You're doing it wrong

The 2016 South Afrifur Convention didn't happen.
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Tetsudra
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You're doing it wrong

#1

Post by Tetsudra »

So my question in the podcast IM stream went unanswered the other day - now I'm bringing it right here so that it demands your attention :P

The question was, is Furry big enough of a thing in SA that you can actually feasibly run a convention for it? - and I think the answer is, no. Planning this con is very much putting the cart before the horse.

I've been doing my homework on some of the more popular general conventions (like Comic-Con, E3, PAX Prime, Dragon Con, etc), and the more popular furry conventions (Anthrocon, Eurofurence, FurDU, FA United, etc), to try and find out what actually makes a con "work".

All of those cons have certain things in common. They started out a lot smaller than they are today (Anthrocon at 500, EF at even less), grew steadily over time, and likely had strong loyalty (same people visiting every year).

But the thing they have in common the most is that every con is backed by an industry. Each of the general conventions is built around an existing industry, for instance:
  • Comic-Con - comic book industry + spinoffs (ala Marvel, DC Comics, etc)
  • E3 - electronic entertainment industry
  • PAX Prime - games and entertainment
  • Dragon Con - Fantasy and fiction
Each of those industries is worth at least several hundred million (if not billions) of dollars a year. Because of the massive scale of trade, it makes sense to host an event every year for it.

Same thing in SA - we have conventions (and/or festivals) for local industries too:
  • Sexpo - adult entertainment
  • rAge - electronic entertainment and culture
  • Cape Town International Jazz Festival - what it says on the tin
  • National Arts Festival (Grahamstown) - local artists and productions
Again, what each of those has in common is that money changes hands (at scale) in those industries. Convention organizers are able to bring in local producers and talent, to create an enticing product for existing consumers in those industries, at which point it makes sense to attend.

In the US, and to a lesser extent the EU, Furry is an industry. There are companies that produce sex toys, fursuits, and printed books. There's a publishing house or two, independent publications, and an ungodly amount of freelance commission work. A lot of money is being made in that industry, and it starts leading to decision trees like this:
  • As a fursuit-making business, it makes sense to spend the money to be at Anthrocon every year
  • As a furry DJ for hire, I can book gigs at cons
  • As a toymaker, there's no better place to sell my stuff
  • As an independent artist, a con is a great place to get exposure and new clients
And when you reach that point, the con really starts selling itself. You don't need to convince furry fans to attend a furry convention if it's within their reach - same way you don't really need to convince arts lovers to attend the National Arts Festival, or gamers to attend E3. All the con is at that point is a real-world manifestation of the thing you're already interested in.

That's what we don't have in SA yet - a furry industry. Imagine, instead, if this was the scenario:
  • A local artist could reliably earn a living from local commissions
  • We needed 3+ fursuit makers to keep up with demand
  • Local artists were publishing self-produced furry comic books and making a living off it
  • Local furry musicians were able to form bands and get reliable sales from their local fans
  • Local animators could run Kickstarters to make 100%-local animated furry series/movies
In that sort of environment, a convention doesn't only sell itself, it starts making rational business sense to host one. Now, enough money is being made from enough people, that setting up an event that costs a few grand to attend makes sense.

Right now we don't have that. The con, as planned, reads as little more than a stretched-out house party, attended by people who already know eachother, and it won't really generate any new opportunities (commerical or social).

So if it were up to me, we'd organize this con by first spending a lot of time organizing a local furry industry in SA. It's not impossible (remember, rAge gets 15k people/year) to build an industry around primarily art and entertainment, which is what Furry is to a lot of people.
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Ivic_Wulfe
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Re: You're doing it wrong

#2

Post by Ivic_Wulfe »

The point isn't to capitalize on an existing market or begin an industry. The original idea behind something like AnthroCon etc. Wasn't to make money. We're not some capitalist movement that would or in fact should focus on what we can make out of this. "Market research shows that..." I understand that ensuring that a con runs year after year costs money and organisation. This is a plainly understood concept, however, this wasn't the goal from the outset, the goal was to ensure that there was a place that South African furs could have a venue and a plan to get together on a yearly basis to meet one another across the country and share their respective talents, perspectives and revel in being who and what they are in a public setting without the fear of interference. That accommodation and places to enjoy themselves with fun activities and a good vibe were key.

