Affiliate Summit West 2016. The Breakdown

I just got home from one of the biggest geek gatherings of the year.

Affiliate Summit West is an annual online marketing conference that goes down each year in Las Vegas, NV. I’ve been going off and on since 2008 and it’s always a decent time.

This year I skipped most of the show and went to a concert, hosted a meetup and had super secret private talks with some of my industry friends that live in other parts of the world instead.

Here’s what happened.

Day 1 / Saturday Jan 9th, 2016

One of the main reasons I go to Affiliate Summit West is because it’s a short flight. It only takes about an hour to fly to Las Vegas from LA.

I used some SPG points to fly first class and was seated beside some 60 year old stuffy guy with a really bad attitude. You could SMELL the negativity coming off of this guy. I figured he was a network or product owner with a few million dollars in the bank who enjoys ordering people around and making people feel horrible.

When the flight landed I let him walk several 100-yards in front of me – I couldn’t stand being near him and wanted his bad vibes as far away from me as possible.

Sometimes you get lucky and sit next to amazing people on airplanes… other times you get guys like that.

Cosmopolitan Hotel

The check in lines at the Cosmopolitan Hotel were huge. There were 8–10 employees checking us in and they were all moving in slow motion. After 20 minutes in line I was able to get a room key.

cosmo-lobby

Lobby of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Las Vegas, NV

The Cosmo is over the top. The kind of place you love and hate at the same time. On one hand, it makes you feel fancy, on the other hand it makes you feel like an idiot. Because you know they build these places off the backs of poor suckers like you and I who lose money in the casinos.

But I digress.

The room was great. I went with a smaller suite that had a bathroom, living room, kitchen area and bedroom all in one big open space. “I could live here” I thought and I started planning my move to Las Vegas later this year. (that will never happen)

cosmo-room

Cool little suite at the Cosmo Hotel

That evening I had plans to go to dinner and a concert. Dinner came first.

Blue Ribbon Sushi / Cosmopolitan Hotel

I met a friend at Blue Ribbon Sushi for some medium rare steak and raw fish. We don’t see each other very often so it was nice to catch up.

It’s cool to see how each of us has grown over the years and how our business models have adapted to the ever-changing business of online marketing.

I was starving – so I dived into plates of steak, salmon sashimi, octopus salad and sushi hand rolls. On the way out we laughed at how big the bill was – we weren’t even drinking and were still charged several hundred dollars for two meals.

It so ridiculous what some people get away with in the world. Not that the food wasn’t great – it’s just stupid that we pay so much for things inside hotels.

They know you’re trapped inside and don’t want to leave, so they skewer you with higher than acceptable prices. Kinda like the movie theater. It’s criminal. Let’s start a revolutio… oh wait… back to the story.

MUSE / Mandalay Bay Events Center

After dinner it was time to head to Mandalay Bay to see MUSE in concert. If you don’t know who MUSE is you should look them up. Definitely one of my favorite rock bands of all time.

Every member of the band is ultra-talented and the singer Matt Bellamy is possibly the best singer, guitarist AND pianist in rock music today… I’m almost sure he’s from another planet.

This was my first time at the Mandalay Bay Events Center and I was pleasantly surprised. The venue was big, but small enough that there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. MUSE had built a circular stage that had two runways that led to platforms on either side of the stage.

A HUGE light/laser rig with gigantic screens hung over the stage. There were also these strange white Orb things in cages near the ceiling… we knew some crazy shit was going to go down.

Phantogram opened the show, which was cool for me. One night, in my apartment I heard some music. I thought it sounded like Jane’s Addiction (high voice, lots of delay) so I went out walking trying to find the show.

phantogram

Phantogram live at the Mandalay Bay Events Center

I ended up walking a few miles the Hollywood Forever cemetery where I finally found the band, but it wasn’t Jane’s Addiction, it was Phantogram. The show was sold out so I couldn’t get into the cemetery to watch, but I looked them up online and have been a semi-fan ever since.

When MUSE’s show started… it felt like aliens had landed. A pre-recorded track of hundreds of layers of Matt Bellamy’s voice harmonies played while the white orbs we’d spotted early flew out of their cages and hovered around room emitting light and shooting lasers.

It was creepy and cool as hell.

The band appeared and the music started and we were in for a 2–3 hour set of some of the best music and visuals I’ve ever seen in my life.

The sound was so loud, it sounded like the room was going to break in half, in a good way. They killed every song – I don’t remember hearing a single mistake or bad note from Matt’s voice. They destroyed the place.

One of the freakiest parts was when two giant Overlord’s heads appeared on the screens. Their hands appeared next with giant puppeteer strings and the Overlord’s controlled the band members like puppets. It was amazing, and creepy as hell.

muse-hands

MUSE being controlled by the Overlords

The concert was amazing and definitely the highlight of the weekend for me. I’m so glad we snuck that in before Nerd-Fest started.

