It’s not a burnout thing. It’s not a ‘SXSW jumped the shark’ thing. But it is a productivity thing. Because I want my publication to be bigger than it was when I arrived, and I’m spending a lot of money to attend.
So if SXSW is just a giant party, then I’ll dip into that party when I need a break. Otherwise, I’ll drop into a few parties and showcases to get a feel for things, and check out some artists I just can’t miss. Beyond that, I’m gonna be writing articles, coordinating direct meetings, meeting (and thanking) readers, working with the companies I work with, speaking on panels, and getting stuff done. Remember: we don’t cover parties, because our readers don’t care about that.
Sorry if that doesn’t fit the culture of SXSW or the music business, but then again, that culture is half the reason the music industry is in the state it’s in.
Because this isn’t the late 90s or early 2000s anymore; things have changed. And most companies and executives are either (a) battling severe disruptive forces, (b) struggling to reach profitability, (c) navigating against a 99.9 percent startup failure rate, (d) contending with weak job security, and/or (e) contending with an unstable economy with cliff-like risks ahead.
I’m not getting drunk and downing BBQ all week in that environment. I’ve got s*%t to do.
There’s another problem: SXSW is now so oversaturated, that any one party is now competing with about 14 other parties at the same time. So it’s physically impossible to attend more than a modest fraction of them all. That’s great for SXSW, but is it good for your artist or startup?
And here’s where this starts to get really strange. I’m starting to meet more and more executives who now hate attending SXSW, which is so strangely sad and ironic. Sad because at one point in these executives’ lives, this was the biggest thrill imaginable – and actually, it is that way for most casual attendees (you know, the ones that are on break or vacation). But for those that have businesses, bosses, strategic objectives, or stuff they need to get done back at the office, SXSW quickly becomes a nightmare.
Lou Plaia, ReverbNation: “Is SXSW Really Worth It?“
Would you want to finish a term paper at a frat party with lots of bands playing? No: you might go the party for a bit, leave, then get the paper done.
Which brings me back to the endless list of parties. It’s not that I don’t bump into great people at events, including many readers who’ve been with us for years. That’s a thrill. And sometimes I find out some really interesting stuff. But typically, nothing gets done in a party environment, and everything gets done in one-on-one, separate meetings. Which is why if I see someone at a party that I need to talk to, I get their card and coordinate something for later (before I’m out the door). Even if it’s over Skype the next week.