Saturday, April 25, 2015

Evillecon 2015: Artist Alley Review

 Sorry about the delay. I wanted to give myself plenty of time before writing this review, because my weekend was very disappointing for my sales and some other small problems.

This was my third year attending Evillecon, my first year without my BFF. The first two years I attended I had a blast. Sales were great, people were great. Due to some complications, Evillecon’s original venue closed and they scrambled to find a new place. We got emails notifying us of the change. Also it was a coooold weekend. It started snowing after I arrived in Friday.

Evillecon is in Evansville, IN, a stone’s throw away from St. Louis. The drive is straight through on a single highway for me. The venue was in the city grid, downtown Evansville. It wasn’t hard to find, and definitely not hard to circle around when I missed the loading docks (twice). However, there’s not much nearby. It’s all downtown businesses and industrial office buildings.

I also noticed a buttload of law enforcement in the area. A sheriff’s deputy was stationed inside the convention area all weekend but you could turn a corner outside without a city cop cruising past. 

Not related to the convnention, Evansville had a famous potato place called Spuds and Stuff. After a little tricky driving through downtown, we found this little corner diner with a little light glowing against the dark street. Most amazing find ever. This place served baked potatoes in the most heavenly combinations with magical things on top, like buffalo chicken, gyro styled, steak and cheese, ugh. So. Delicious. We went back twice and I wish I had gone back for one to go on Sunday. -_-

Life gave me lemons. Literally.
The Old National Events Plaza is a two (three?) block long convention center. The convention was held on the far end away from the parking lot, which meant a small hike back and forth to the car. While this normally wouldn’t be an issue, I ended up having to run back and forth twice to grab things I missed with just minutes before they opened the doors. Thank goodness I’m in decent shape.

The loading dock reserved for us was tucked away in the back corner, and was so small I missed it twice because you can’t see it driving East-West.

Once inside the dock, I had another ten minutes of confusion because our load-in info stated we needed to use a service elevator to go up the second floor. The elevator was supposed to be immediately on the right. So my luck, I look right and I only see a hallway. I walked up and down for ten minutes before realizing that both the front and rear doors to the elevator were open, and I was walking right through it over and over. Doh! After I figured it out, the AA was easy to find.

Artist Space
Plenty of space between our tables.
This year, artists and vendors were combined in a locked room together. Years past, artists were in the lobby and dealers were in a small, suffocating room. I remember dealers never did well because of it. We arrived and the room was set up so that dealers lined the walls and artists were set up as islands in the middle. We were given 8’ tables that had tablecloths with the consistency of trash bags so a tablecloth was definitely a must.
There was also a PA system in the room to announce open and close times, and updated information about the convention.

There were more dealers with ginormo displays than before, but fewer artists. I was pretty neat to see all the swords, plushies, posters, and typical anime gear. I knew a lot of the artists from prior years, although there were plenty of new faces. Evillecon is great because it’s a smaller show but the sales always did well well artists, new and old.

Sales & Attendees
So here’s the meat of the article. I’ve always done astounding at this convention but this year that was not the case. In fact, I made less than half this year what I’ve done previous years.

When the doors opened on Friday, a flood of people poured into the room. Almost all of them went straight to the dealers while most artists were ignored. We, collectively, got a trickle of traffic and some slow sales. Most of the day was very slow for artists with the same few people walking around to just kill time. I went hours without a sale and only one or two people that even stopped to look. As the evening rolled on, it didn’t improve. I mostly made small sales, $1-2 at a time. A lot of people were already talking about not having enough money by Friday night. I looked around at the other artists and I’m going to say everyone looked bored, and a few tables were still empty.

Boooooored :)
Saturday morning, the doors opened 30 minutes earlier for VIP badge holders. I believe this was their first year doing VIP status. Either way, it didn’t do much. That first thirty minutes was mostly staff and other vendors walking around chatting. The rest of the crowd that came in went straight to the dealers again. I did have a problem with a lot of people taking photos of my art. They’d tell me they didn’t have any money and then just photograph my entire display until I asked them to stop. All Saturday was slow for artists while dealers were crowded. The room was also unbelievably cold. As the afternoon continued, the room emptied out a lot and the traffic died down. By late afternoon, I had considered just packing up and leaving for the weekend. My sales were nonexistent and I listened to many artists around me say it was much worse than last year for them as well. By closing time on Saturday, dealers had bare tables, sold out of certain items, and one or two even packed up and left because they were out of merchandise. I will note that about half my Saturday sales were to staff/volunteers.

On Sunday, traffic was mostly other vendors and people who had come through multiple times already. I went out in the hall to take a peak and it was really empty, with a few dozen people in line for autographs and another dozen or so hanging out in the hall. At noon, the artist/dealer room just because a hangout space, with people sitting and standing in groups in the aisles.

I asked around to see how other artists fared. Most people told me they didn’t do as well as they’d expected or hoped, one or two did ok. When pressed for a more honest answer for me review, three artists told me they barely broke even despite prior successful years.
I was next to MUSETAP and across from a dealer again like at KawaKon, which also surprisingly tanked for me. I think that particular setup is just poor placement. They were busy as heck and definitely drowned out the rest of the print artists. I also had a problem with a line of people waiting to buy/look that blocked half my table most of the weekend. Funny enough, my first ten minutes on Saturday I sold 8 prints without breaking a sweat, then MUSETAP finally showed up and I maybe sold another 4 the rest of the day. I made sure to give Wil plenty of crap about being next to him killing my sales the next time I saw him.

Staff & Volunteers
I love the Evillecon staff. They are amazing people, thoughtful, professional, and they care about the artists. They would make rounds every few hours to check on us and I know a lot of them from previous years. All good folks.

Final Verdict
Whatever changes the convention made to their vendors situation, it had been extremely positive for the dealers. I’ve always heard them complain about poors sales, but this year they were booming. Unfortunately, this came at the cost of the artist alley. I’ve always considered Evillecon one of my “staple” shows because it was so much fun and it was one of my highest profit conventions despite having less than 1k attendance. After this year, I’m afraid I won’t be making that trip again, at least not for a while. I didn’t make enough to justify going again, whether it was because of the changes or just some fluke. I do know that many artists are iffy about coming again because of this year. Maybe when my life doesn’t depend on the money I make from this, I’ll go back for fun.

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