San Diego Music Thing: Promoting Local Music and Raising Money for Schools

For four years, the San Diego Music Thing has been bringing South by Southwest to California (the festival was once named “North by North park” — and SXSW promptly complained).
The festival — which boasts over 156 acts and 74 speakers — spans over two days, starting today, and is located in the heart of San Diego. Participants¬† walk from one music venue to the next in order to catch music acts and speakers. Exene Cervenka of X, pictured above, will be performing tonight.

“We didn't want to just plan a music festival,” Kevin Hellman, the President of the San
Diego Music Foundation, said.

The process of planning a “thing” in metropolitan San
Diego has been a tiring one for Hellman, who began work (with the help of his six person
team) on this year's festival the day after last year's wrapped.

“The hardest part is that we're not just trying to promote this in San Diego,” Hellman, who has been with the fest since its inception and has been involved with the San Diego Music Foundation for 20 years, said. “We're been promoting it everywhere from
the Mexican border to Santa Barbara.”

The work pays off — the money Hellman raises with the music festival and the San Diego Music Foundation gives back to the local community.
“The Music Foundation was put together to raise money as a non-profit for music in schools,”¬† Hellman said. “It's something we're pretty proud of — we've been able to keep music in these schools.”

And every year, according to Hellman, the festival has grown and improved.
“The first year we didn't do any shows at night, the second year it was just a one-day, the third year we went to a three day, which was too much,” Hellman said. “I think it is where it needs to be. It's really an education process.”
Hellman estimates that anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 people go to the shows every night and 700 to 1000 people attend the panels — himself included.¬†
“If you know who Michael Robertson is — he founded — for me that's the most exciting,” Hellman said, “Because he's challenging people to for the past five or ten years to take techology and add it to the music industry.”

Tickets for the San Diego Music Thing are $50 and can be purchased at

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