This is more the "Camp Feral" approach. If you want to see what our goal is. Also look at the fact that even Brazil has a convention right now that has started out with numbers in and around ours And our minimum grouping.

I agree with you whole heartedly. There is no economic market. Nothing feasible for a capitalist approach. Not enough people. Not enough interest and not enough money. But that was never the end goal. Hell The deviant art community of South Africa even had a few get togethers. So sure. Whatever. Call it a pipe dream...shoot it down for not being a huge fat money-making profit-con. But that isn't our goal.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

#3

Post by Tetsudra »

The point isn't to capitalize on an existing market or begin an industry. The original idea behind something like AnthroCon etc. Wasn't to make money.


Are you positive? The good news is that the founders of Anthrocon are still active in the fandom, so I'll make a point of reaching out to them and see if I can uncover some of the rationale behind it. But what I can tell you for a fact is that before Anthrocon was founded, there were furry artists, and a furry trade well in motion. Trade eventually breeds trade shows - you can't have the latter without the former.
We're not some capitalist movement that would or in fact should focus on what we can make out of this. "Market research shows that..." I understand that ensuring that a con runs year after year costs money and organisation.
You say that as if it's a bad thing. Making it a profitable venture is how you ensure it's a stable, repeatable thing. You want it to grow bigger? Get more furs involved? More artists, more musicians, more positive buzz? Then it has to grow, and in order for it to grow, it has to be profitable at a monetary level.

Case in point: rAge grows from strength to strength every year, because it's run by companies concerned with making a profit. Organized Chaos is currently for sale, because the founder only cared about having fun. The NAG LAN and OC are pretty much identical, except for the sustainability.

Question: Do you think the fun people have at rAge/NAG LAN is somehow diminished because NAG turns a profit every year?
This is a plainly understood concept, however, this wasn't the goal from the outset, the goal was to ensure that there was a place that South African furs could have a venue and a plan to get together on a yearly basis to meet one another across the country and share their respective talents, perspectives and revel in being who and what they are in a public setting without the fear of interference. That accommodation and places to enjoy themselves with fun activities and a good vibe were key.
The two goals are not in opposition. Again, taking Anthrocon as an example: It's commercially viable, to the point where they book out entire hotels every year. The experiences at the con are positive, so much so that local businesses look forward to welcoming the furries every year (eg: specials for fursuiters, placing furry-themed decor outside their stores). And every year, the attendees end up spending a lot, and raising a lot of money for animal-related projects and charities. There's even a recognizable psychological phenomenon that follows in its wake every year - Post-Con Depression. That's how insanely good the time is that people spend there.

All of that on the back of a commercially viable venture. Just because you're making money doesn't mean it can't also be fun and fulfilling.
This is more the "Camp Feral" approach. If you want to see what our goal is. Also look at the fact that even Brazil has a convention right now that has started out with numbers in and around ours And our minimum grouping.
Camp Feral started with around 50 attendees, and as a direct result of Anthrocon:
Several furs had shown great interest in hosting a furry conference in the Toronto area after having attended the successful Albany AnthroCon 1997 in July.
At the most recent Camp Feral (147 attendees), there were a large contingent of artists (enough to have a dedicated trading post), writers and others trades represented. You can bet money was made there, as well as a fun time had by all.
I agree with you whole heartedly. There is no economic market. Nothing feasible for a capitalist approach. Not enough people. Not enough interest and not enough money. But that was never the end goal. Hell The deviant art community of South Africa even had a few get togethers. So sure. Whatever. Call it a pipe dream...shoot it down for not being a huge fat money-making profit-con. But that isn't our goal.
Again, you say "huge fat money-making profit-con" as if the very concept is evil. As if money and fun are incompatible goals, despite all the examples you're trying to emulate :)

So if that's your goal, then you should stop calling it a convention, and start calling it a get-together. The former is a business designed to raise the profile of an industry and get more people involved, and ensuring a positive, fun experience is the lifeblood of that sort of business.

