Monday, March 27, 2006

Aggiecon 37 post-mortem

I survived my whirlwind excursion to Aggiecon. It was great to see folks such as Rick Klaw, Mark Finn, Bill Crider, Lou Antonelli and the rest, but other than that... the con was anemic, once you get right down to it. There were problems with the autograph sessions that have persisted for several years the con organizers continue to ignore. Attendance was light. Dealers room and the art show were both significantly smaller than in years past. And, to add insult to injury, the con had for some bizarre reason decided to drop a chunk of change to bring in Peter Mayhew and his $20 a pop autographs at the last minute. Media guests are the reefs upon which the ship of Aggiecon has desperately tried to dash itself upon regularly over the years. Aggiecon is not a convention where the demographics and economics allow for dropping several thousand dollars on a media guest. Financial solvency will not result. Especially when said guest is signed just a month before the con and no mention of the fact is included on any promotional materials. He's not even listed in the program book, fer cryin' out loud.

I pointed this out in frustration to some of the con staff, and was given some wishy-washy answers in reply: "Well, he's a friend of ours," and "But he cut us a really good deal" and--this is my favorite--"We had to get somebody!" No, Pointdexter, you don't have to blow four grand on an actor who'd be a C-lister at Wizard World. Especially when said four grand (or however much it is) constitutes at minimum a quarter of your convention budget, and has no hope in hell of being recouped. I guarantee there weren't 10 people in attendance there specifically because Mayhew was present. And even if the con had advertised his presence, who's going to drive from Houston to see him when Creation will stage one of their overpriced dog-and-pony shows with him out at one of the airport hotels three months down the road (provided Mayhew hadn't already been there for a boat show six weeks prior). To top it off, the con also had James C. Leary in as a media guest. Leary's claim to fame being the heavily made-up demon "Clem" from several episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I pray to high heaven they didn't actually pay cash money for this guy to come in, because again, not even a dozen people bought con passes to see him.

Are Mayhew and Leary nice guys? As far as I know. But they're horribly, awfully, grossly inappropriate guests for Aggiecon. If there is no Aggiecon 38, the blame lies squarely on the convention officers who thought it'd be a good idea to bring in media types. Their fault. Because there is no way this convention made money this year. The question is "How much did they lose?"

If the con committee has a lick of sense, they'll revise their charter/constitution/operating procedures to forbid the outlay of appearance fees for guests, if not the outright banning of media guests. No media guests--be they from Star Trek, Babylon 5, Farscape, anything--have ever worked out financially for the con. Several times the red ink would've sunk the con for good had Texas A&M not eaten the loss because the club was a university-sponsored organization. But Aggiecon doesn't have that safety net anymore, and by golly, if they want the convention to survive, these students have to stop wanting to convert their convention into some College Station-based version of Dragoncon and start acting responsible with their limited financial resources. Because right now, they're on the fast track to oblivion.

Now Playing: Silly Wizard The Best of Silly Wizard


  1. Anonymous2:35 PM

    you should really learn somethings before you speak, they did not pay Peter Meyhew 4 grand, and while I agree they needed alot of help, having some stars there would help if the proper advertising is done

  2. I've learned enough to ignore the peanut gallery when they're not brave enough to own up to their comments.

    The FACT--if you'll bother to look at Aggiecon history--is that media guests have never, ever made money for the con. Not Walter Koenig of Star Trek. Not Richard Biggs nor Julie Caitlin Brown of Babylon 5. Not Virginia Hey nor Lani Tupu of Farscape. All of them cut the con "Good Deals" and every single one of them drove the con into the red. The demographics of the B/CS area will not support a media-centric, Dragoncon style show. That's been proven time and again, but if the concom is going to continue to obsess over media guests and continue to pay to bring them in, don't come crying to me when the whole enterprise goes belly-up.

    You're right about one thing though--marketing for the con is abyssmal. The advertising budget should be boosted exponentially--and not blown all in the B/CS market. For Aggiecon to remain viable, much more promotion needs to be directed at Houston and Austin, featuring a larger diversity of non-media guests.