Conventions are a popular, big business – some of which have been around for decades. Behemoth-sized San Diego Comic Con celebrated 50 years this past summer while the likes of Dragoncon in Atlanta, Georgia is in its 30s. The earliest fan conventions even date back to the 1930s.
Conventions were often centered around larger areas with a larger concentration of individuals that were interested in science fiction, fantasy, comic books, etc. That can still be seen today as the largest conventions seem to take over the downtown areas of popular cities and sustain their selves for years (often decades as the aforementioned conventions).
This does not stop conventions from popping up all over the place as more people try to spread the word of geeks and provide a space for people to attend.
But are these conventions sustainable in a market that contains the New York Comic Cons and the C2E2s of the world?
Incrediblecon in Charleston, SC was a first year convention and a sister con to Tidewater Comic Con (Virginia Beach, VA) and other conventions under the umbrella of INCREDIBLE CONVENTIONS FAMILY OF SHOWS (per the website).
This year their top guests were Johnny Yong Bosch, a multitude of anime voice actors from popular shows (such as My Hero Academia), and cool comic book artists. Along with a lot of great vendors, the show seemed to be off to a good start with a lot of room to grow.
There were hiccups, as expected. Day 1 registration was a bit confusing.
The panel room was too small to accommodate a decent amount of attendees. There were no panels on Sunday at all. However, this article is about the possibility of conventions such as Incrediblecon to continue on into the foreseeable future and whether the business of conventions is even sustainable.
Note: I have attended a lot of conventions. A lot. All of varying sizes. I am by no way a convention owner and merely speaking as a super fan of conventions.
Geek is popular now. Comic book movies are massive properties. Everyone plays video games whether it is on a smartphone or a custom built PC. Television shows garner huge fanbases.
Conventions have also shifted to either encompassing everything (like the enormous “Comic” cons), focusing on one property (hello, Blizzcon), or just hyper-focused on one specific bit of nerdiness (like an anime con). Whether this bubble will eventually burst is something I can not predict, but I do know that it seems the success of a lot of these smaller conventions is by maintaining their local fanbases.
At the My Hero Academia panel at Incrediblecon, the voice actors asked how many were attending their first convention. The amount of hands that shot up was endearing for a crotchety, ole veteran like myself.
Smaller conventions must build communities within their area. Not everyone has the means of traveling to these super cons. Capitalize on that. Be the outreach needed for these (young) fans.
Smaller conventions also need to focus on their fans and their fans’ needs.
Quite often I do see the rise and fall of these conventions due to this desire to potentially keep up with larger events that may be doing a certain thing that they feel they need to do to. All conventions have their own identities and it is better to build an authentic convention.
Good luck to Incrediblecon. Good luck to all burgeoning conventions.