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2007 Artists Alley Report

Wow! Artists Alley sort of exploded this year. We paid out around $32,000 to 150 artists over the course of three days, up from last year's approximately $20,000.

Sign-ups were a bit...exciting. First, some context: We have had 80 seats available in Artists Alley since 2005. That was also the first year that we implemented a lottery system. In 2005, we had 66, 66, and 51 artists sign up on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively. In 2006, we had 76, 85, and 65 artists sign up; when we drew names for the lottery that Saturday, because of some artists not being present all but two artists got seats.

Going into Anthrocon 2007, I knew that several artists who had been in the Alley in years past had moved over to the Dealers Room. I figured our numbers might even drop a bit. The spreadsheet I used to randomize the artists' names and determine who would be on the waiting list held up to 100 names. I figured this wouldn't be a problem.

On Friday morning, 114 artists signed up for Artists Alley. My spreadsheet broke completely, leaving me to come up with a fair and equitable system to assign seats with literally four minutes' notice. It was a bit of a hash, I'm afraid, but we muddled through. I apologize profusely to any artists who may have felt confused or unhappy following Friday's sign-ups, and all I can say is that as a programmer I'm a pretty good chemical engineer. Unfortunately, the delays meant that some artists didn't get down to the Alley until after Hall C had opened to the public.

On Friday night I revised my spreadsheet and I was better prepared on Saturday. Surely, though, fewer artists would sign up and the previous day was a fluke. On Saturday, 113 artists signed up for Artists Alley. At least seat assignment went faster, though! Sunday was much easier, and only 71 artists signed up, though as the day went on we were able to fill the Alley with artists requesting tables after signups.

The message board for communications between artists and customers got even more use this year than last, but we did still have to tell a number of customers that we had no way to contact an artist who wasn't sitting in the Alley. I was extremely dissatisfied with this and I don't think it meets the standards of customer service that we owe our attendees. I'm not sure how we're going to improve on this next year, but I have some ideas. Any ideas that anyone else might have are more than welcome as well!

As for other improvement for 2008: the Artists Alley clearly needs to expand, so we're looking at increasing the size by around 50%, up to 120 seats. This could drastically complicate payout under the current system, so we're going to look into what improvements can be made there as well.

Do you have any suggestions for next year's Artists Alley or Con Store? Let me know! You can leave a comment here, or drop an e-mail to alley.2007@anthrocon.org. You can also leave a comment on the Survey as well; I'm sure it will find its way to me.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 10th, 2007 06:21 pm (UTC)
Whew boy. Regardless, ya'll always do a fantastic job! It's a job I don't envy, as I can imagine it being stressful (as this year apparently turned out to be!)

I got to say I miss doing the alley (I was one of those that shifted for the first time to the Dealer's Den from the Alley) and personally was shocked when friends, those who had been stable in the Alley in the past ,were bumped.

I guess it's a double edge sword. Ya. It was bad that so many got bumped and others were frustrated they were on waiting, but on the positive side, this means the artistic pool is growing and incorporating new talent; which is always a wonderful welcome!


With this said, I'm unsure if this could help or hinder the process since I'm now moved from Alley to Dealer's Den, but one suggestion to help maybe keep people organized is a message board of sorts kept in the Alley, listing ALL artists that Participate all days...

With an ability to then put 'In Alley', 'In Queue' 'Not Here' -- maybe in attempts to help a commissioner to better help figure out if their commissioned artist is there... Maybe if they are in waiting, there's a place in the Alley to then leave a message for the commissioner and artist.

It would be a bit more work, and could be elaborate in the rough sketches of the idea, but it could help artists keep track of their commissioners and visa versa.


Anyway! I'm so excited to hear how well the Alley did. $32,000 is such an impressive figure, and it's awesome that all the Alley Artists were able to share in such a record year.

Congrats to both Staff, Artists, and the commissioners that made it possible :)

- Mel
Jul. 12th, 2007 12:13 am (UTC)
Hmm. I'm trying to think how to devise a message board that could hold 150 artists' names and still leave room for messages (and since we're talking about increasing the size of the Alley, it'll be even more). It's definitely something we'll give some thought to, though. Thanks!
Jul. 10th, 2007 08:51 pm (UTC)

i wasn't in your Alley this year, but several friends were. and after hearing their angst i'm glad i had a permanent table.

people who spent the last of their money just getting to the con and finding they couldn't sell was devastating ;_; i agree that more space is drastically needed!

what i would suggest is being more firm with the body in a chair policy. on friday afternoon i saw several abandoned tables and i knew i had friends who desperately needed to get in there. who was supposed to inform them? those tables were just sitting there empty!

