This is the first year I decided to take my family to the San Diego Comic-Con. With over 100,000 attendees, the event can be a daunting one, especially with small children.
Rather than complain about the somewhat frustrating nature about trying to visit panels at the event, I am going to offer some conservative-inspired solutions to improve the convention’s product.
Problem: Too Many People Are Concentrated in One Location
In the post-9/11 era, having so many attendees at Comic-Con seems unwise. People are piled up like cord wood, most exits are blocked, and routes are highly restricted.
Solution: Charge More Money per Ticket
Many people would argue that Comic-Con has been diluted by mass market capitalism. I would argue that the Convention is not capitalistic enough. The crowds are simply too large for one to fully enjoy the conference. Comic-Con promoters could increase ticket prices 10-fold, and would still likely generate far more revenue despite a drop off in the number of attendees.
Next year, Comic Con tickets increased to $175 for the full weekend. On the first day of Comic-Con 2011, the first block of tickets for Comic-Con 2012 was sold out in less than half an hour. Attendees literally queued up well before 5 am to get tickets at 8 am.
This is insane.
Charge $1,000 a ticket and call it a day.
Problem: First Come, First Serve Seating
Some events are held in the 6,500-person capacity Hall H. Several events are held in the same room throughout the day. The problem is if you would like to see a lower demand panel right before a high demand panel, you have to wait in line for hours.
Here are several pictures for a panel that I was interested in attending. I quickly decided not to get in line when I learned that 9,000 people were in line to get into a room with capacity for 6,500 people.
People who want to get into the high demand panel stake out territory in the room in the morning, and spend the entire day there until their panel arrives.
If you don’t get into that first panel, your entire day is shot.
Solution: Auction Off 50% of Seats
If an event is so valuable that people will literally waste an entire day sitting through panels that they might not enjoy, why not charge them for the privilege?
Conduct an auction for 50% of the seats, and let the market dictate a consumer’s willingness to pay. That way, 50% fewer people have to wait in line in the hope they won’t get turned away when the line reaches capacity. Plus, the convention will make more money.
Problem: Lines for Raffles
After giving up on the 6,500-person panel event, I stumbled across a line for Kevin Smith’s autograph. Since there were only 5 people in line, and getting tickets for the signing was only two and half hours later, I thought I hit the mother lode.
Alas, after waiting for two hours, I learned that the line was for a raffle. The line would be capped at 500, and there would be 100 winners.
In essence, there was a 20% probability that I could win. Had I known those odds before I stumbled across the line, I would never have wasted my time.
I have accomplished most things in my life despite, not because of, my luck.
But, the die was cast and, predictably, I lost.
Solution: Auction Off 50% of Seats
Again, the event promoters should simply auction off 50% of these tickets and not waste people’s time.
Just skip it and go to Wondercon.
I’ve never been. But I might try it out next year.
I wouldn’t have guessed you were the type to attend Comic-Con, and learning that you apparently are means I’m all the more surprised by your suggestions. Surely you realize the results of every “solution” you propose is that only wealthy attendees would be able to enjoy the event. Can you honestly tell me you’d be willing to pay $1k a ticket to come back next year, even if there were fewer people and shorter lines? If not, you’ve just advocated for pricing yourself out of the event.
You’re no doubt aware that time is money, and the fact that you wish to substitute one for the other doesn’t necessarily mean the event will be improved. It does mean it will be less democratic though, because while everyone has time to sit in line for event tickets (if it’s a high enough priority for them), not everyone has the money to exchange for the same tickets.
And since you’re around town, you must have noticed that the typical convention goer isn’t the type of person who’d be likely to have the kind of disposable income that would be required to fully enjoy the event if your ideas were implemented. Such changes would also result in a different type of vendor presence: one that focused less on the young, passionate, costumed attendees and more on the wealthy businessmen whose corporate sponsors ponied up thousands of dollars for admission tickets and also bought up all the auctioned seats at each event. I doubt the convention itself would survive long if it alienated its core constituency to such a degree.
Comic-Con is as much a community gathering as much as it is a business venture, and tipping the scales to the degree you suggest would, in my estimation, lead to the ruin of both. Having 100,000 like-minded, passionate people descend on the city for a weekend is part of the event’s attraction and a major reason it’s been so successful. Had Facebook started charging its members for access back in 2008 when it finally overtook MySpace, it may have business sense at the time, but it would have ultimately cost the company its core users and led to a swift demise.
