As anyone who’s been to SXSW over the last decade will tell you, the expansive Austin music/interactive/film is, to say the least, chaotic. With thousands of overlapping parties, shows, events, panels, keynotes, films and more around the clock, keeping track of it all and making sure you’re on the list is nearly impossible. Enter Kaitlyn Reed, who three years ago created a RSVPSX, a SXSW RSVP business that increases your odds of getting into the plethora of official and unofficial happenings. Billboard.biz caught up with Kaitlyn a few days before the start of Southby to learn more about her business and party strategies.
Tell me about yourself
I’m 25, I graduated last May and have just been travelling since then. I started RSVPSX three years ago -- this is my third year – and this will be my fifth Southby.
How did your business start?
Have you heard of Austinsched.org? It’s a schedule of everything going on during SXSW my boyfriend runs. So we would both just go down the list and RSVP to everything and it just kind of popped into my head that a lot of people don’t really have time to do this.
So it’s a family business
Without him I couldn't do this. On my website, I give the http://austin2013.sched.org/ link and it says if you have time you are completely welcome to go down the entire list. I’m focusing on business-type people who want to visit all of Southby but don’t have the time to do it themselves.
How long does it take you to RSVP to a thousand parties for one person?
It takes a long time. I can do – once I get in the groove of things – a couple of people in one day.
And how many parties are there this year?
I think they’re up to a thousand unofficial parties already. When I first started three years ago there were probably only 400 unofficial parties; last year I think there were 600; and this year they are over 1,000.
What’s the ratio of unofficial parties to official like?
There’s so many more unofficial to official parties and there’s new unofficial parties added everyday. The official SXSW site doesn’t list unofficial parties.
So how did you turn this into a business?
Three years ago I didn’t have a website or anything, I just emailed everyone I knew and said “hey if you’re busy…” Everyone waits until the last minute and nobody really thinks about Southby and thinks, ‘oh it’s two weeks away.’ So I emailed everybody and it was pretty successful and everybody was pretty happy. I made a little website two years ago and just emailed it to everybody I did the year before and they passed it along.
What’s your clientele like?
It’s definitely not for the college kids, it’s more for the business people, that’s the majority of people who I RSVP for. I have quite a few Austin people that I know becuase I used to live here. A lot are out-of-towners -- New York; and a lot of people from overseas and continue to come back. Like last year I RSVP’d the entire Soundcloud team from Germany – 15-20 people -- they brought a lot of people over. I’ve done people from Foursquare, Tumblr, media executives and they pass it along to people in their companies.
What do you offer for the $99 you charge?
When I RSVP, I send you your entire schedule. They can look at it via mobile Internet, they can print it out, they can link their Facebook and Twitter and send it out to all their friends. This year sched is doing a mobile app so they’ll have all that access on their phone and it also connects with your iCal feed.
What about not getting in to something you’ve RSVP’d for?
It depends if you have a SXSW badge or a wristband – they definitely get priority. But since I RSVP to so many parties, there’s always something else you can go to.
Has your business grown?
I get more and more people every year. Last year I probably got 60 people. I think I'm over that now -- but I get a lot of people last minute. And there’s parties added every single day and I make sure everyone’s continuously updated. A lot of the main parties haven’t even been announced yet. Hype Machine only put their party out yesterday Vice hasn’t put theirs out yet.
How do you deal with going to all these parties yourself?
I have the parties I like going to. I like to RSVP to the random little parties and then there’s the go-to parties I go to every night. My last party is always the Hype Machine party at the Hype Hotel, but it changes.
Any advice for people coming down who want to try to get into these parties?
Besides signing up for my service, is pick your battles. Do you want to stand in line for an hour to get into something or do you want to walk down the street and get into a bar right away? A lot of the parties are pretty much the same. If you’re looking for free booze and music, that’s in every bar. Some of the best sets and parties I’ve seen have been because I randomly stumbled across them. My rule is if I have to stand in line for more than ten minutes – unless it’s a band I really, really want to see -- it’s just go on to the next.