SXSW 2018 on BitTorrent: 8.24 GB of ‘Free’ Music?

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SXSW 2018 on BitTorrent: 8.24 GB of 'Free' Music?


The South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival is one of the largest and most popular in the United States. For the fourteenth year in a row, it's promoting tracks of the performing artists. Years ago the festival released these tracks for free via BitTorrent, but times have changed. While “SXSW Torrent” keeps the tradition alive, it's not as ‘free' as it once was.

The SXSW music festival was one of the first major events to embrace BitTorrent.

In 2005, it used the then relatively new technology to share hundreds of DRM-free tracks from participating artists. It was a practical, fast, and cheap solution that worked well.

The official torrent releases continued for three years but since 2008 this task has been unofficially taken over by the public. SXSW still showcases music on their site, for sampling purposes, but no longer via torrents.

However, once it’s out on the Internet it only takes one person to make a torrent archive. For many years, the operator of SXSW Torrent has taken on this task and 2018 is no exception.

This year’s archive is released in two torrents, which consists of 1,276 tracks totaling 8.24 gigabytes of free music.

All the tracks released for the previous editions are also still available and most of these torrents remain well-seeded. The 2005 – 2018 archives now total more than 15,000 tracks and 85 gigabytes of data.

TorrentFreak spoke to the operator of SXSW Torrent who told us that it’s the tenth year in a row that the site has compiled the archive. His motivation is partly selfish, serving as preparation for his yearly SXSW Music trip, but also because many others are relying on it.

“Many people come back every year, so I can’t leave them hanging,” the SXSW Torrent operator previously told us.

Apparently, these people prefer to download everything in one go, as opposed to browsing through the SXSW site to sample the music.

It’s clear that these efforts are appreciated by the public. With tens of thousands of downloaders each year, the SXSW torrents attract quite a bit of traffic. For some, it almost makes up for not being able to attend the festival in person.

However, the term ‘free’ music has changed over time. While SXSW Torrent was never asked to take any files down, the torrents are not officially authorized. This means that some artists or rightsholders, may not like the idea of their music being shared this way

When SXSW released the torrent we happily encouraged people to download the tracks, but now that’s no longer the case.

The good news is that there are plenty other options out there. Aside from the showcases on the official website, SXSW has published official Spotify and YouTube playlists where people can enjoy the the music, without any concerns.

This year’s SXSW music festival is currently underway in Austin, Texas and ends on Sunday. The torrents, however, are expected to live on for as long as there are people sharing.

Written by David Minister

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