and what about artists who accepted commissions friday and couldn't get a table saturday, leading to bewildered and pissed off customers? the board is a good idea, but i think it needs to be more universally known and more prominent.

now, get some sleep, i'm sure you need it ;)
Jul. 12th, 2007 12:19 am (UTC)
Thanks, I feel so much better after a couple of night's sleep :-)

One of the problems that I had this year was that we were running a bit short-staffed. I didn't get out into the Alley anywhere near as often as I would have liked, and supervising who is in what seats and what seats are available is a big part of that. I know that we need to emphasize that no one should be in a seat unless they have a receipt book, likewise no one should be behind the tables at all if they don't have a receipt book.

We definitely need to emphasize the message board more (large, 20-foot signs, I'm thinking :-)
Jul. 11th, 2007 12:37 am (UTC)
I'm another of those artists turned dealers, but I did do my fair share of exploring the alley during the con.

I have to agree that growth and new talent coming in is awesome, and this year I was really pleased with the set up and all.

I think with such growth, AC needs to be a little more picky on who and what is allowed in the alley. Last year I saw a few people who where just sitting and advertising clubs or services. I would really prefer to see people there who are doing art, selling prints or otherwise representing themselves as an artist, not paper pushing for someone else's group.

Something else that might help cut down and frustration with both sellers who don't get tables and buyers losing artists due to that. Maybe instate a small 'pick up area' where no NEW sales would happen, but artist could temporarily sit to allow commissions to find them. Incoporate the lot and found sign into that area as well.

Anyway, great job to all involved, I can't image what it's like to deal with 100+ artists every morning.

Jul. 12th, 2007 12:23 am (UTC)
One of my intentions this coming year is to rewrite the rules to emphasize what the Alley is and is not for; the rules have been edited and re-edited so much over the years that the core information is getting a bit obscured. If anyone sees something like you mention, do please contact someone at the Alley registers immediately and we will address the problem quickly.

The pick-up area is an interesting, and something we'll definitely consider for future years.
Jul. 11th, 2007 12:55 am (UTC)
I agree that the alley needs to expand.

I got in on Friday, which was awesome. And I was happy to make some money, even if all I made covered my registration! It was awesome for my first-time alley experience. Things went smoothly. :D
Jul. 11th, 2007 05:39 pm (UTC)
I recall at the closing ceremonies / feedback panel that Kage was considering a move to the larger Hall B. I think this would be fantastic. I didn't do the alley this year because it was my first con and I just wanted to chill out. What stuck out to me though was how smushed the space seemed to be. Even if it's not necessarily more tables being added, more walking room would be superb. I'm shaped like a stick and even I had trouble getting around to look at people's tables. Plenty of artists were just skipped over by the crowds because so-and-so at the next table was swamped and no one wanted to stick around.
Jul. 12th, 2007 12:28 am (UTC)
Actually, any move to Hall B won't happen for at least a couple of years. The additional expense is considerable and Anthrocon would need to have the attendance to support it. But who knows what the future will hold?
Jul. 11th, 2007 09:06 pm (UTC)
I've only attended AC twice to date, and not many others aside, but I haven't encountered the sign up/randomized drawing elsewhere. Is it more effective than simply going with a "1st come, 1st served" system? Granted, it involves waiting in line for a few hours, but that can filter out those who aren't serious about attending and representing themselves. I couldn't even identify what one person was offering at their table.

I was cut from the start on Friday, along with most of the artists in my "group" looking to attend. Around 3:30-4 I heard that there were empty tables sitting unclaimed. I went to the payout tables, requested a receipt book, and got some business in the last hour. It was better than nothing, but still a little disappointing.

There were also unclaimed (and largely unoccupied) tables on Saturday as well. Enforcing some sort of time limits on 'breaks' may regulate the alley better; hourly scans of who's there and who's not, stamped timesheets, something of the like...
Jul. 11th, 2007 11:35 pm (UTC)
Personally, I think the "raffle" system of assigning tables is a poor idea. I remember when it was first implemented, I didn't even bother trying to get a table then. I didn't want to get up early and prepare myself for arting only to put my name on a list but not have it called. Not worth it.

First come, first served is a fine idea if only the "you're not allowed to be in line before X:00am" rule is enforced. That is to say, someone is in "line" before lineup time, their badge name gets taken and they are not allowed a place in the alley that day. I remember years past when it was first-come-first-served and people would be lined up before the designated time. I was a little frustrated because not only were these people not playing by the rules, but the rules weren't being enforced. I understand that it's probably tough to do, but rules is rules....

