NEW YORK--I hereby insist that we all stop using the "Recession? What recession?" line, which seems to be used every time any company has thrown any moderately lavish party in the last two months. Not only is it overused, but I think folks have caught onto the fact that things have legitimately changed.
Here in New York, the last blowout launch party in the city was for T-Mobile's Android phone in October. Company holiday parties have been scaled back like mad, leaving fewer opportunities for that great New York sport known as party-crashing. But socialization hasn't stopped; it's just changed its tune.
There were a few events of note this week. Note the trend: no more open bars!
On Monday night, a relatively new nonprofit called Goods for Good held its annual benefit (read: everyone paid to get in) at a new downtown venue called the City Winery. (It is, in fact, Manhattan's only winery.) Goods for Good's mission is to gather unwanted corporate supplies en masse, from pens and notebooks to conference swag, and donate it to schools in developing countries.
It wasn't a tech event, per se, but there's a reason I'm including it here: The organizers said that they're not really on Silicon Valley's radar, but would like to be. At the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco earlier this year, we saw the emergence of SchwagginWagon, which encouraged conference attendees to donate the free stuff they got on the show floor and then didn't want. Goods for Good's angle is a little different, since they are interested in bulk supplies that would otherwise be thrown away and that could actually be put to use in a classroom. Check 'em out if you're interested.
Blip.tv, a video-sharing platform that pulled in another round of financing just in time, threw its holiday party at a low-key downtown bar on Wednesday night. There was no open bar; company executives were surreptitiously handing out drink tokens instead. Within a couple of hours, the place was pretty much a mosh pit--even when the free drinks ran out.
Prankster-slash-boulevardier Richard Blakeley, by day the video editor at Gawker Media, decided earlier this month to call off his series of monthly "Media Meshing" mixers. There's never been anything lavish about Media Meshing; it's a cash-bar event at a relatively divey bar called Sweet and Vicious. But Blakeley's rationale was that it's a bit gauche to be throwing a series of media parties while people continue to lose their jobs. Gawker itself has gone through rolling layoffs this season, sparing Blakeley but axing many of his cohorts.
So Thursday night was the final Media Meshing, at least for a while. There are persistent rumors that someone else with less recession sensitivity will take the reins. Or not. But in either case, the economic reality has clearly hit the after-hours scene.
"I haven't had a drink all night," one of Blakeley's Gawker colleagues told me, shaking his head. Knowing that such behavior was uncharacteristic, I asked him why. His reply was, "Because nobody's offered to buy me one yet."