As I’ve discussed previously in this column, comics conventions are BIG business in the industry even though two-thirds of the people who attend aren’t interested in comics. Instead, those people prefer to meet the media guests, like TV and movie stars.
Still, con organizers look at some metropolitan areas that only have an event once a year, so they wonder if the support is there to hold another one.
This past weekend I was at MegaCon Tampa Bay, the first of its kind in the area. Was it a good idea?
A LITTLE HISTORY
MegaCon is the premiere convention in the Orlando, Florida, area. It’s been held there for years, and even though the dates have changed often, it’s still very well attended and supported.
About 90 miles away, the Tampa Bay Comic Con is held in the city of the same name. It’s been going on for years as well, and has been successful as well.
Last year, after MegaCon was bought by a large convention-organizing company, they held a second event, this one called MegaCon Fan Days in November, roughly six months after their main con was held.
It apparently didn’t do quite as well because they didn’t hold one of those this year. Instead, they ran an event in “enemy” territory, that city about 90 miles away.
Now, people from both cities intermingle when it comes to comics cons. People can easily drive to the “other” city, and parking is pretty readily available in both places.
But is there enough support for more than one con in each city? That’s what those of us attending were concerned about.
MEGACON TAMPA BAY
Before the Tampa convention even started, I was happy because, for the first time in the state of Florida, I was granted a press pass to the event. When I lived in the North, cons usually handed out press passes on a regular basis. But here, they have to be very familiar with the site you work for in order to give you a free press pass. Of course, they’re happy if you buy a ticket and cover the con anyway, but they’re very reluctant to give them out. Needless to say, I’m going to apply for more passes in the state and mention that this con gave me one!
Okay, enough “inside baseball” stuff. How was the convention itself?
This event was held in the same convention center the other is conducted, but since it was their first year, it was held in a much smaller space than the other con held in the same building. You have to consider that this was their first time in Tampa Bay, so it makes sense.
Artist’s Alley was also smaller, but the same factors apply. There were a number of great comics folks, including a Stephan Nilson, Publishing Operations Manager at AfterShock Comics and Ben Filipiak, Publisher at Fierce Comics. It was good to make contact with them as well as other comics pros. Hopefully, more reviews and more podcast interviews will result from this con, as always!
The highlight of the weekend had to be the appearance of the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant. He was only there on Sunday, but he drew a big crowd that day, making what is often one of the smallest days at any con into clearly the biggest. There were a ton of cosplayers portraying him, and also many folks looking like other Doctor Who stars.
Overall, I really enjoyed the convention, and not just because they granted me a press pass! There were a lot of things happening, including panels and many exhibitors with good things to look at and buy.
I’m planning on going back next year to MegaCon Tampa Bay as well as Tampa Bay Comic Con, so it’s a win-win to me!
WHY ANOTHER CON?
Of course, the main reason to hold a second convention is the same one for the first event, to make money. Yes, they do call it show business for a reason! Granted, it was a smaller setting than past events in Tampa, but it was still enjoyable! I think they made money although several of the exhibitors said they took in less than they hoped. Again, it was their first year, after all!
It also helps to bolster your “main event” when you draw in people from an area not far from there. If they enjoy this new con, they’re likely to come back and even spread the word so others may come.
A second event helps you sign contracts with media stars and their reps. Now that David Tennant has been a big success, what about other Who stars? It’s been tough getting folks from that show because of the travel expenses, but if they can make money at future events, maybe other stars will want to journey there. Also, maybe Tennant will want to return if he had a good and profitable time, too.
Third, you can develop a roster of Artist’s Alley folks and exhibitors who can take spaces in your event, and they’ll make people attending happy by having a big variety of stuff to purchase. Good for the folks putting stuff on display, good for the attendees!
Fourth, maybe the community can support more than one event each year. The trick with this one is making sure you don’t tap that group dry, and ALL the cons go under. I worry some that the two MegaCons and the TPCC still might fizzle with these areas so near each other, but that seemed to be an advantage, not a disadvantage this time. As far as the future, well, we’ll see.
RIGHT NOW, THERE WILL BE ANOTHER MEGACON TAMPA NEXT YEAR
On the last day, a lot of announcements were made overheard about signing up for 2017. I feel that means we’ll get another pair of MegaCons next year. Will I apply for another press pass for each? You bet!
What do you think? Should conventions only be held once each year? Or should there be more as long as the market can sustain it? Please share your thoughts in the space below! Oh, and Happy Halloween!