A photo of APM's Jim Cathcart

Expert Series: APM’s Jim Cathcart at SXSW 2023 

23 Mar 2023

A photo of a panel during 2023 SXSW

2023 SXSW Documentary shorts screening. Photo by Jim Cathcart


Since its founding in 1987, South by Southwest, or SXSW, has become a significant event for technology, film, TV, and digital media. Some of the biggest movies and groundbreaking tech were unveiled here, including:  


  • Get Out  
  • Grand  
  • Budapest Hotel  


  • Game of Thrones  
  • Breaking Bad  
  • The Walking Dead  


  • Lyft  
  • Amazon Alexa  
  • Twitter  

APM's Account Director Jim Cathcart just returned from the week-long conference and is sharing his thoughts on this year's featured films, television shows, technology, and panel discussions.  

A photo of a panel during the 2023 SXSW

Rethinking Intellectual Property: New Businesses Embracing Film & TV Panel.  Photo by Jim Cathcart


What inspired you to attend SXSW 2023?  

APM had music in nearly 30 of the productions screening at SXSW this year. In addition to wanting to attend in support of our clients and partners, I could not wait to get to this year’s incredible programming lineup. From world premieres to insightful technology-centric panels and experiences, it is a truly unique event that's both part conference and part festival, bringing together some of the world's most forward-thinking creatives and artists across industries. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to meet new people and talk about the work we all do and can do together.  

What are some of the biggest takeaways from your experience?  

Collaboration, unique storytelling, evolving pitch models, and the volume of compelling content are the big takeaways. While there still seems to be mention of an impending market softening/belt-tightening when it comes to acquisitions or new production from the streamers in the face of mergers, it is countered by audience appetite. Quality and accessibility are at an all-time high.   

Have you attended SXSW in the past? If so, how has the event changed over the years?  

Yes, I did! Given the sheer volume of its programming, you will never see all of it. However, like any experience, you get out of it what you put in. In the past, the brand experiences and "parties" surrounding South by Southwest were a primary focus for many attendees. These still exist, of course, but are often coupled with a purpose, either studio marketing, promotion of a slate, educating an attendee on a company's agenda, or art and tech-aligned givebacks.  
The most amazing part of the conference was the overlap of tracks. Panels, screenings, and activations are happening while the tech and wellness tracks are taking place. Then comes the music, halfway through the week. It is a hive mind in one place, all over Austin. In addition, it felt like there was a return to record attendance. Last year, they made the films premiering available to stream during the conference week. This year, they removed that feature with a return to in-person only.  

A photo of another 2023 SXSW panel

The cast and creators of Daisy Jones & The Six. Photo by Jim Cathcart


What sessions or events did you attend, and how does it impact production music? 

In addition to several film screenings, the sessions I attended included Featured Session: Onyx Collective Presents UnprisonedFeatured Session: Daisy Jones & The Six Cast & Creators Discuss the Hit Series (in both of which we had music), Funding Your Indie Film: From Short to FeatureRe-Thinking Intellectual Property: New Businesses Embracing Film & TV, TikTok, How to Market Your Music with SoundOn, and Composer Buy-Outs: Unfair of Fair Enough.   

I learned this from the Funding your Indie Film panel: When it comes to approaching financiers to fund your production, having proof of concept and a realistic budget from the start is imperative. That is where production music can be significantly helpful. All your music budget can be accounted for at the beginning of your creative process and in an affordable way. No hidden surprises and extra composer costs. Unlimited music is available to you for a fixed blanket price. You can use us for a certain set of clearance rights depending on the status of your project, from the pilot or short to feature film and marketing.   

Additionally, the Re-Thinking Intellectual Property panel discussed how pitch scripts to studios are more recently being replaced by podcasts– optioning IP at that stage, developing it into an engaging property, and then building on it from there. We at APM can soundtrack the podcast with the same quality music used in top series and films to elevate the production and help sell it at its inception.