Besides, the wealthy already have the ability to shape Comic-Con to their desires: if they want fewer people at the event, they can buy more tickets than they need and just throw the extras away. If they don’t want to wait in lines, they can pay someone to wait for them.
I’d say you are right that demand is, at this time, exceeding supply. The Coachella concert event experienced a similar issue last year, but rather than follow your strategy of curbing demand, they increased supply and added a second concert weekend. I don’t see why a similar act wouldn’t work for Comic-Con.
Anyways, I live catty corner from the Harbor View Towers shown in your first photograph and have a million reasons to hate Comic-con, not the least of which is that we only have one parking spot and can’t find a meter for miles. But I tell myself that it’s part and parcel of living in downtown San Diego. I’m sorry you’re not enjoying your time here as much as you could be, and I hope your fortunes improve during Saturday and Sunday. If not, there’s always Legoland. I don’t have kids, but I’ve heard it’s great for the little ones. Best regards and a warm welcome. -Joe
You’re right in regard to expanding capacity. To be honest, I forgot to mention that as another alternative to increasing proves.
That said, I doubt increasing prices would curb demand much. The truth is that the event is anything but democratic. It has more of a breadline quality that is vaguely reminiscent of the Soviet Union. Plus, lotteries are anything but democratic.
Perhaps, $1,000 is too much, but if it would reduce numbers to half of what they are, it would be worth it.
The event is already set up so that not even the ueber wealthy can buy tickets, because the ticket goer needs to present his/her ID just to get in.
Well, I better get going, there is an event at 6 pm that I need to stand in line for now at 7 am.
I’m glad Joe took the time to write so much, it saved me the time of having to write it all out.
Yes, it’s too crowded, and they should either increase capacity or decrease tickets. The fact that you would rather decrease attendees indirectly by ticket price instead of directly by capping attendees is odd, and smacks of, dare I say, elitism. 🙂
The problem with capping attendees is that it is arbitrary. That said, the line thing is turning out to be not as bad as I thought. You just have to be prepared with fold out chairs and whatnot. Plus, I am making new friends and got a random picture of Kevin Smith (I’ll post later tonight) along with some clips from his press later this evening.
I think my crankiness has more to do with this being my first trek to SDCC. Now I am getting wiser, and hopefully will be able to apply some lessons learned to next year. My recommendations my change a bit after today.
BTW, this kind of stuff seems like your “bag” too. Why aren’t you here?
I don’t indulge my comic dorkiness enough to do that, and the flight from DC plus a hotel room jack it up outside my entertainment budget. I’m sure it’s a blast though.
And yeah, capping attendees is arbitrary (or, you know, “fair and random”). Raising ticket prices excludes people who can’t pay as much, which includes a lot of younger fans. Personally, I think they ought to just have many more “elite” events, where you pay much more for more access, and leave the conventions for the hoi polloi that enjoy the community.
I think those events already exist, but they are based on “elite” networks rather than financial means.
The fact of the matter is that some people are time starved while others are cash-strapped. Either way, I think the Con should just level the playing field. I only take a vacation once every five or so years, because I simply don’t have the time given my employment responsibilities. As such, I am willing to pay more to enjoy my twice a decade vacation. When I have to stay awake for 48 hours to get into events, the event becones more of a job than a vacation. Perhaps the Con could offer a special package for folks willing to pay more.
BTW, I hope I didn’t come off as too negative. I can be somewhat grouchy.
San Diego is a beautiful town and the people have been nothing but kind and generous.
It’s just that long lines make me grouchy.
rather than follow your strategy of curbing demand, they increased supply and added a second concert weekend. I don’t see why a similar act wouldn’t work for Comic-Con.
This is, of course, an option that is just as good. By growing the supply to meet the demand, the mismatch will be “fixed”.
It’s an interesting question from a business perspective. Obviously at $175 a head turn out will be greater than at a higher cost. Moreover they want this to be a BIG event — that will assure its continued success and reputation. So how much can they raise it and still have large numbers, and not start losing profit? It’s probably not just about maximizing profit because in the long term reputation and being “the thing to do” will keep it going. And, of course, if the price is too low and the lines too long they’ll have a problem of disappointed attendees.
I ran into an attendee who paid $900 this year for 2 tickets on eBay.
So demand is definitely there.
I still have mixed feelings about the event. If you know what to expect, it is manageable. If you don’t, you have to be OK with paying a day of tuition to learn the system.