Convention Badges Aren’t Cheap
And they likely aren’t going to get cheaper.
If you remember my two-part look at cons, you might recall I posted a picture of the first anime con’s flyer, with the low low admission price of two diggity dang dollars. A lot has changed in 30 years, especially when we’re talking about badge prices. It seems you can’t go too far without tripping over a $50 or $60 weekend admission or higher. How “bad” has it gotten? I figured it was worth a look.
With some help from animecons.com, I took 16 North American anime conventions that all had a reported 10,000 or more attendees in 2013, and I found the at-door price for a weekend admission for each year dating back to 2005, assuming it was listed. If there wasn’t, it was either omitted, or in some cases, estimated. (Estimated prices tended to have no reasonable doubt to assume another price). For visual assistance, I broke them over two graphs.
Overall, the median establishment date for the 16 shows was 1998. Anime Matsuri, Otakuthon, and MomoCon were all established after 2005, and I was able to find data points for at least 12 of the 16 conventions for every year. I think that’s enough for me to consider this a reasonable sample set. If not, I’d love to get help filling in the blanks.
Highlighted in black on both graphs is the average price amongst all the conventions that had data for the given year. Since 2005, the average price for these shows increased by 45%. The dip in 2006 was primarily because Otakuthon premiered with the low, low price of free, thus affecting the curve. Interesting to note that the least expensive show (MomoCon) this year cost the same as the average con nine years ago.
The problem with all this, aside from being a mess of data, is that not all dollars are the same. Inflation happens, and so I plugged everything into an inflation calculator and converted all the values to 2005 dollars.
The bad news is even when factoring for inflation, the average convention has gone up nearly 16% from 2005. The good news is that the increase likely isn’t for malicious purposes. As these cons get bigger, their costs grow, likely at a rate disproportionate to both inflation and increase in attendance. Additionally, most of these shows are not-for-profit, which means the extra revenue from badges just gets put back into the convention, anyway. It may also just be that demand for particular shows does not behave in the classic supply-demand manner. These cons increased in attendance even though they increased prices. Anime Expo reduced its admission prices in 2014 and got an additional 25,000 people. It will be interesting to see how the attendees react to increased prices in 2015.
Of course, a subtle change in one aspect may be very drastic in another. Here’s one last exercise.
I took all of the cons I had 2013 price data on, and tried to estimate their gate revenue i.e. the money earned from attendee badges. This is simply the number of paid attendees multiplied by a percentage of the at-door weekend badge price, since not all attendees pay full price. The bars indicate the range of possible outcomes based on what attendees might have paid on average. This graph shows anywhere between 60-90% of full price. So, for example, if you had a full badge price of $60 (which is the median for these 13 shows), this graph would show values for an average badge price of between $36-54.
Obviously, AX and Otakon are going to get more money at the gate because they get significant more attendees than anyone else on the continent, but if we look at the others, we can see what a difference a change in price can make.
The dollar amounts in parentheses are what the full price was for a badge to that con. You can see that Youmacon made about as much as Anime Weekend Atlanta, even though AWA had about 4,000 more people. Otakuthon had 3,000 more people than AnimeNEXT yet likely took in less at the gate.
In conclusion, badges are getting pricier, but fewer attendees mind than you would think. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean there will be an adverse reaction to, say, a $100 standard badge, but at the rate things are going, we may cross that bridge a lot sooner that you think.