I held off on writing a SXSW post because everybody else is. Â Who wants to be a sheep, right? Â When March rolls around, every musician and music industry hack starts frothing at the mouth. Â SXSW is a big ol’ schmoozefest accompanied by bbq. Â All things considered, it’s right up my professional alley. Â I’ve attended SXSW a bunch of times in the past as a rep from whatever company I was working for.
Last year though, I arrived in Austin as the founder of my own company (D.I.-Why), and man oh man … I spent a TON of cash. Â I got to talk to some cool people, learned from the panels/panelists, and soaked up some Texas. Â But was it actually worth it? Â That’s the million dollar question.
I’m willing to bet, if you took a poll of the “industry professionals” attending SXSW, a strong majority of them aren’t paying to be there. Â Their employers are footing the bill and it’s probably a big chunk of the annual marketing budget. Â I used to have this “if you’re serious about being a part of the industry, then you’re at SXSW” mentality beat into me. Â I wanted to be the guy who was at the showcase where the band got signed right when they stepped off the stage. Â I wanted to be at the panel where the challenges of the industry were all magically solved. Â And I wanted to bump into some megastar who was checking things out all incognito.
None of those things happened. Â SXSW has gotten too big to be functional and vital anymore. Â If anything, it’s a non-stop 96 hours of beer, bbq, and bullshitting where everyone is waving their dicks around to show how amazingly important they think they are. Â When it’s all over, and you get back to your office, it’s pretty damn hard to justifiably monetize the event. Â Last year, I walked awayÂ exhilaratedÂ and exhausted, but the “big biz” didn’t happen. Â I also don’t remember what it was that I learned in any of the panels, and I’m fairly confident that SXSW didn’t turn D.I.-Why into some monster company tearing a new one in the musical landscape.
Coming into March this year, my company is taking on new and better clients — with bigger budgets, bigger successes, and exciting challenges. Â There’s too much work to do, and I simply can’t spare the time to head to Tejas. Â What’s interesting though, is as I watch the industry charge headlong into the SXSW ritual, is I’m looking for the critical success. Â I want to see the measurable return on their SXSW investment.
SXSW is a fantastic experience when you’re not paying for it. Â If you’re on your own dime, I’m willing to bet you think differently.