It's official: Your SXSW keynote speaker for 2013 is Dave Grohl. A reliable choice who commands a great deal of clout and respect in the music industry, the same as speakers of years past such as Bruce Springsteen. I'm sure Grohl will do a great job and I only have one little complaint: He's not a fun choice.
Grohl is a safe choice, like when they chose Paul McCartney for the Super Bowl Halftime Show the year after the Janet Jackson debacle. He's good and solid, but we already hear from him regularly and we know that nothing too crazy will happen. Were I choosing the speaker, I would go the more, let us say, interesting route.
5. Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple has been on the outskirts of the music industry for most of her life, plugging away at masterful records that only make themselves known every once in a while. She's known for being an incredible artist whose music has just a touch of madness that makes it great. In a way, she's like a young, female Tom Waits, twisting pop music to suit her particular form of experimentation.
She's also awesome when she speaks. She often speaks in metaphors only she understands or bluntly calls out bullshit for what it is. You never know what you're going to get from Apple, and considering she's such a recluse, it would be especially significant to get her up in front of the SXSW audience to give her thoughts on music and the music business.
The hard part here would probably be getting the Artist to do it. Prince seems to speak where and when he feels like it, rather than when people want him to. That being said, though, if it could be arranged, it might just be amazing to hear what the man has to say about the music industry.
This is a guy who claims that the Internet is a dead medium and chooses to release his albums in newspapers, then somehow manages to keep making money and staying relevant whenever he chooses. Clearly he knows something we don't. A speech from him could either illuminate us on his secrets or just be batshit fucking insane, but that's why he'd make such a great speaker.
3. Axl Rose
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Like Prince, Axl Rose rarely chooses to speak to the media, but we all lap it up when he does choose to come down and bestow upon us some kind of words of wisdom. He's elusive, he's possibly nuts, he's possibly a genius, and he's possibly an asshole, which is why we're all so damned captivated by him all the time.
If nothing else, Axl could offer his insights on why Chinese Democracy took so long and why he believes it didn't sell as well as he had hoped it would. If he even accepts that it didn't sell that well, in his Axl version of reality. Again, that's why he'd be an interesting choice.
2. Kanye West
Any time Kanye West opens his mouth, it's a show. The man oozes controversy with every word he speaks. He's also just damned entertaining to listen to. He's been in the music industry on both sides of the pop world as it stands today: Performer and producer. He's also seen every evolution in the past decade take place while remaining on the cutting edge.
So not only would Kanye probably have some interesting insights into the state of the music industry, but he would also be edgy and unpredictable. You never know with Kanye when he's just going to pop off with a "George Bush doesn't care about black people" comment or a strange comparison between himself and Hitler, and that's what makes him so much fun to listen to.
1. Bob Dylan
This could potentially be amazing if we could understand a word he says. Dylan's words of wisdom in recent years have been just as cynical and entertaining as they always have. If you read his recent interview in Rolling Stone and then watch No Direction Home, he's the same old Bob. Still bitter, still salty, just now an old and grizzled veteran.
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He may not have many insights into the record industry. After all, this is a guy who for the most part still seems to rely on the tried and true way of releasing music. But even if he just spoke on songwriting for an hour and a half or so, I think we'd all be elated to hear whatever he has to say.