So I write about conventions usually from the middle of the aisle.
I vend at shows, and I have run shows, and I have attended them. I have seen things from more than one angle. I started out though going to shows and while I don’t go to many anymore – lack of money and a preference to vend – I still consider myself a consumer of shows and it drives me crazy when conventions cannot get the basics right.
It’s about the customer.
Again – it’s about the CUSTOMER.
Yes, guests will have demands, often high ones, as will vendors, but it’s the customers that you have to keep in mind as you put together and run these shows. Guests are either at the show for free or on your dime, and while they make their demands, they also are officially part of the show. Vendors can be whiny. Super whiny. Hey, we’re there for a day or three days and we have needs to. Most of them though just want space for their stuff, some structure, and access to some sort of free food. They expect you to promote your show, to manage it, and to act professionally because that’s what they’re paying you the vending fee for, but mostly vendors want to know they are being heard and being given a chance to make some money.
Fans though, fans have a million demands, most of them ridiculous, but you still have to listen. Fans see things only through their eyes. They want what they want and screw everything else. They want, as I have said many times before, low prices, big guests, and no lines. They want what they want, how they want it, and when they want it. Basically, they are fans, and fans are not worried about big picture so much as the microcosm of what they love. And that’s fine. Fans drive you nuts, but they are also the reason we have a booming (er, busting?) con scene? Fans, when driven, have resurrected television shows, have gotten movies made, and have had a whole world of marketing and entertainment created for them because they are so invested into their passions. You get to be myopic if you have a wallet in your hand.
Fans, for conventions, are the customers, and they need to be heard. They shouldn’t always be listened to, but they need to be heard. And respected. Fans want what they want because they want to celebrate their loves. They want to mingle with their idols and inspirations. And they want to meet one another. And they want a place to do all of that. A safe place that respects them and treats them not as coin purses but as people. The easiest way to do that is to listen to them the same way you listen to the vendors. They want to be heard. They want to feel as if their wishes are being heard. Sure, not everything is possible, but if you listen, if you respond, and if you treat them with respect you’ll find out that they are suddenly fans of yours as well.
One of the things that drives me craziest about shows though is how lazy they are when it comes to communication. The simplest questions can be left hanging on the vine or worse, can be answered with snark or indifference. I am your customer – treat me that way. Treat me as someone that you want to please. It’s not hard. I recently messaged an upcoming convention to get their hours so my wife and I would I would know when to take her little brother to it. What I got back was an indifferent message that they were open Friday from X time to Sunday at X time and that they had a schedule in Google docs and then a link to that. While I am not dumb, treat me as if I may be and explain it to me – oh, hey, thanks for your interest, we’re open from X to X on Sunday. We look forward to seeing all of you. BOOM. Short, Sweet. Polite. Answers the darn question.
Yes, fans are a pain, but they are also what keeps you in business.
But they are not always right.
Fans can lose sight of the pretty amazing time we live in where we have these shows. They can forget that while they are needed, each person doesn’t speak for everyone else. Fans get lost in their list of imaginary demands and forget that this show isn’t just for them but for other fans as well. These shows are for the hardcore and the casual alike and the more people get caught up in the ‘you’re not a real fan’ nonsense the more needless arguing and division there’ll be.
When I was a kid I never knew that there were places where people got together to share their weirdness. I could never have imagined that we’d live in an era where there would be so much variety in not just the fandoms but in the shows that cater to them. We get so caught up in our demands, as fans and as showrunners, that we miss out on the fact that fandom is not a fringe thing any longer. It’s in the mainstream and it’s taken seriously. We have flooded the market, and screwed up the economy of things and we’re seeing the troubles with getting exactly what you wanted.
We have become greedy, again, as showrunners and as fans, and we’re risking it all.
We let greed for money and things ruin the simple fun of getting together with like minded people to share our mutual passions. We are chasing celebrities at the cost of the economics of the shows, which are becoming more and more expensive and pricing out fans and families. We are letting our demands on the shows weigh them down so that the market for smaller shows is collapsing as they try to compete with the mega-shows. We are so caught up in photo ops and autographs and merch that we forget the talented artists that populate these shows. You know, the people whose original art we ignore as we look for their take on a popular nerd property. We forget that once upon a time comics and their artists were the people that inspired us. We wanted bigger, bigger, bigger and that’s what we have gotten – bigger guests, bigger venues, bigger rules, and bigger prices.
This is the world we wanted.
This is what we have.
We can either work together to make these shows about the fans again, and about fandom, or we can keep making them about celebrities and money. Maybe that’s what we want in the end. I hope not because fandom is about a lot more than that, and so are conventions.