[Editor’s Note: Back in January we ran an op-ed by a veteran convention vendor called “Whatever Happened to Comic con” and it was one of the Beat’s most shared posts ever. Now Bryan@miniworld is back with some further thoughts on what may be a softening of the whole pop culture events space.]
Please note that anything on this page is personal opinion, and anyone is free to disagree based upon personal observation, or thought. This is basically a bunch of thoughts thrown together from being on the road for a few weeks, and basic observations of the last year or so.
A few months back I made a post called “whatever happened to comic-con”. Many people shared this post, and many agreed. Some promoters went as far as taking credit for being the “only real comic con” but only one was correct in my thoughts. I will leave that to the individual whom I spoke to regarding it. I was very proud that the promoter in question knew I was speaking of them.
Over the past 12 months I have been witnessing troubling times in our industry. Some people choose to ignore it, some think it’s a passing thing. Many vendors have taken note and decided to take measures until the industry fixes itself again. This will take time, and may never be the same.
With the incredible amount of comic and fan expo’ and conventions a time has come where the general dollar is becoming shorter at these events. It costs money to run these events, so the promoters have to charge customers to cover costs. Some conventions costs MILLIONS of dollars to run. That being said, after the common customer enters the building after paying for a ticket, parking, hotel (sometimes), and autographs and photos from their favorite guests, there may or may not be much money left for spending at artists or vendors tables.
With decreased spending, less and less vendors can afford to vend these conventions. Sometimes, a convention has to use “alternate” vendors to fill space because of this, or, because of basic table space not being sold (more on this soon). This is where sponsors or other forms of vendors appear. This may be an insurance company, or local roofing company.
The normal customers see these booth fills as “junk” or “xxx company is in trouble because they cannot sell space”. The only issue is promoters have been using this go to for as long as conventions existed. It’s just in the past year or 2 promoters have had an issue filling booths due to economic changes AND convention size overexpansion.
“The house that funko built”
Now, please leave your attacks out at this point, this is an important factor. When a trend hits (beanie babies, cabbage patch kids, etc.), a market increases and if there is a crossover to that said market, then we have an explosion.
Over the last 36 months or so, Funko dominated conventions and sales. It seemed that almost every booth at conventions was full or near full of funko products. Dealers were happy sales were great, and the industry was flooded with new vendors. As time went on, conventions expanded booth space to include these vendors, along with the normal pace of new and old vendors that normally apply for conventions.
As time went on, many of the new vendors that were “funko only” started to disappear. I’m not sure if it was a tapering off of the market as a whole, because I know of some major vendors whom still do very well with classic and new funko product.
This happens with many fads and trends, people burn out on the product, (pet rocks anyone?), and you fall to a common core of happy collectors. Unfortunately, many conventions planned expansion of floor space based upon a prior year’s booth sales. With some vendors choosing to stop selling at conventions (be it comic, toy, what have be, not just “fad dealers”), floor space has to be filled.
While the industry is in a state of “flux” with customers asking “where are all the comic books at”, we have to ask ourselves, what happened?
“Super Mega Wizardy things”
At this time, there are more conventions and fan expos than ever. Oversaturation is at an all-time high, and some vendors in the industry are pointing out the system is broken.
With many corporations buying up conventions and expanding the range of conventions that are available, and the incredible amount of “huge” conventions held once a year, and of course your mid-level (15k or less) super conventions, along with the normal set of conventions, the saturation point has gotten so high that vendors and artists alike are seeing smaller and smaller profits due to many fans trying to go to many events as possible.
“Fan dollars only go so far”
Not every fan has disposable income, and, they have to pick and choose where and when to spend the money they have saved up. The bigger issue is …. Where are the comics at comic con?
I only see about 5 or so regular comic vendors at the “non-mega” conventions, and they have good shows and bad shows just like normal vendors of toys, cards, etc. Could the factor that the term “comic con” has become so generic that its almost just a bland tag used to say “we may have a comic or 2 if you look close enough”?
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”
Many convention fans remember how great things were 1 year or 2 years ago. Some even remember a time when a certain convention chain dominated the circuit. Now, every show has to top its prior year or that company is the worst on the planet.
The industry goes thru ups and downs. Earlier this year I predicted that industry was starting to implode on itself. Is it happening? Maybe. I had someone tell me today that a renaissance is coming to the industry, and I believe it. Unfortunately, we have to survive 2017 first.
A few years back (a little foggy on how many) the industry dipped very hard. I witnessed some things that many would not believe. Vendors physically fighting at conventions, empty aisles at conventions that were normally busy, and many other things. Money changes people. When dollars come short, some of us forget the family we make. I just hope this time around people will take a breath and wait for the worst to be over.
2018 will be an interesting year.
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.