Before we get into this issue today, let’s make two things painfully clear:
“Whatever something is worth to one is worth differently to someone else.”
“No matter how much you like or want something, no one is forcing you to get it as it’s your choice to part with your money.”
Now, with that out of the way, let’s look at what’s going on this con season and ask a few questions that we as consumers should be asking ourselves. For us here on the east coast, most notably the mid-Atlantic area between Virginia and New York, outside of smaller conventions that many of us here will attend prior to June, there are two big shows that many of us are looking forward to. The one that is in Maryland and DC is Awesome Con and the one in Philadelphia is Wizard World. Both are similar in the fact that both cons feature various media guests as well as a slew of panels and vendors over a weekend to keep fans busy. There are similarities and differences to both which I will not really get into detail as I feel as your miles may vary for each venue. The only big issue this particular year is that both are the same weekend.
In light of that fact, for the average consumer, the choice of which con to go to would seem easy enough based on what media personalities are scheduled to show. But another factor is the wallet.
Thus, an interesting thing happened yesterday. Wizard World announced that they had nearly all of the principal cast members from the Avengers movies, chiefly Chris Helmsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Mackey, Hayley Atwell, Chris Evans and more. Now on the surface, most fans would see that and explode with glee. It’s a chance to get photo ops with all of them, possible autographs and a chance to see their panels. That glee lasted until most saw what they had to pay. Some of the VIP packages run close to $1500 dollars. Even some of the individual photo ops run from $75 to $200 dollars especially after you add in the ‘processing fees’ you have to pay depending on which package you buy.
What really gets murky after this point is fan reaction. Because smart, money conscious fans, read the fine print and rightfully decided if this was worth it to them. I even took a moment and asked people in my circle that if they scraped up between $200 to $500 dollars, who would they spend it on? There are many people who will say no matter what, there is no dollar amount they would spend to meet a celeb. There are others who have an idea of what they would pay to see certain celebs and even some others with…conditions.
Heather W. – MAYBE Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Chewbacca and Carrie Fisher…and maybe James Earl Jones in a group shot. Because that would be pretty epic.
Marc L.- None. No one is worth that sort of money for a signature and a photo.
Barry D. – For 200 to 500 bucks there better be dinner and a blowjob at the very least.
Let’s face it, this is an amazing first world problem to have. Having enough disposable income to get a photo or an autograph of a celebrity that you will be around for less than 5 minutes for what may amount to having bragging rights to say you were shoulder to shoulder with them. It’s a wonderful feeling. Even as much as we look at what some of the cons are charging for celeb ops one may ask. Are we enablers? Why yes we are. We are enablers for the simple fact that every time we choose to pay for these chances to meet a celebrity, we are encouraging cons to go through greater lengths to bring in even more headliners. As Dan N., states:
“On one side ABSOLUTELY the audiences are enablers. Because if they put out the cash to see these individual then that is all the positive reinforcement both the celebrities and [cons] needs to keep going and up the ante until people [consciously choose] not to pay the exorbitant prices. On the other side, though, when a celebrity makes an appearance so much of those fees go through so many hands. With these fees a chunk goes to the show, a chunk to the photographer, a chunk to the handler, a chunk to the agent and the accountant and so on. At the end of the day, the celebrity may get as little as 25% of that fee. But, I’m a comic creator. I have come to grips that between the cosplay, the panels, the celebrities, the merchandise, the OCD search for everything of your favorite establishment character and the fan art stuff fans make the choice where they spend their money. My original comic and art stuff is the last minute impulse purchase at the end of the comic con check-out counter. The celeb stuff doesn’t hurt me. Because I have that voice in the back of my head telling me that the money I make at a show is going towards bills and it’s simply not worth it.”
Dan brings up an interesting point about vendors. He wasn’t alone in making that point. With prices of celebrity ops creeping slowly higher, how does that impact vendors who sell their wares at shows? Again, everyone is different on how they spend their money when it comes to cons. Most won’t spend money on items that they know that they can get retail especially if for that particular item it’s priced higher than retail. One small caveat is if that item may be a hard to find item that has already sold out with the added chance that for what you are spending on a celeb signing, you can get that item signed.
But what about vendors who are selling unique pieces of artwork that we won’t find retail? Are supporting them? Because there is a greater chance that if some of us are scraping together funds to get that less than one minute with our favorite celebrities, we aren’t thinking about supporting vendors.
This issue has become a major concern with vendors. As certain cons become more media-centric, many feel that audiences are gravitating les towards them to buy product. At the end of the day, everyone hopes to make some money from these shows. But the average Joe attending a con isn’t rich. Many don’t have $1500 to $2000 dollars lying around to spend on some of the dream VIP packages coming from cons but there are a few that will do it. There are a few that may actually have the money lying around or will actually go through all means necessary including max a credit card just to take advantage of out these packages. Every time if even one person decides to spend that kind of money, we have enabled a show to continue doing it because they already know that someone will part with their money.
In the end, we get out of a con what we put in. Many in my circle, even after seeing what Wizard World has to offer in terms of celebrity ops, are choosing not to go no matter how great that temptation may be. Many would rather be around friends at a local con where they know that their patronage and dollars are valued, others will find smaller venues to attend and more just rather not part with their hard earned dollars because they have bills to pay. One other thing to consider, even if you get to meet someone you have wanted to see, even if they aren’t charging you for a moment to talk, to sign a book, or draw something, the least we can do is drop a few bucks as a tip. That choice is up to all of us. Thus it becomes a conundrum for all involved. Cons like these are doing their best to do things we rarely ever seen 20 years ago. They have become huge spectacles that allow us for a fleeting moment to be with stars playing characters that we only see on the big screen. They are allowing us to have moments in panels to ask burning questions and to get them answered first hand. But at what cost are we willing to pay to attend these venues? Have we considered who all benefits for each dollar we spend while we are there? At the end of all things, how important or how valuable was having that moment and was it valuable enough that years later we can say it was money well spent? Just like anything else, we have to vote with our dollars. As much as we complain about the costs of going to a con, no one is forcing us to do so. And cons are not obligated to make prices affordable or accessible because they are there to make money plain and simple.
It’s up to us if we choose to support them or not.