The show ended around midnight and I was exhausted… so I headed back to the room to get some sleep at around 1am.

Day 2 / Sunday Jan 10th, 2016

I woke up at 6:00am Sunday morning in my hotel room, feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. I went to sleep around 1am the night before (I normally crash around 9–10pm) but my brain still woke up at 5:30–6:00am and I was screwed.

It was worth it” I thought. I stayed up late to have my mind opened and blow by an extraordinarily amazing and inspiring rock concert the night before.

Compare that to all the morons that stayed up until 8am drinking and doing coke… my time was pretty well spent.

I needed to brush away the cobwebs in my mind with some coffee, but after checking the kitchen I realized that these assholes at the Cosmo didn’t provide any sort of free coffee.

I’ve stayed in some really shitty hotels in my life and almost all of them stock the room with a little pot of coffee and a couple packages of free coffee grounds for the morning.

But not the Cosmo. Of course they don’t have coffee in the rooms at the F#cking Cosmo.

I called room service, ordered a 4-cup pot of coffee for $21.13. Over $20 for a pot of coffee? I had to laugh – so that I didn’t get pissed and start throwing things off the balcony in disgust.

Whatever…” I said to myself “If I owned the hotel and had people trapped like this, I’d do the exact same thing…

Twenty minutes later I had coffee and with the first sip (valued at approximately $0.97) the cobwebs lifted and I was ready to start my day.

Old School Friend

I got a text from one of my oldest friends in the business. You may have heard me mention him here before.

He’s the guy I met at in the kitchen of a mansion at Affiliate Summit West 2009 – and he gave me a drunken tip that night that I put into action before bed. By the time I woke up, his tip had made me enough money to pay for the entire Vegas trip.

We’ve been friends and colleagues ever since.

We talked and laughed about old times, talked about how much the industry has changed and brainstormed some ideas on how we can work together more. I swear we all made WAY more money back when we were all sharing info. When you have a group and you share information, magical things happen.

We met up with my friend I went to the concert with from the night before and had some food. This time we hit a little cafe at a hotel for steak and eggs. This time we paid $28 for two meals… it’s amazing how much money you can save by simply leaving the Cosmopolitan for lunch.

The Parties

That evening we got together to hit up some of the industry parties. StackThatMoney and Affplaybook were both going on at the same time and the guys from Limelight had a party later too.

We went to theStackThatMoney party first, but the line was incredibly long and after standing around for 10 mins we decided to ditch it and go to the Affplaybook party. Luckily they were both in the same hotel.

The Affplaybook party was great. They had a really nice suite with ridiculous views, lots of people from their forum, an open bar and some EPIC cookies laid out on a table.

David, from Affplaybook had mentioned the cookies to me before and he was right. Whoever made those damn chocolate cookies with the soft center is a damn magician. I couldn’t stop eating them.

We hung out for an hour or so and then headed out to try the STM party again.. or so I thought. The group I was with walked to an exit, hailed an Uber and we ended going to the Limelight party instead.

I was kinda bummed because I wanted to at least pop in to the STM party, but at that point in the night I was already getting tired, and the group wanted to go to Limelight, so we did.

Limelight Party

The Limelight party was solid. I forget where it was at but it was nice. I ran into some people I know on the balcony and we talked for 10 minutes then I went inside.

The party was full of advertisers and merchant/billing people. I didn’t know anyone and I got stuck in probably the most boring conversation with the most boring guy in the room for 20 minutes before I finally gave up, excused myself and left.

Buffet Destruction

While I was walking out of the hotel I found a buffet. I had only eaten one meal all day so I walked in and decided I was going to go nuts.

  • First I had a plate of chicken breast and salad (being good).
  • Next I had meatballs and pizza (ok not so good)
  • Then I hit the dessert booth for 2 plates of cookies and ice cream (off the rails)

After the huge meal I was done. I wandered around for a while trying to find an exit, hailed an Uber and headed back to the Cosmo where I took off my clothes, got in bed and was asleep in 30 seconds.

Day 3 / Monday Jan 11th, 2016

By Monday, it was day three and I was pretty much done with the Conference.

It was Monday, which is deadlift day for me and I don’t skip the gym when I’m traveling. So I searched out the Cosmo gym to see what they had to work with.

cosmo-gym

I was pleasantly surprised. They had all the normal cardio equipment plus plenty of machines and free weights. Dumbells up to 50 lbs and some curl bars that went up to 115.

I crushed a pretty good 45-minute workout and headed back to the room for a bath and some quiet time to replenish my energy for my Meetup that was going down at 5pm.

And by “replenish my energy” I mean “eat, work and then fall asleep just before my Meetup started”.

