Soundgarden at SXSW is Apple’s latest attempt at music festival relevance

Soundgarden will perform live tonight at the SXSW music festival in Austin Texas, but will be doing so as part of what Apple is referring to as the “iTunes Festival at SXSW.” The last two nights have seen performances from Coldplay, Kendrick Lamar, and Imagine Dragons as Apple attempts to translate its digital music industry dominance into music festival relevance. Apple has held an annual iTunes Festival in the United Kingdom for several years, but had yet to attempt anything similar in the United States until now. Instead of putting together its own independently run festival stateside, Apple has partnered with the long-dominant SXSW to essentially create a music festival within a festival.

Apple is entering the festival foray in the U.S. in an attempt to protect its position in the music industry as the number one music retailer, digital or otherwise, selling music through iTunes to users of iPhone, iPad, and iPod devices. However the rise of Android based devices has opened the door for competing music services including Google Play to cater to the Android market. It’s not yet clear whether Apple’s strategic alliance with SXSW will become deeper next year or whether Apple will expand its presence to include more existing festivals nationwide, or whether rivals like Google and Samsung will counter by partnering with other U.S. festivals.

But for now at least, it’s all about the music. Soundgarden, which saw its heyday in the early to mid 1990s but reunited three years ago, has released an album of new material and has done some touring, but has performed at a good number of major festivals. Opening acts tonight are Band of Skulls and Capital Cities, two rising bands whose members hadn’t all been born yet when Soundgarden notched its first radio hit. Pitbull performs at iTunes at SXSW tomorrow night, with Willie Nelson and Keith Urban closing out the week on Saturday night.

Nikol Hasler
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Nikol Hasler