Without a Little Big Star, which may take on a different tone given the sudden death of Big Star’s Alex Chilton the other day. Then it’s off to the Berklee BBQ hosted by Berklee Trustee David Clem and his wife Kathy.