Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Guest post: Joseph Coco: Akai-con preview

Akaicon is a small but growing three day anime convention located just outside Nashville, TN.  Artist tables are $150 for the weekend, which is higher than MTAC's $125, and given the fact that artists and dealer's share a vending space, artists may not find the additional expense worth it for a smaller convention.

Last year, Becca and I briefly scoped out Akaicon as a potential convention for her to table at. It's local and relatively inexpensive, but after attending last year we determined it wasn't worth our time. Akaicon did their homework though and followed up with this blog's post. Not only did they mention specifics about how some of the issues for artists would be addressed this year, but they invited Becca to attend to see the changes they made.  Although Becca had been promised a comped badge to get into the show in order to reassess the convention, the ball was dropped somewhere along the line and I had to pay $20 to get into the show.   Rather than a weekend pass badge, I bought a day pass bracelet.

Unfortunately, Becca was scheduled to attend Mechacon on the same weekend, so I attended in her stead to give the reorganized convention another pass over.

Impressions of the Artist Alley

The first thing I noticed was that the dealer's room/artist alley was much larger than it was the previous year.




Finding the exhibition hall was easy because it was labeled on the map I picked up at registration, but I don't recall there being a sign identifying the exhibitor's hall. The doorman stopped me, unable to see my my badge because I was given a bracelet day pass.



The doorman affirmed it was the dealers room and an artist pointed out dealers were around the walls and artists in the center of the room. I walked around and noticed a variety of wares for sale. There were the staple items--prints, charms, buttons, perler bead art, bookmarks, apparel, hair pins, kanzashi, plushes, kimonos, commissions, et cetera. The artist alley portion was mostly fan art, though I did see and purchase some original art as well as some Japanese culture items. Thankfully, there were no katanas or anime body pillows. There were also a few unexpected items, like original water colored artist trading cards and hand-made clay figures. I did not see any comics, though I had a great conversation with artist from Memphis, TN who hopes to have a comic out in a months time.

Most items were reasonably priced. I didn't scope out the dealer's prices or wares much, but the artist's had items ranging from $1 - $20. A couple artists said sales and traffic were slow but decent on Friday, but picked up Saturday. I'm not sure how things went Sunday, as I attended Saturday evening a couple hours before the AA was closing. One person who had a great spot said attendees frequently purchased as soon as they walked in and that he or she banked over $400 on Friday, and did even better Saturday. Overall, the artists seemed positive about the show as a whole and were in good spirits considering they had just worked a full day. They had no complaints about the organization, attendees, programming, or the artist alley location which was a bit far away from the front, but the convention isn't big enough for it to be considered a trek. No one mentioned the table prices, so I presume they were reasonable and most people seemed to have their own table.

Photos of the Artist Alley























Impressions as an Attendee

I had a good time talking to people, and there were plenty of panels for anime fans, cosplay enthusiasts, a few for general geekery and even less for creators. There were a handful of events and tables in the AA which had 18+ content, but they were labeled as such and I would say the show in general would be fine for a younger audience as long as they're being supervised. The majority of the attendees were teenage age, many of which simply sitting on the floor in cosplay hanging out like last year. But they seemed courteous and not awkward or oblivious like you can sometimes find at anime conventions. I forgot to check out the gaming room, and considered going to a panel on making vinyl look like leather just to see the general quality of the panels, but I ended up heading out.

Logistics were straight forward. I pulled into the parking lot and as soon as I saw people parked in medians, on the side of spots, etc, I pulled out back onto a side road and I noticed had many cars which appeared to be illegally parked on them.



There were a lot of questionably-legal parking jobs

I ended up parking on the road under the "They can't tow us all" clause which so many people falsely rely upon. There was no signage indicating it was okay to park there, but I later ran into the head of the dealer's room for MTAC who was working the event for the GMX table and he assured me the hotel works with the Nashville police department to accommodate the overflow parking onto the road. It didn't take long to find parking even though the hotel was clearly over their capacity for hosting an event. There were signs leading me to registration, and things seemed to be laid out similarly to last year--except the exhibitors room was probably the largest room in the convention now.

Main entrance

Registration table



Other convention promotional tables in the hallway


Some conventions had games and prizes to lure people in to have an actual conversation about their convention

Others simply had abandoned tables with fliers
I spent about $20 in the AA. Which isn't bad considering there were no comics to be found.

The poster is the reverse side of map/schedule. I forgot to picture the Mario mushroom metal hairpins I bought.

He's hard to see in the big picture, but oh so cute

Verdict

I think Akaicon did spend what they made the previous year to make improvements this year. Last year, neither  Becca nor I stuck around long either time we went, but I engaged many more people this year and spent a bit more. It still costs $20 for a day pass for attendees, but it seemed better organized, better attended, and more content-rich.

I've seen some Akaicon promotional materials at other conventions in the area, and it seems like they're really trying to please fans. MTAC is probably still the better convention for artists to table, but if you're looking for a smaller investment, or interested in tabling at multiple anime cons in TN, I would definitely check it out. Bare in mind Becca has yet to table at Akaicon, but likely will next year. It's important to note that MTAC's artist alley is in a hallway individually, while Akaicon's is in a large, open room with dealers. Both have their advantages, so it may boil down to whether you personally sell better across from dealers or in a dedicated artist space.

Becca's Suggestions for Improvement

  • Lower the cost of the artist alley admission
That's it!  Akaicon's grown a lot since last year, and I really hope it doesn't coincide with Mechacon, as I'd love to give it a shot.

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