The other option, in my opinion, would be to do the same thing FWA does, and have Artist's Alley be open twenty-four hours. Then it would TRULY be first come, first served, in that if you show up and there's a chair open, it's yours. Some of the hardcore art kiddies would be there day and night I'm sure, but if the "body-in-a-chair" rule is enforced there too, people would HAVE to give up their spaces if they wanted to go take a nap, or something. Another thing to help create more space would be to possibly charge an additional $5 a day or something like that for each artist wanting to sit in the alley; this would eliminate the kids that sit in the alley just because there's no other place to be, allowing the more "serious" artists a chance to truly sell their wares.

Just a couple of ideas tossed out....
Jul. 12th, 2007 12:49 am (UTC)
Although we try to be flexible in our approaches and don't discard any viable ideas, I don't see us going back to a first-com, first-serve system any time soon. Even if we said that people couldn't line up before X O'clock, artists would still be in the area, pretty much waiting to dash into the line at the appointed hour; instead of an orderly line, then, you get 100+ people spread over a 100' radius around the sign-up room. Additionally, what this would mean is that in order to guarantee a seat in the Alley, artists would need to be up at 7 AM when the Convention Center opens to grab a spot near the sign-up room; and when that doesn't prove sufficient, they'd need to be up before 7 AM to form a line at the Convention Center doors, and so on, ever-escalating.

Unfortunately a 24-hour Artists Alley is also out of the question. For one thing, we just don't have the staff (Alley and associated Dorsai) to handle such a thing, but more importantly we do not have 24-hour access to the Convention Center.

What we can do is patrol who's in the Alley seats better. We can enforce what can be sold in the Alley better. And we can expand the Artists Alley. We have a good bit of space available to us, even in Hall C, and I hope that this will make things a bit easier for everyone involved.

Thank you very much for your ideas. I hope I didn't seem too negative - I am genuinely interested in all possible ways to improve the Alley, and I appreciate you taking the time to respond.
Jul. 12th, 2007 02:16 am (UTC)
No, you don't seem negative at all. :) It was just frustrating on my end the first year the lottery system was in use; I could no longer get up early and guarantee a spot for myself, thus not being able to guarantee being able to make up the cost of the trip. (As much as I love going to cons, I won't go to them if I don't know reasonably well that I'll be able to make up the cost of at least my hotel room!)

Definitely patrolling Alley seats better would help. Also, perhaps seriously consider the extra charge for seat space in the Alley. MFM does this, and it cuts back on the number of people that are just sitting there because they can. I wasn't at AC this year so I can't speak specifically for that con, but as Chaos said, he couldn't identify what one person was even selling... I know that at some cons there will be kids interested in drawing, and possibly doing art for someone else if they can, but they're not counting on making money. Those people belong in the Zoo, or a similar "hang out" area, where they can doodle and maybe arrange a commission to be paid at a later date, rather than just drawing random stuff while in the Alley and not actually trying to generate income.

I hope that's clear.... I'm just trying to say, there is a difference between the artsy-kids who just want to draw, and the artISTS that have wares to sell. A good number of artists bring their prints, portfolios, sculptures, and all sorts of things they would like people to be able to purchase as souvenirs/memorabilia from the convention. It seems unfair to those who put in months of prep time before the convention to have a lottery chance at even getting into an artist's alley. If there were a small fee to pay (not including the percentage taken from AA for handling the sales tax/payout deal) this might help seperate the serious artists from those who want to draw but don't have anything to really sell.
Jul. 13th, 2007 05:29 am (UTC)
Maybe I'm being dense, but couldn't those people who really have to ensure a place where they can make money just buy a dealers' table? Nothing stops you from drawing art there, and it would give you more space to lay out examples of your work. There is the disadvantage of not having easy payment handling systems, but most people know enough to bring some cash to a convention. And, of course, it does cost a bit more money, but you gets what you pays for.
Jul. 13th, 2007 06:10 am (UTC)
Perhaps for those who are both well established and received, a dealer's table is the way to go. Although I don't expressly attend to turn a profit (as I'm surprised to generate as much business as I have), $75-$100 for a table, on top of travel, hotel, and food is still a considerable expense. I'm sure that it's a logical progression for some, but I'm not yet at that level.