The latter is just a party you spend a bit more money than usual on.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

#4

Post by Rakuen Growlithe »

If I recall the last time I read about the "furry economy" there wasn't much profit actually being made. It was little more than subsistence.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

#5

Post by Tetsudra »

Rakuen Growlithe wrote:If I recall the last time I read about the "furry economy" there wasn't much profit actually being made. It was little more than subsistence.
Bad-Dragon.com operates at subsistence? I find that hard to believe :lol:

I know that a good portion of artists charge hourly rates that skirt the minimum wage line, but there are a good few that charge more than that (Wolfy-Nail, Syrinoth, Bloodoodles, Patto, Muzz, CurioDraco, Sefeiren) and make a full-time living from it, even having enough free time to attend cons, and in some cases, run families and lives (ala Treats, for example).

It would actually be interesting to see some raw figures on how much full-time artists make, and how it stacks up against cost-of-living in those areas.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

#6

Post by YoteFox »

I would love to sell furry items such as tails, ears, paws and such at the "convention"
I'd rather be fursuiting

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Re: You're doing it wrong

#7

Post by Splicer-Fox »

I was wondering…
Can’t we just ask for spots at existing conventions in SA?

I thought that we could all bunch up at a place like the NAG LAN.
I heard that you can arrange to have VIP spots for a group.
This should be affordable and most furries go there anyway.
Cosplay competitions and artists already included.

And this is not the only LAN/Convention that can accommodate us.
It’s also the best way for new people discover us.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

#8

Post by Gowuffie »

Splicer-Fox wrote:I was wondering…
Can’t we just ask for spots at existing conventions in SA?

I thought that we could all bunch up at a place like the NAG LAN.
I heard that you can arrange to have VIP spots for a group.
This should be affordable and most furries go there anyway.
Cosplay competitions and artists already included.

And this is not the only LAN/Convention that can accommodate us.
It’s also the best way for new people discover us.
While a good idea on its own - it does not serve as a replacement for an actual convention; for obvious reasons.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

#9

Post by Splicer-Fox »

Gowuffie wrote:
While a good idea on its own - it does not serve as a replacement for an actual convention; for obvious reasons.
Ivic did say that the drawback was that in a public place some furs might not be comfortable being themselves.
Was there any other reason?
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Re: You're doing it wrong

#10

Post by GreenReaper »

Furry fan conventions are first and foremost about the people attending. Anthrocon is perhaps the most commercial (in the sense of artists and dealers making lots of money) and has a lot of big events, but it is not the model to aim at for the first con in a new country - and even so, many come for the people.

Ultimately you need the audience more than the dealers. Yes, the first convention will probably not have a huge amount to do, maybe it'll end up being a giant furmeet/party. But once you've got that under your belt, there will be a good reason for those seeking to sell to come to the next one.

What differentiates a con from a meet is registration, events and an overnight stay. Ask key attendees to lead informative sessions. Not all will work out, but some will. Add events for those with fursuits, maybe some kind of local visit, and a place for people to hang out, talk and draw. And run a bunch of furmeets in advance so that you know how to run a good party.

The finances of many larger U.S. conventions are publicly available through their Form 990 filings, and some publish budgets, too; but they will probably not be useful because they are so different in scale. (These are available because they are non-profits. That doesn't mean they can't make a surplus, just that it can't be withdrawn. AC runs a tight budget and has lost money in some years.)

Probably the best takeaway from other events is to practice market segmentation through premium registrations and add-ons, so those who can pay more do so and feel like they got something valuable while subsidizing those who can't pay as much.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

#11

Post by Randall »

My 2c

I went and researched this on my own, and a lot of the stuff I worked out, was mentioned in this thread.

I think, possibly the only way to make this work in SA, is to start small, and you will likely have to piggyback it on another event, such as GeekFest. This appears to be the case already.

We had the same problem ages ago with anime, to get it to convention level you need serious financial input. Unless you've got someone in your crew who is wealthy and can carry the thing for the most part, its not easy. Remember, things are 10x more expensive here, regardless.
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