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How furry conventions fail (or please) their vendors – Critical discussion.


patch

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TELEGRAMSTICKER-Crazdude-LOGO-150x150.pnCrazdude looks like one of those multi-talented artists that are one of the secret weapons of furry subculture – bright and devoted people with a buffet of skills like making art, writing, or performing all at once.  For the blog she started in 2016, I got a professional impression from a first glance. (I look out for blogs that seem to vibe with Dogpatch, so I liked finding this.)

The Crazblog bears out a good impression by sharing her selection as Guest of Honor at Fur-Xoticon. It lets you in on a personal detail:“As just a first-year newbie to the Artist Alley and Dealer’s Den experience at furry conventions, this came as quite an exciting surprise!”  Highlighting the newbie disclosure and small/local con size isn’t too critical, if you take it for granted that Furry is full of DIY power – it’s just good to keep in mind while reading the below post with an open mind. It mentions 3 years of experience at other cons.

Here is my breakdown of some of the aspects of vending at a furry con AA/DD that do more harm than good (+ possible solutions!) PLUS a bonus section of things that make vendors & artists happy! 💓

It's a slog of a read so bring coffee. Feel free to RT!https://t.co/khnquy97XX

— draw softly and carry a big blog (@Crazdude) November 13, 2017

Crazdude’s post – “Top 5 ways conventions let their vendors down (+ Cons doing things that artists love!)” – led me to a point/counterpoint peer discussion that I wanted to share in response. I considered breaking down salient points for a formal article, but I liked the natural flow of a casual chat here. The chat is between me (plus a few stray watcher comments) and ScalieStaffer (name redacted to keep opinions apart from their position). They’re a fur with 8 years of con staffing experience in multiple departments, with roles both minor and major.

This is unfiltered chat (lazy spelling and all), so please be tolerant about critical opinion, which would be expressed with diplomatic respect if written up formally. Hopefully Craz finds her writing dignified by all the attention here.

ScalieStaffer:

Man, I support artists and vendors, but I REALLY hate this post.

Patch:

What do you hate about it? Are you reading stuff between the lines from experience I don’t have? I was a dealer just a couple of times, was too much effort for money i could have made in a much shorter time staying home and I’d rather enjoy the con.

Lay some knowledge on me 🙂

ScalieStaffer:

So the whole article is skewed towards the view that the dealers and artist alley are the centerpiece of a convention.

They are absolutely not.

Conventions cannot cater the entire convention experience around their vendors/artists

in fact, the cost of having the space for vendors is usually so high, that conventions see it as offering dealers space as a convenience towards attendees, not towards the dealers.

Like, just one fuckup in the cost of the dealers den spaces at most big cons could bankrupt them.

ESPECIALLY AC, that convention center is EXPENSIVE.

Randomfur Reader:

It certainly is.

DealersDenAnthrocon2006GreenReaper.jpg?r

Anthrocon 2006 Dealer’s Den. Photo by GreenReaper.

ScalieStaffer:

Also if conventions were to actually charge table costs to fully cover the space rented with all the other costs involved… no furry would buy a table.

They usually offer space at a loss that will be partially covered by table costs and partially by registrations.

Randomfur Reader:

When I’m elected I promise to introduce the Fursonas for Americans Act, with fully subsidizes furry cons and provides tax incentives to fursuit makers

ScalieStaffer:

haha, i mean its a niche industry in the country now. there is over $1 million worth of fursuits in the world now.

Randomfur Reader:

Provision everyone a Social Security Fursona

Managed by Equifur

Patch:

Haha, not just $1 million of fursuits in the US, over $3 million at AC alone, and that was when i did math on attendance and ballpark prices a few years ago

And yeah fantastic comment about cons subsidizing dealers

So the “dealers are supersponsors” approach deserves a definite counterpoint

However, from the standpoint of “well managed con is good for everyone” I found the article to be really valuable

Particularly stuff like the letter from someone talking about the awful experience of a musician who was stoked to put on a great show, and got burned by the con’s awfulness

ScalieStaffer:

Thing is they are implying that not getting the things they want means a con is poorly managed, when that is hardly the case

Patch:

I dunno, it seems to make a lot of logistical sense to combine dealer applications and hotel room access. It sounds majorly counterproductive to the whole cons purpose to get an expensive dealer room but have roadblocks to access. Like, dealers who wheel stuff back and forth really need close access, their working hours are important too

So opening limited room booking for dealers then doing “release the hounds” sounds spot on to me.  (Nobody who wants a shortcut is going to be a dealer just to get a room.)

ScalieStaffer:

The thing is, there is no shortage of dealers. If those were true roadblocks, cons wouldnt have long waitlists for dealer dropouts

Like I said to a friend, if someone didnt like a con’s dealer policies for whatever reason, they are free to not deal at that con, and there will be someone out of the many waitlisted people jumping at the chance.

Patch:

Yeah, there is no shortage, but that’s quantity instead of quality. Theres something to be said for partially making “community access” but also a lot going for curation. If a mainstay-of-cons, full-time-pro type dealer cant get in, thats pretty counterproductive to what the entire fandom is about (building things from personal commitment)

ScalieStaffer:

The thing is, thats not been a problem so far, there are plenty of ways for dealers to get in the “main hotel” of an event. Most connected dealers have many MANY friends and can find roomspace, not only that there are sites like ConRoomies as well that cater to hooking up people with rooms to those without.

Patch:

Cons do charity and are functionally not-for-profit but are still businesses, its simply poor and inefficient business to have a clusterfuck about room booking out of sync with dealer access.

ScalieStaffer:

If you take part of the room block and reserve it for vendors when there are so many now, on top of the ones being held for staff, there will be very little left over for attendees.

Not to mention the very specific problem to our little group, fursuiters.

So I do agree that rooms should be booked before dealer openings, but they shouldnt have their own block, which is what is suggested.

Patch:

And oh man, that is absolutely what i mean. Having full time pro dealers have to scrape crumbs by looking on ConRoomies? Many of them need a close, fully private room for a very good reason

I also really doubt that the proportion of dealers vs general attendees poses a threat like that about taking all the rooms

Correct me if theres math about number of rooms vs number of dealers

ScalieStaffer:

But Like I said, a convention is under no obligation to even provide space to those full time pro dealers, there are SO MANY people that want in now that literally anyone who can pay the table fee can get in.

Patch:

Of course there’s no obligation, but that doesnt excuse poor logistics… having a better experience for dealers is good for the whole con. People don’t go to buy from “just any” dealers (if the shoe fits, wear it style)

ScalieStaffer:

Yes but I think that the grand majority of con goers arent going to change their convention attendance if a dealer they want to see isnt there.

Patch:

Take a dealer like Lagarto Leather, he seems ubiquitous all over, with a popular product, and i dont know anyone else doing it on his level. Leathercraft takes investment into materials apart from just offering art commissions. What you’re proposing puts any random artist in his place if his application is a gamble influenced by whether room access sucks. I’ve also heard serious complaints from 1980’s “fandom founders” about being left in the dust of others with what they feel is no justification or explanation, making them upset about how the fandom is being diluted with people who dont care about it. Not saying it’s 100% right but its a perspective worth hearing

So no, people may not make decision for attending based on what dealer is there, but quality gets noticed and so does poor selection

ScalieStaffer:

Its a perspective worth hearing sure, but also a convention has to tailor to its attendees as well, and as the majority of major cons skew towards the 18-24 set as their highest demo, having a dealers space that has alot of Jim Groats and such would not work at all.

Patch:

And people who dont travel and love their home cons may really want to see a guy like Lagarto coming to them even if he goes to many

There’s Jim Groats, but hearing the complaint from a Lagarto would get my attention, and I think the article does a good job of spelling it out persuasively. Even with the counter point about subsidized costs taken for granted.

ScalieStaffer:

And I get that, but like I said, there are plenty of people who dont go to the con with the dealer space as their focus. My main complaint is that certain artists like this one think they are the lifeblood of the convention being able to operate, when that is absolutely not true.

Patch:

I thought the article seemed pretty clear about its bias, not like trying to trick anyone into ignoring others interest. I’m a small business guy and do some tight organized events and love hearing about logistics, and would recommend this article for event organizing, although i havent done any on con scale.

I’m interested in resharing this as critical comment, especially about the subsidizing. Interested in picking anything else apart in it?

ScalieStaffer:

I mean I could pick the whole thing apart but I just dont have the time. In all honesty, this would make a great podcast or something. many of these points are easier to make with voice

Patch:

Yup agree.

There you go. Anyone with a podcast could run with that, and for anyone else (especially those who pay a lot of attention to how dealer rooms are run), please leave comments down below! — More feedback of interest:

Juried DD is hard to pull off well. It leads to form letters telling long-time pro artists to "improve your art and try again next year!" Or "you got 0 points." Requires really clueful staff or it generates even more bad feeling than the drag races.

— Jarlidium Press (@jarlidium) November 14, 2017

I like juried DD so there ideally isn’t too much repeat/overlap of a particular thing or art style! I remember one year at Bronycon, I was bored as a shopper because it was licensed merch, custom plushes, and the 2D artists. Not enough variety of products had me spending zilch.

— Irime (@IrimeZane) November 14, 2017

Pulling stock for Anthro NW next weekend. Nice thing about hometown con: I can pack for one day's sales & bring in more as actually needed.

— Jarlidium Press (@jarlidium) November 4, 2017

We had a good time in the @anthronw dealer's room. Faustorian did a great job running it, he was visible, available, and responsive! And thanks to everyone who stopped by our table!

— Jarlidium Press (@jarlidium) November 14, 2017

Like the article? It takes a lot of effort to share these. Please consider supporting Dogpatch Press on Patreon.  You can access exclusive stuff for just $1, or get Con*Tact Caffeine Soap as a reward.  They’re a popular furry business seen in dealer dens. Be an extra-perky patron – or just order direct from Con*Tact.


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