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South By Due East

Racket heads for Austin as Guy Schwartz and M. Martin bicker over the history of a local festival

Except as part of the artist selection committee, Martin's name is nowhere in the press pack we received last week, one that lists the date, time, full bill of fare and location of the festival. And his name is really hard to find on the event's Web site, too, where the event's origins are attributed to "a multi-pronged marketing assault that Marlo had envisioned back in 2002." (To be absolutely fair, the Web site www.southbydueeast.com is for the 2006 version of the show -- I guess having this year's up a week ahead of the event is too much to ask.)

On both the site and in the press kit, you do see the names Guy Schwartz and Marlo Blue on multiple occasions, though. So I called them up.

First, about that artist selection committee...Schwartz tells me on the phone that it referred to "past and present" members of the committee. A printout of the e-mail I received that week says nothing about "past and present" members. It introduces them thusly: "The dedicated team of music lovers are a big strength at South By Due East. Artist Selection committee includes..." And there follows a list of about 20 names, including Martin's and that of Schwartz, who describes himself in his own press release as "fatigueless." ("He may be 'fatigueless,' but he is becoming rather fatiguing," Martin cracks.)

Schwartz also contends that Martin had very little to do with the foundation of SXDE. "Other than providing the venue, he did nothing other than a little brainstorming and some artwork," Schwartz says. "Marlo founded it all by herself and got Martin and other people involved." After our initial phone call, Schwartz calls me back with a statement from Marlo: "Martin wrote himself out of South By Due East history, and I have the e-mails to prove it. He said he would have nothing to do with us unless we became a for-profit venture."

And true enough, SXDE looks to be an artist- and fan-friendly event. Admission is free, though Schwartz does "encourage" donations. But this is still the music business, and Schwartz does have an angle. As with all of the events he hosts, Schwartz's cameras will be rolling, and the resulting film will be streamed on his Web site. Schwartz has also been known to make CDs of some of his live shows, which often include guest shots from other local musicians and are for sale at CDBaby.com.

Schwartz claims this stuff makes for wonderful archival material and great promotional tools for struggling local bands, and his site sports a glowing testimonial to that effect from the Fondue Monks' Rozz Zamorano, speaking in reference to one of the films. Schwartz also is keen to point out that the film from last year's event has been viewed 15,000 times on the Web. "None of the bands that were on that bill ever played for that many people before, and none of them paid a cent to be on that film," Schwartz says.

He also points out that he is still losing money on Due East, and adds that he doesn't even conceive it as a real music festival at all. "I tell everybody this is a fake festival," he says. "It looks and acts like a festival and lots of bands play, but it really is a movie shoot. We don't charge admission -- we just want to get enough people in here to make the background applause on the videos sound respectable."

Schwartz also seems eager to avoid the appearance that what he is doing could be described as concert promotion. "I am not a concert promoter," he flatly states. "I am not trying to make money for myself or my investors. I am just trying to create a musical event and a marketing tool for all these artists and our music scene, including my band."

"Bullshit," Martin ripostes. "If it walks down the street in fishnet hose, it's a ho'. Sorry. Welcome to the brotherhood, Guy. He is a promoter, albeit a crappy one."

Unless, that is, he is promoting himself. Schwartz cops to being a self-promoter, and Martin says some of it comes with the territory. He just wishes Schwartz would get better at it and not be so shameless. "You have to make sure that you are trying to accomplish something more than generate your own notoriety or line your pockets, and you have to do an effective job with it. As far as I can tell, Guy's shameless self-promotion doesn't go anywhere."

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