One of the fun games to play while you're in Austin for SXSW is trying to figure out who's going to be the breakout act of the festival. Some years it's obvious--I remember seeing Peaches and At the Drive In in tiny rooms where word spread so fast it was almost like those acts got famous by the time we all caught our planes home.
This year was a little tougher. Judging by the reactions to The xx and Surfer Blood, I'd say those acts have followings that are only getting stronger. But those are all just anecdotes. Mashable reported today that a site called Next Big Sound actually went in and did the popularity math. The latter looked at the "increase in social media activity" (MySpace, iLike, ReverbNation, LastFM) by artists performing in Austin last week.
Their list of artists making the biggest impact by the numbers:
Of the top ten here, I can vouch for the Antlers. I saw them play at a day party at the French Legation Museum, where their layered, pastoral chamber pop opened up perfectly on that sunny afternoon. They were one of the few Next Big Sound artists I actually heard discussed by other people down in Austin (for anyone else who hit SXSW, you see any of these bands? If so, thoughts?).
The other name getting a buzz was GZA--but more for the buzz he seemed to have while performing. The rapper reportedly had a spotter to help keep him vertical, and texted during the show. Not sure if that's the way you want to make news at a music festival, but hey, it's something to break through the chatter, right?