GOOD

Are You On the List? SXSW's Party Economy

One woman's quest to get you and everyone else into all of South by Southwest's best parties.


Jennifer Sinski takes parties seriously.

“I had always been the one to RSVP all my friends to all the events,” Sinski says. “This is about spreadsheets. I like going out and I’m down to go anywhere, and I’ll go to four or five different parties, [but] I kind of want to know what’s going on.”


Lucky for Sinski, she lives in Austin, where the annual South by Southwest conferences bring 20,000 people (and $167 million in 2011) to town for the purpose of having a good time. Thanks to the force multiplying power of the internet, hard work, and a little luck, Sinski launched a pop-up enterprise to take part in the SXSW economy.

Sinski, who freelances for the cool-hunting newsletter Thrillist, was telling an editor about her efforts to get friends into all the festival’s free parties—the myriad drinks, meetups and "secret" shows that surround the official schedule of panels and concerts and for many people make up the heart of the "Southby" experience—when she realized she had a business opportunity on her hands.

Last year, 150 people paid her $30 a pop to get them on the list at all the best parties. Her business, RSVPster, was born. This year, she added a partner, developer Miles Dahmann, to beef up the services’ website. So far, 1,400 people have asked Sinski and her associates to get them on the list for SXSW parties. If you want to join them, you’ll have to sign up before March 1 for the company to make good on its promise to get you on all the right lists.

Still, 1,400 people signing up for everything sort of calls into question the whole concept the of RSVP—répondez s'il vous plait, the proper hosts’ plea for information about who’s coming to his party. It’s clear that many of the people throwing parties at SXSW aren’t worried about too many people overwhelming their intimate events. A line around the block—and all the hopeful partiers’ e-mail addresses—are reward enough.

Except when people are planning an intimate event.

“We have some event planners who are very unhappy, those are the ones who are going smaller, interactive events, geared toward a specific subset,” Sinski says. “There’s a party, Drupal coders meetup, they don’t want 1,000 people on their invite list who aren’t interested in going to an event.”

That creates a dilemma for Sinski, since she can’t exactly ask her customers to start narrowing down their preferences: They’re paying her to get them on the list for everything. Fortunately, most event planners e-mail the people on their RSVP lists for confirmation they plan to attend, and besides, Sinski says, ‘secret’ shows or events that really want to curate their audiences probably shouldn’t post their announcements without any targeting—it’s on them to make sure that attendees meet their standards.

RSVPster isn’t compensated by event planners for driving attendance (and attendee data) to their parties, but attendees must agree to have their contact information distributed.

Sinski characterizes her service as a way to weed through the Southby experience, giving users the ability to find and attend different events on the fly; it’s also good for those who attend the festival without full passes (such as the folks sent to work the festival who still want to capture some of the nightlife). Sinski, who’s attended SXSW for the last six years, advises out-of-towners to get off the beaten path and check out the non-headline events, and suggests that locals get into the spirit of the festival, whether for fun, profit or both.

“I think Austinites get really jaded about Southby and people are upset that it’s taking over the town, but the reality is it’s a huge opportunity economically and socially for the city and we should all be happy that we can live in a city that can foster that,” Sinski says.

RSVPster might not be the most likely candidate to scale into a full-fledged company, and Sinski’s not sure what that would look like—maybe “some sort of concierge to events”—but she does want to up her company’s game next year with a mobile app and better relationships with event planners.

“To be honest with you, I have a day job that I don’t really like,” Sinski says. “For me, this project can be ‘how can I get better employment, can I start a business?’ I’m 24, I live in Austin, I hang out with my friends and go to shows. Southby allowed me to start a business, one that’s doing really well.”

Photo via (cc) Flickr user IFC-the-Internet

Articles
Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

Christopher Columbus, Alexander Hamilton, William Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Scott are getting company. Statues of the famous men are scattered across Central Park in New York City, along with 19 others. But they'll finally be joined by a few women.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth are the subjects of a new statue that will be on display along The Mall, a walkway that runs through the park from 66th to 72nd street. It will be dedicated in August of next year, which is fittingly the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Currently, just 3% of statues in New York City are dedicated to women. Out of 150 statues of historical figures across the city, only five statues are of historical women, including Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman.

Keep Reading Show less
promo-homepage

It's easy to become calloused to everyday headlines with messages like, "the world is ending" and "everything is going extinct." They're so prevalent, in fact, that the severity of these statements has completely diminished to the point that no one pays them any attention. This environmental negativity (coined "eco-phobia") has led us to believe that all hope is lost for wildlife. But luckily, that isn't the case.

Historically, we have waited until something is near the complete point of collapse, then fought and clawed to bring the species numbers back up. But oftentimes we wait so long that it's too late. Creatures vanish from the Earth altogether. They go extinct. And even though I don't think for a single second that we should downplay the severity of extinction, if we can flip this on its head and show that every once in a while a species we have given up on is actually still out there, hanging on by a thread against all odds, that is a story that deserves to be told. A tragic story of loss becomes one about an animal that deserves a shot at preservation and a message of hope the world deserves to hear.

As a wildlife biologist and tracker who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of animals I believe have been wrongfully deemed extinct, I spend most of my time in super remote corners of the Earth, hoping to find some shred of evidence that these incredible creatures are still out there. And to be frank, I'm pretty damn good at it!

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics