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Examining why pop culture events need an overhaul.

Featured image photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez

A common and trending controversy is conventions and expos being tainted with toxic personalities and bad business practices. Some shows never had a shot of getting off the ground due to poor planning and inexperience. Local creators and talent being shut out from shows in their area. Building up attendance for smaller shows continues become more difficult. Quite frankly, it has become tiresome and harmful to creators and entrepreneurs trying to gain exposure from these events. It’s time to look for solutions.

Taming The Monsters

Big comic cons in particular are bloated with guests and exhibitors but no real direction anymore. Despite comic cons getting bigger and bigger, comic books as a medium are struggling, and they are particularly struggling at big comic cons. There are a lot of fandoms colliding at these massive events. You can find any sort of fandom you please, but with less focus, it’s less likely exhibitors and artists are going to find their audience. Especially when monsters like San Diego sell out in minutes.

I think it’s time to break these things up and have smaller shows with more format and focus. I think Blizzard is actually correct in doing Blizzcon to focus on their products for fans. Same for Gen Con, a show which has exploded in the table top gaming world. HBO could do the same thing. There’s plenty of money to go around, however this way you would be doing right by those working the floor.

These shows hold a lot of power and sway over the industry and they are long overdue for more thoughtful curation. Whether it is guests or artists, there needs to be more consideration into who they empower with the spotlight. Vetting guests and artists is not a big ask, especially when you consider what these shows bring in. Stop letting unlicensed fan art and crafts invade artist alley. Vet your panels, who are these people? What are they about? Yes, this will require man hours and money and the big shows have it, there’s no excuse.

Following The Money

Lately communities have been calling out conventions being run by toxic personas. As long as an adherence to facts is kept at the forefront of this movement, I am all for it. I think this is a necessary part of weeding out problematic people and behavior from the scene. Similar to Hollywood, there has been several blind spots left unchecked. My biggest request as we move forward with this process is to be OBJECTIVE and honest. Present PROOF and consider your actions. Does everyone who is working on an event or attending it require the knowledge you are presenting? Is it required that said event suffer due to this information? If you’re feeling torn, consider opinions outside your own bubble before speaking.

Event organizers and backers are going to have to acknowledge that these communities care who runs these shows. It would be wise for those pulling the purse strings to adapt to this idea sooner rather than later.

Swarm Of Mini Cons

I am very excited that mini conventions have become so popular. However, my concern is we have a flooded market and lots of inexperienced hands in the pot. The result is a lot of wasted effort and resentment. I think most people who want to put on a convention have their hearts in the right place. Libraries in particular have made strides to have local talent come and help promote reading and the world of comic books with mini cons. These shows for the most part have great direction and curation. However calendars are filling up and there are so many conventions, fatigue is setting in and attendance is becoming harder to cultivate.

A few questions I think people should consider before deciding to put on a con. One, do you have all the business savvy that you need for this kind of endeavor? Conventions, even small ones, require serious budget planning, manpower and logistics. Is this the right time? Consider people’s budgets and if there are events happening that are comparable to yours. A big question is, what is your show offering that others aren’t? I feel like this question in particular is key to avoiding convention fatigue for your perspective attendees. I also think there are a lot of smaller shows that should consider merging with other operations. This way you get more hands working on the event while freeing up calendar dates at the same time.

As the view on conventions is beginning to shift, I’m looking forward to seeing new innovations take place. I feel like conventions have slipped into a stagnate formula. I think there will always be value in bringing fans together on a big scale, I just think there’s more creative ways to do it.