Artist Alley Con Review: Anime Expo 2013- Another case of the good, bad and meh

July 8, 2013 at 6:03 pm Leave a comment

Got back from Anime Expo last night and took today off to reset and do important stuff like writing con reviews, lol!

So how was AX 2013? Well, honestly a bit of a mixed bag for me. Usually, I come home from cons feeling like ‘THAT WAS TEH AWESUM’ and ride on con vibes for at least a week. This time, I feel mostly tired and just ready to move on to the next one. First off, the good part…

My roommate from college lives down in the Los Angeles area so AX is always a time when I get to hang out with her and we just love being goofy and eating too much. This time was no different. At one point, we did cat bearding pictures (new internet meme that I suggest googling if you want/need a good laugh). I haven’t laughed that hard in ages. We both couldn’t breath and had tears streaming down. I also got to meet up with another good friend from the LA area and see her new baby. Plus, it was just nice to get a break from the triple digit heat wave that had socked in Northern California for the previous week. Had to laugh at the radio weather report one day when they were saying ‘It’s gonna be a good day to head to the beach cause it’s gonna be HOT at 80 degrees in the valley’. Uh, 80 degrees sounds like heaven to me when it’s been 114 where I live! Isn’t that sweater weather? Lol!

Really cool Vanellope cosplay at AX. And her car even moved!

Really cool Vanellope cosplay at AX. And her car even moved!

I was able to get away from my table nearly every day to take pictures of cosplayers in the South Hall lobby where most hung out. I’m always blown away by the costumes that some people come up with. And then you realize that a lot of those are hand made and that makes them even more awesome. Usually, I’m working on stock like mad for my table so I rarely get to make a cosplay, but I really would like to do some super complicated one just to see what I can do. Usually, I’m just wearing lolita at my table 🙂

I was seated next to two artist friends in the AA which was great. Your neighbors can really make or break an AA experience. I didn’t get to talk to one of them as much as we seemed to be busy at opposite times, but did get to talk to the one on my right side. As I get more AA’s under my belt, it’s always fun to catch up with artists I only see online. I also got to talk to this one artist I follow on dA. He was super nice and it was just fun ‘talking shop’ and also flattering to find out that he was already following me on dA!

Ok, and now the meh part….

AX is the largest anime con in North America. I had a certain sales goal that I was hoping to reach and based on previous sales from Fanime, I thought I would reach and possibly surpass that goal. Instead, I made LESS than Fanime. This is rather disappointing as AX has probably a few thousand more attendees than Fanime. More people should mean more sales, right? In addition, Fanime this year was an organizational fail whale (see my Fanime review) for 2013. Due to construction at the San Jose Convention Center, they put the artist alley out in the Tent of Doom called South Hall and despite assurances that they would widely promote the location change, there was minimal signage and barely a mention in the program book. It took some con goers like two days just to find us or even realize there was an AA. And yet, I sold more there than at AX.

I think part of it is due to the size of AX. I think it’s gotten to the point of visual overload. The AA is in the back of the already huge dealers hall. Getting through the dealers area is like being on a Los Angeles freeway in the peak of commute hour with a car wreck on the side. I could barely move there and it was just not fun to go through. My friend and I largely avoided it other than when I had to navigate it to get to the lobby. Any shopping we did there we kept to the early hours before it got super crazy. So by the time you’ve worked your way through the dealers, you’re feeling already overwhelmed and the AA at AX is also huge and by then, you’re kinda walking around with a glazed look and not really taking things in.

Fanime’s AA is also very large at 300ish artists, but we are always in a separate room dedicated specifically to the AA. I think that this can help with the sense of sensory overload. You can do the crazy dealers room which is always a circus, take a break and then go to the AA room when you’re ready. In smaller cons, it helps with driving in traffic when the AA is tacked on to the dealers, but in larger cons like AX, I think it ends up hurting sales more than helping. As I stated above, getting through the dealers to the AA alone is exhausting and then you really have no energy to fully take in what the artists are offering. I also didn’t quite understand why the aisles near the front of the AA were so narrow, but then wider at the back. There have been suggestions of scaling down the AA and while I know that this will make getting a table harder, I think that could help. A lot of people seemed to be just passing through to say that they did the AA, but weren’t REALLY looking.

I heard reports of rude con staff. While I didn’t experience that personally, I did find the ones I interacted with largely misinformed or rather clueless. When I went down to register for 2014’s AA table, I had to ask three people before I found an answer. And on the last day we had a staffer come by and tell my neighbor that artists needed to pack up at 2 cause dealers needed the space for their clean up at 3. They then told her to pass the word down the line. This I found rather rude and annoying. First of all, we signed a contract stating that we had a space to sell at until 3. That last hour is often when people start doing their impulse buys so leaving an hour early could cut into sales. Secondly, something that was that different from what was expected shouldn’t be relying on a game of telephone to get the message to everyone. They should have told each of us. Get more staff if you need to spread the word. Relying on the rumor mill is just unprofessional and a great way to ensure mass miscommunication. Finally, she had to go to the AA kiosk to find out if this was even true which it wasn’t, though they still wanted us semi-packed up and out of there within half an hour of the hall closing. What if she hadn’t been able to get away from her table to confirm if this was true? How many artists took this at face value and packed up early? Staff need to get their facts straight before telling paying customers (cause that is what we are) about some deviation in the printed schedule.

And maybe I’m still tired, but it really made me feel a bit angry cause it kind of gave the message of ‘you’re just the artists, we need this space for the more important people who pay more money to be here’. Thank you for making us feel like second rate people! Yes, I can’t afford the crazy prices for a dealers spot, but that doesn’t mean I work any less than they do. I probably work harder since my stuff is assembled by me and I’m a one woman show here. If I’ve paid for my spot with the understanding that I have that spot for the stated hours, unless there is a legitimate reason for me to leave early, I have every right to be there for the full, expected time. I really didn’t appreciate being told that and in the way we were told either and judging from their reactions, I think my fellow artists near me felt the same way.

So all in all, I rate AX 2013 with a ‘meh’ rating. Maybe my expectations were too high. I was super excited to go to this one and in the end, was just kinda ready to be done and move on. Both AX and Fanime are on a probation status with me now. I will be going to both next year and will see if there have been changes in a positive direction, addressing the complaints that many are posting on the cons’ pages and Facebook walls and then decide if these are worth attending in the future or if it’s time to start looking for greener pastures. So far, SakuraCon takes the 2013 cake for the best organized, friendliest large anime con. If anyone who works for SakuraCon is reading this, pat yourself on the back, you totally out did both Fanime and AX in my book and I can’t wait to go back to your con.

I have a few more cons in store for 2013 before I take a break and focus on promoting my shops for holiday sales. Upcoming cons are Kintoki Con, Japan Expo USA, SacAnime and Anime Weekend Atlanta. If you want to see where I’m off to next, you can follow my Facebook page or keep tabs on my website.

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