Aside from that, the dealer's room generally appears much more packed in and confined. That might be due to the relatively simple setup that I have going, but again, I'm not at the level where I have portfolios of work, CDs, prints, etc. I'm content to sit at the alley and operate at that level for the time being...
Jul. 13th, 2007 12:58 pm (UTC)
Well, yes and no. The Artist's Alley tends to be more for "up and coming" artists. People like Dark Natasha, Michele Light, XianJaguar, etc. will definitely rock it with a dealer's table. Me? I'm not so well known. I sell well at a convention, but to date, I have never come out of a convention with a profit, just with enough to cover costs. I've done Dealer's vs Artist Alley before, and to be honest, unless you have a plethora of wares - that is to say, a print book containing 10 years worth of works, portfolios, magnets, buttons, etc. - then a dealer's table just doesn't quite cut it. My print book consists of about ten different prints, and my only extra "money-makers" are a bunch of little stickers I made years back and sell for a quarter apiece. (Of course, this doesn't include art I do during the convention, but you don't need a dealer's table to display commission work you are working on.) Certainly not enough to warrant a dealer's table, but still stuff worth selling and enough to generate money to cover your costs.

See what I'm saying? I don't have enough experience behind me to have much in the way of prints, and I'm not yet one of "the big dogs" so a dealer's table would put me at the end of the rat race, so to speak. Artist's Alley is full of other people that more or less have the same amount to show for their work - they're relatively new to the fandom and need to get their name known before stepping up to the plate and getting into the dealer's room. But that's not going to happen if they lose out on Artist's Alley because some kid that isn't serious about their art career just wants a place to root herself for the convention, so she can pretend to be one of the big-wig artists, and in a place where all her friends can find her. She couldn't care less if she really makes money - after all, mommy and daddy paid for her trip - but some extra cash would be nice. That pushes out the girl who has excellent art, spent her time preparing for the show, and wants to get her name out so she can eventually "graduate" to a dealer's table, but she's not yet known well enough and not sure which things to narrow down her artistic focus to, so she'd rather test the waters in the alley.

I hope that makes sense. O_o
Jul. 13th, 2007 01:28 pm (UTC)
"Relatively new to the fandom"? Tell that to this year's Artists Alley participants SueDeer, Gnaw, Aubrin, Max Blackrabbit, and Karno, among many others. I'm afraid I don't really agree with your Artists Alley philosophy. The Alley at Anthrocon is intended to be a showcase for artists of all levels of experience. As we say on our webpage, "we set aside a place for artists to show off their work, sell prints or just sit and draw in sketchbooks." That's everyone from newbie artists who just want to try things out for a day and see if there's any appreciation for their work to fandom veterans who want to show off their work and do some commissions on the side but don't want to be tied to a Dealers table for three days. If this means that some people get squeezed out in the crush, there's really not a lot that we can do; we can't be all things to all people, but we can provide this free service to facilitate things for as many artists as possible.
Jul. 13th, 2007 02:06 pm (UTC)
I guess "relatively new to the fandom" is the wrong term to use; I've been with it for ten years but still don't have enough to merit a dealer's table at AC. Same goes for some other pals of mine that've been around the fandom for a while but just now are getting into selling their stuff.

So there were some alley participants that are relatively well-known within the fandom. Maybe, for whatever reason, they didn't want a dealer's table, they just found convenience in sitting in the Alley instead. Maybe some meant to get dealer's space but it sold out before they could get it. Who knows.

I definitely agree with the Alley being available to artists of all skill levels, but I agree with what Chaos suggested, that perhaps people should be asked to have a price sign so it's at least visible to people as to what they're offering. The alley is for selling stuff; the Zoo is a better place for people to hang if they just feel like sketching but not selling. At smaller cons, I've noticed some people can't tell the difference so they get an Alley spot because they don't know where else to go, but they don't really have anything to sell.

I've got a million thoughts on Artist's Alley floating around in my head right now but to be honest, I don't know how to spit them out. You already know that I don't agree with the way the Alley has been run recently, and that's been my main reason for not even attending. The lottery doesn't guarantee a spot for me - I might get beat out by someone else who doesn't really want the spot, they just wanted to see if they could get in. I know better than to waste my time (and money lost from not being at work) when I can't guarantee myself a spot to sell my stuff. Maybe some day I'll have enough to sell to be worth getting a dealer's table, but until then, I won't be at AC.
Jul. 13th, 2007 06:34 am (UTC)
While the alley is meant to be an 'open forum' alternative to the dealer's room, perhaps there could be a preemptive sign-up/survey included with preregistration in order to get a rough annual figure of attendants and their level of involvement or activity (arrival, number of days attending, etc). Including some new requirements, such as the presence of a pricing sign, might also better regulate and identify artists and what they are providing.

Given the size of the convention and the number of people the staff has to accommodate, it's understandably difficult to work out something fair to all as AC continues to grow in all regards.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )