Hey fellow nerds!
We are excitedly gearing up for another fantastic year of Con+Alt+Delete at the Hyatt Regency O'hare in Rosemont.
But as we prepare, I came across another anime convention in my news feed. A little startup anime event that was supposed to take place in Chicago.
The reason it came across my feed? Because it was cancelled, and people were sharing the news.
The convention was going to be November 10-12, and it was cancelled today, November 10th. Yes, the day the convention was scheduled to start.
As I said in my last email about Youmacon, you might think that I would celebrate seeing failures from other conventions. But I don't.
Why? Because anime conventions failing is a worrying trend to me! Could this kind of thing spell bad news for our future conventions? Is it an indicator of some major outlaying problem that nobody has yet to address? Is there something else going on?
In my last email, I placed the likely blame of Youmacon's failure with the venue - based only on my best guesses and observations. My complaint with venues is that their management/ownership companies have reached the limit of what borrowed and financed capital can do, and with rising interest rates they're forced to focus solely on maximizing revenue - raising the cost of everything, whether its a soda in the hotel vending machine or simply parking in the parking lot, everything is getting more expensive.
Largely, I think, things at these convention venues are getting more expensive because large capital companies - investment firms based on Wallstreet - have for years played a game of "spend spend spend, borrow borrow borrow" - a game which made their investments look more and more valuable on paper, but in the end created an unsustainable debt burden on these properties.
Does that have anything to do with why this convention got cancelled?
I have no idea. My company, AnimeCon.org, organizes 7 conventions a year and had nothing to do with this event, but it still worries me when things like this happen to anime conventions.
Because, when I started, it felt like you could run an anime convention with two shoes in quicksand. Eager Soras and Kairis (Kingdom Hearts) would line up to volunteer for countless grueling hours, paying for their own hotel room and badge at the same time. I should know, I was one of them! It was fun to be part of the action.
Now, getting convention staff is harder than ever. Fewer people apply every year - for every convention, not just ours.
If I were to hazard a guess why, I would say its probably because of their jobs and the economy. If you're going to save up and spend $200 on a weekend of anime fun, it's getting harder and harder to justify spending your time volunteering and staffing. There's just too much to miss out on, or work won't give you enough time to come on Thursday to help out.
I'm fortunate we have a core group of dedicated staff - and my plans to build robot automations to make convention organizing easier are chugging along. If it weren't for these things, we too would really be struggling.
Conventions also used to be cheaper to run. Any old Holiday Inn or Westin or other 3rd-rate hotel with meeting space would love to host a convention, and it only cost a few thousand dollars. Compared to today, where all the convention hotels are now owned by only one of three major brands, Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt, there is not as much choice and prices have skyrocketed.
So anime conventions used to be much easier to run before, I think.
I want to answer: What should attendees do? Should you be concerned?
I don't know exactly what happend with this convention that just got cancelled in Chicago. I hope anyone who bought a ticket in advance gets refunded. But I would be concerned for anyone buying tickets to first-time events now. Things aren't as easy as they used to be.
My best advice is to stick with conventions you have experienced yourself. Conventions can vary WIDELY in what they offer and what you can experience.
Buying a ticket in advance for Con Alt Delete, for example, will save you as much as $25 per person compared to the at-door price. We also have a generous refund policy, where you can get a refund for either a $5 fee, or no fee at all if you get a credit for future events.
But even we've seen people hesitate more to pre-register than before. While our final numbers have tended to be the same, we're seeing more at-door attendees, as people can't risk buying a ticket in advance in case their job won't give them the days off.
Stuff like this has made planning tricky. No longer do we have gobs of cash in advance to pay everything well in advance, we often ourselves have to wait longer and longer.
Still, again, I hate to brag about our luck. But we've paid our taxes every year, and reported our profits to the IRS every year. This kind of thing is important when you go to a bank to get loans. So even if attendees are registering later and we have to wait longer to get money flowing, we can handle it, because we've built up decades of credit with banks, lenders, and our venues. Not every other event will be so lucky or coordinated.
Sometimes it feels like I could have done more to market our events. I've spent maybe 2000 hours on accounting, finance, and making sure our books and things are accurate. Imagine if I had just put that time into marketing, and let properly paying taxes and doing our books fall to the wayside. Maybe we would have had more people for a while, but then maybe the same kind of negative things would be happening to us too.
I suppose now my advice if you're going to plan a convention: stay organized, have backup plans, and prepare for everything to be more expensive than before.
Can't wait to see you at our next con!
CEO of AnimeCon.org