Why I Probably Won’t Be Attending Your SXSW Party…

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.

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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.

Try it.

10 Responses

  1. Matt


    I couldn’t agree more. I even LIVE here in Austin about 4 blocks from 6th and Lamar. Last night I sat here thinking, “shouldn’t I be at some SXSW event?”. And then I realized I’d rather actually be getting some work done at home or hanging out with my family for the evening.

    After going to enough of these events you sort of realize, they can be good for randomly meeting new people and the general excitement of the event. Unless you have specific goals to acheive you’ll probably just end up losing valuable time you could actually be producing for your business instead of standing around hearing other people talking about what the next big idea they’re starting up.

    • Visitor

      for at least the past three years now I attend panels by day, have business meetings when I can and catch up on work at night.
      if there’s a show or party I MUST be at for businesses purposes I’ll juggle my schedule, but mostly, SXSW is now Spring Break in Texas and good for them.

      It’s no small feat to combine an industry credibile event bringing people together (panels, business) and a balls out 10 day party for anyone willing to suffer it…

  2. Jim Clement

    I invite you to check out 35Denton. This 4 day festival started at SXSW as a showcase for Denton Tx bands. It has turned into a home grow 4 day walkable festival in downton Denton. Many aspiring and under the radar national and international acts as well as local bands .This may well be what SXSW was and the SXSW many people long for shorter wait lines , house shows galore and the chance to discover something really new and really good. Denton is due north of Austin up 35 on the north edge of the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex. 100,000 people. Two universities, including some of the best music, art and environmental schools in the country.

  3. Bullethead

    Niedermeyer was killed by his own troops in Vietnam. Blutarski went on to become a United States Senator. Make sure keeping the nose to the grindstone at SXSW does not prevent a greater greatness.

      • Bullethead

        When I was making less than $20K per year managing bands and living in Manhattan (in the living of a 1 bedroom) I still found a way to make it to SXSW. Most of the time good things come of it and it always reminds me of the good reasons I am in the music biz.

        • Dry Roasted

          In your mind “making 20K in a Manhattan apt” is poverty when in reality it is life in a rich industrialized society with many benefits.

  4. Ghost of Rick Ross

    Pretty imteresting points here.
    How many companies are actually making money?
    HOw many startups are actually going to make it?
    answer: ~0
    So where are the winners?

  5. Visitor

    I probably won’t more completely agree with anything posted on DMN this year. Amen, PR.