A photo of Jim Cathcart and friends

On the red carpet. From left to right: Music Supervisors Mike Turner & Jon Lane with Jim Cathcart at the premier of Louder Than You Think.


 What are some of the biggest trends or themes emerging at SXSW this year, and how can APM participate or, better yet, lead?  

The ability to create engaging, humanizing documentaries is stronger than ever, as evidenced by Suddenly TV, which highlights the protests in Sudan, and Great Photo, Lovely Life, which brings accountability to abuse. Where news and social media outlets fail audiences, documentaries, and docu-series are poised to hold the world accountable. And in today's day and age, that is incredibly important. We can continue to support and empower these storytellers by working together.  

Can integrating AI and biofeedback lead to a new form of music that is even more engaging than current pop music? And what will AI's role be in discovering or selling music for sync?  

Humans are currently doing this creatively. Genre mash is a very real thing and incredibly exciting! For AI, it remains to be seen. For all the forward-thinking and tech lead innovations that are a hot topic at SXSW, including AI and its potential developments and use in the production music world, there are many legal implications to consider. A recent court ruling said that AI-generated works can be copyrighted if the material is the product of human creativity. If an AI company claims that they own the AI-generated piece of music because they trained said AI off commissioned works they own, then one would assume they would also be liable for any potential infringement the derivative work might yield. Just as with royalty-free music catalogs, I would continue to be wary of any music company, AI or otherwise, that would shift that legal responsibility back onto the licensee.  

 What was the biggest surprise this year?  

I walked into the main exhibition hall one day to charge my phone and witnessed an incredible advancement in holographic display. Seeing how close we are to this technology being adopted in entertainment was truly remarkable. Think of the Jaws scene in Back to the Future Part 2 or Tupac at Coachella but with a hundred times the clarity and in your living room.  

The other surprises were the John Wick 4 and Dungeons and Dragons screenings. Many attendees raved about them. Personally, I enjoyed catching Hung Up on a Dream and Louder than You Think, which are documentaries about the famed sixties band The Zombies, who were in attendance, and Gary Young, the drummer of Pavement, who was also in attendance. I have worked with the former's director and producer and the latter's music supervisors, who I got to spend time with while there. Both are fantastic films that I thoroughly enjoyed!  

How do you plan to apply what you learned or experienced at SXSW as an account director?  

I am incredibly enthusiastic about our clients' work and continue to support that at every stage of their production, from pitch to festival to broader distribution. I attend SXSW to celebrate our clients in person and educate myself on how I can best meet a filmmaker's needs in today's mediascape, whether related to music solutions or otherwise. To that end, we at APM are incredibly excited to be involved in your next project.  

About SXSW 2023  

  • SXSW is an annual music, film, and interactive media festival and conference in Austin, Texas.  

  • The first SXSW festival was held in 1987 and has since grown to become one of the largest and most influential events in the world of entertainment and technology.  

  • In 2022, the festival was held from March 11 to March 20 and included over 1,500 official events.  

  • SXSW attracts tens of thousands of attendees annually, including industry professionals, musicians, filmmakers, and technology enthusiasts.  

  • The festival is known for its wide range of programming, which includes film screenings, musical performances, keynote speeches, panels, and interactive exhibits.  

  • In 2022, the festival showcased over 400 films, 2,000 musical acts, and hundreds of speakers across various tracks, including technology, social impact, entertainment, and more.  

  • SXSW has also become a popular platform for launching new products and services, with companies like Twitter, Foursquare, and Meerkat debuting at the festival.  

  • According to the official SXSW website, the festival generated an estimated $356 million in economic impact for Austin in 2019.  

  • In 2020, SXSW was canceled due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, marking the first time in its 34-year history that the festival did not occur.  

  • Despite the cancellation in 2020, SXSW returned in 2021 in a virtual format and continued to feature a wide range of programming and events.