Ironically, as the size and expense of dotcom parties continue to escalate, big Hollywood galas celebrating movie premieres or new music releases appear to be on the decline. Adam Rymer, a strategic planning executive for Universal Music Group, says promoters started opting out of big parties because they didn't prove to be the most effective way to get press for entertainment acts. Rymer, who used to work for the digital music site Webnoize, believes this is also true for dotcom parties, but he says these events serve another purpose.
"I don't think the [dotcom] parties are all that effective at generating a buzz, but it seems they are something you have to do," Rymer explains. "Somebody's going to have the party, and it's either going to be you, or it's going to be your competitor. For every dotcom, there are five other ones competing for the same space. Odds are, the one that is spending the most money for the party is going to win out."
The company that throws the party may influence the market space, Rymer adds. "People connect [the market] with you."
James Marciano, 33-year-old founder of TheSquare.com Inc., a networking site for Ivy Leaguers and alumni from other top schools, agrees that big parties are critical to getting a Web business noticed. However, he disagrees that a company needs to spend big money to throw one. TheSquare attracted more than 1,300 people to its recent relaunch party at a New York City night club. Guests included industry executives, marketing professionals, members of the press and investors, as well as site staff and members. The event, which Marciano claims was one of the largest Internet parties ever held in New York City, only cost about $5,000. His big secret: a cash bar.
"When people spend hundreds of thousands on a party, we just think it's a waste of money," says Marciano. "You can achieve the same effect without spending that much and by having people pay for their own drinks."
The dotcom buzz around Marciano's party started as early as the invitation process, which took on a viral nature itself. "My marketing director put out three or four e-mails to some of her friends from her old job at an Internet industry trade group," he recalls. "Right after we announced it, she called me and said, 'James, we have 350 people signed up today.' By the next day, we had 850 people, and we hadn't even invited our members yet."