Thank you very, very much for the invite. But here’s why I won’t be attending your SXSW party.
(1) Very little gets done at SXSW parties, except for partying.
I like to party and be merry, with my friends. In a business context, parties are extremely ineffective for (a) getting information about the industry, (b) structuring any sort of business relationship, or even (c) networking effectively.
In fact, SXSW parties are extremely ineffective places for accomplishing anything business-related.
(2) People are extremely distracted at SXSW parties, and conversations are frequently interrupted.
Great, fruitful discussions are focused and build upon ideas. They reach conclusions and offer next steps. But SXSW parties are crammed with people that often know one another, and frequently interrupt each other. Throw in lots of noise, appetizers and inevitable group conversations, and you are suddenly getting zero done.
(3) Please don’t tell me I should relax and enjoy SXSW. If you don’t agree with the above, you are not operating in the music business.
You are attending parties, and pretending that you are somehow assisting your business goals. That is a fantasy.
(4) SXSW is very expensive.
Even if you live in Austin, then you are still paying a lot for a badge and even more with your time. And if you’re traveling from anywhere outside the immediate area, you are paying disproportionately large amounts for flights, hotels, and food. Which means you should only attend SXSW if (a) you are making more money than you spend (ROI), or (b) you just want to soak it all in and have a great time.
(b) is fun, but please don’t confuse (b) with business.
(5) Parties are often geared towards consumers, not people in the music business.
Being aware of who’s around and making an impact at SXSW is a good idea. But thinking that hanging out at the Spotify House (or whatever it’s called) is adding anything substantive to your business is seriously misguided. You are just hanging out at a party (see #1).
(6) Getting drunk is bad for business.
In South Korea, getting drunk is part of the business culture and will help you close deals. In the US, it will probably not further your goals; and more likely, it will harm them. You will not remember details of conversations, and you probably won’t remember who the f*&k you were talking to, anyway.
(7) Parties are usually crammed with people that will waste your time.
You have email. You have LinkedIn. You have a thousand other tools to directly connect with people. Use those to target people and decision-makers you actually want to talk to. Many of them are at SXSW, but are basically useless to you in a crowded party environment.
(8) Parties are extremely time-consuming.
SXSW is not business-friendly: it takes a really long time to walk through the crowded streets to find a party. One you are there, you will have to weave your way into the event and try to find the people you want to talk to. Parties are typically very noisy, so it is difficult to work through a conversation (see #2).
Repeat a few times, and your entire day is consumed.
(9) One-on-one or small group conversations in a relatively quiet environment are 1,000 times more effective than any SXSW party.
I’m not just writing about this, I’m practicing this. At SXSW, I will be conducting meetings in environments that are relatively free of distractions and encourage more focused discussion. I’ve picked companies that I feel are important to meet with and can help me, like CD Baby, A2IM, StageIt, Jaybird Communications, Cashmere Agency, Cap That, and SongLily, just to name a few.