MADSOCIETY MEETUP / Vespar Bar / Cosmo Hotel

Oh Shit!” I thought, as my eyes opened from a little nap. It was 5:05pm and my Meetup was already underway. I jumped out of bed, brushed my teeth and headed down to the Vespar bar for the MADSOCIETY / Blog Meetup to see all of you guys.

MADSOCIETY is my premium members forum. http://malandarras.com/forum

To be honest – I wasn’t going to hold a meetup or anything but the guys/gals that read my site and are in my forum demanded that it happened… so I made it happen.

It was great. There were way more people there than I was expecting. We did a small get-together last year with about 20 people tops. This time there were somewhere between 60–100 people in and out throughout the evening.

One of the funniest moments was when Jason from A4D showed up with a big back of the red A4D sunglasses I wear in some of my Periscope videos.

He showed up with 50 pairs and gave them away to anyone that wanted them. Several people took photos wearing them and it was hilarious.

jason-glasses

Jason from A4D giving out free sunglasses

The best part was getting to meet a lot of you guys that read the site and hang out in my forum. We talk almost every day online and it’s great to be able to match your faces with your screen names.

meetup5

Me and Vlad (aka rainmakr in MadSociety)

meetup4

Me and @noxyFlex who’s helping MadSociety members get in shape.

malan-charles

Charles Ngo checking in.

meetup3

Reid, Me, Matjaz and Ralfs

meetup2

meetup1

Stan, Ken, Me and Dan

Live Periscope at the Meetup

It was nice meeting all of you! And if you missed it, don’t worry we’ll do another one soon. And if you want to join MADSOCIETY, sign up here.

I ended up hanging out at the Vespar bar for 3.5 hours. By the time it was over I was exhausted and went back up to the room to eat and recharge my battery.

Then one of the best moments of the whole Conference happened.

Cigars and Gummy Bears

I was walking around looking for a place to buy something to drink and I ran into MADSOCIETY member @noxyFlex. He was walking through the Cosmo casino when I spotted him and waved hello.

I walked up to him and he was smoking a giant cigar and had what looked like a small trashcash under his arm that was filled with Gummy Bears.

I swear to God there must have been a pound of Gummy Bears in that container. He was just walking around, blowing cigar smoke everywhere and eating GUMMY BEARS. It was so classic… one of the funnier parts of the entire trip.

So thanks for that one @noxyFlex.

After laughing my ass off with Noxy for a bit I found something to eat and called it a night.

For me, Affiliate Summit West 2016 was officially over.

The next morning I caught a quick flight back to LA.

Conclusion

Overall the conference was a great time. If you’re an affiliate marketer and have never been to a conference before – you NEED to hit a few soon. It’s totally worth the time and money investment and could be the thing that changes the game for you.

There is nothing more important than forming real-world relationships with other people in the industry. It’s the most profitable thing you can do.

If you were there and you made it to the MADSOCIETY Meetup – thank you! It was really cool to put so many faces with screen names like that.

See you in the forum… I mean future.

  • Rory Coyle

    Thanks for doing the Society meetup! This was the best conference for me yet. Really good chatting with you. #SYITF

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      good to see ya man

  • Simon Tung

    Thanks for the meetup as well! For me going to these types of meetups/conferences gets me more inspired to kill it in AM.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      you’re welcome brotha!

  • Stan Oleynik

    Malan, the name of the gentleman between you and I is Ken 🙂

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      thanks man! updated

      • Stan Oleynik

        No worries bro!

  • http://www.reidmoto.com Reid Yamamoto

    It was great seeing you again and hanging out with other affiliates who were there. Thank you for doing the meetup and enduring our endless photo opp requests.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      great to see you too Reid, thanks for coming

  • Josh

    Hey Malan, Josh Quint here. I came up to you at the Affplaybook party. We talked for just a second, but it was cool to meet you in person. I remember saying I liked your apartment or something like that? Oh yeah I was wearing a blue sweater with a light up zipper. Just wanted to say hey dude. That was a blast look forward to next year for sure.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      yeah i remember you Josh, how could I forget a guy with a light-up zipper? good times.

  • lukepeerfly

    Listening to some Muse as I read this. Sounds like an awesome concert. Going to check out the forum too. I’ll make sure to come to your meetup at ASE.

  • Boyd

    Nice biceps :). How much do you lift nowadays ?

  • Willy Enrione

    Thanks for the diary, looked up Muse on iTunes. Awesome stuff!

  • Vlad Molchanov

    Thanks for organizing the meetup!

  • Ken L

    Great writeup Malan. Looks like everyone had an amazing time.
    MAD society is going from strength to strength!

  • Drew T

    Hey Malan! Flew back to LA next to you, reached out on FB. Looking to connect in LA for a coffee sometime soon