I kinda feel I want to open the can of worms on this for the purpose of learning what others opinions are on the topic to move forward and implement solutions to the issue. As booth fees are going up - and this could be for various reasons (higher advertising fees for example), do you find shows offering a better quality show or added value making the fees worth while? If not, what would you suggest to make higher booth fees easier to swallow? Side note/food for thought: Promoters/show organizers can not guarantee anyone's success - it is up to each individual craft artist. - Michelle

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  • I actually promoted 3 events last year, on top of doing shows myself. In saying this I learned A LOT! First and foremost, it is a thankless job. No one wakes up and thinks - I want to be a promoter when I grow up or has a huge desire to jump in head first wanting to be the cause of what is wrong in the world - or at least at a show. I did it because I really wanted to make a difference in shows in the area. I see too many shows, and I even participate in some of them, that are NOT for the artist - but for themselves. Organizations treat them as fund raisers or a way to just advertise something, but have no clue what goes into promoting an event. I had a set goal and business plan. The goal was to put on an art fair with crafts (not "grandma" crafts, but those that have a lot of potential and definitely "in"/marketable with patrons of today), advertise the event to patrons who appreciate and buy art verses lookie loos. And of course meet artists basic needs - have a booth fee that is fair to the profit that can be made and treat them with respect - offering discounts, booth sitters, feed back on jury results and a jury fee of $15 (to cover the experts time, phone expenses, and postage fees), free postcard fliers, security, etc. We accomplished all of that and can be satisfied with that as we are still getting people inquiring about our events and good feedback from artists mentioning they are still getting sales from the events.

    What many don't realize is that the booth fee is reliant on how many spaces you can fill in a venue - if all were sold. A space fee MUST cover all advertising expenses and venue fees (including security, insurance, maintenance, etc.), electric (a/c and/or heating), piping and drape (which if you price it about 100 feet costs about $700 or so), and office fees and so on. When you arrive at the total and divide that among the amount of spaces, this is your booth fee. The question to us was, how were we going to make a profit on all of this? We knew some organizations were able to do through concessions or selling t-shirts or souvenirs, but that wasn't us. So through asking many artists what their thoughts were we ended up charging a $3 gate fee with multiple opportunities to use coupons for $1 off (and the fee included free parking and children were free) to try and show we have quality work and this isn't a place for lookie loos seeking smelly wooden roses.

    What hurt our events - bad weather and the economy. In the Spring, the show occurred on the first day we had 80 degree weather and sunny and no humidity. Where were the people - out mowing and packing the garden/home improvement centers. Other promoters in the area I talked to had the same experience. Although there were several artists just happy with the customers that came through - they made money. The other shows it was either torrential rain or too nice weather no one wanted to venture to a show. But of course promoters get "slapped" with the "you didn't advertise enough" or "you're just taking our money and profiting off of it. Last year - for our shows, we brought in $25,000 but our expenses were $26,000. I am mentioning this because I want artists to realize promoters have the same potential as making as much as they do - sometimes they have a good show and sometimes they don't. We've decided to not promote any more shows though - too much work for hardly any pay especially with the economy and not having enough help/support from local art organizations.

    The other thing we learned was we thought advertising wasn't as expensive. Radio ads - $350 and that is just 16 air plays in one week - and it is up to chance when they would be aired - of course if you want to pay more you can choose - but... Newspaper ads - $650 for about a 1/6 page and that is just one day with one newspaper - again leaving it up to chance where it will be placed - it could be in the automotive section and if you are lucky, in the arts/weekend section. What worked the best is road signs - we had 20 around town and the coupons from both our website, fliers at the tourism centers (with coupons) and coupons with other advertising we did, in addition to the word of mouth from the artists themselves. Sometimes the cheapest advertising works the best - hint to other promoters out there and artists when it comes to utilizing mailing lists.

    I am sorry this is so long, but just like setting up a booth thinking "set-up and they will come" it is the same gamble with putting on events especially when it comes to advertising and the weather. Too nice or too extreme and it fends away patrons. When the economy goes down the pooper, they might show up, and they might not and those who do, may be not in the mood to buy, but window shop. I have to say each persons success at a show is up to themselves - you must be a good sales person and have an awesome booth display to just be a contender for getting good sales. I could clearly see the difference at our shows - the gorgeous displays with people demonstrating got the most sales (with commissions) while the others sat and read with nothing going on in their booth (visually) and they were the ones to complain about how "awful" the show was. Regardless of the outcome, I feel horrible that not everyone had a great experience, but I also can't loose sleep over it because a promoter can't control everything - just do the best they can. - Michelle
  • Good responses here Michelle to a good question. Glad you posted it. So let's see if I can screw that up nice track record of good responses!

    I agree with Greg that far too many shows raise fees merely because they can .... jury and booth fees both. They know we need show venues if we do this for our living and that limits our options in deciding whether to apply or not to apply. We have to have a public to exhibit in front of. For the most part I also agree with Christopher's statements and Dave's that if a show needs the increase in funds for something besides pure profit, and manages their event wisely, advertises better and promotes better because of the increased monies, if it means more patrons rather than bodies come to the event and artists experience better sales, then an increase in booth fees is not an issue. If your booth fee goes up $100 and all artists experiences increased sales of say $500 or more ..... seems that would be a win, wouldn't it? The killer is when jury and booth fees go up, number of artists in the shows go up, quality goes down (jury issue), number of patrons doesn't change, and sales go down. Major loss all around.

    And as Christopher pointed out with the promoter in VT that has taken over some shows in NJ and lowered booth fees AND produced a show with good results ..... seems that is the kind of statement we need to hear of more often. That a show promoter, new or old, MANAGES their event better and artist and patrons do well. It's all good. It can be done a whole lot more by promoters. Not all the essentials of good management of a business, which an art show is, cost money. Some merely cost time, thought, planning, insight, oversight, wisdom, and sanity.

    As Dave says, if there are fewer artists the fees concentrate more with each artists. So here to, show promoters in managing their event have to be alert and sensitive to the size of the show relative to the number of buyers they attract and not enlarge a show merely to sell more spaces and make more money. I think the majority of us would much prefer to be in a smaller show with good attendance by patrons and good sales, than huge events with 300+ artists and lots of lookers. Even if booth fees must increase. No value there for our money. That is purely an exercise, for most artists, in leasing pavement or grass.

    So booth fee costs have to be in proportion to results. I've been to Sausalito and sales were so good that the booth fee at the time, $700, was not an issue. Myself, I have no problem with promoters making money as long as that profit is derived primarily from how well they run/manage their event. If they do their job well, and bring patrons with money to the event and artists have good to great sales ..... no problem at all. I do have serious problems with people who charge high jury fees merely because everyone else is, and raise booth fees disproportionate to sales.
  • I'm perhaps being a bit critical, but I believe that in large part fairs raise fees because they want to make more money and they feel they can raise fees and get away with it. Some raise fees and gate and charge fees for entering a show. I don't feel that they are entirely justified for doing so. On the same hand. I raise and lower my prices based upon what the market will bear and of course the competition. So are they so wrong? Patrons have a choice to buy or not. We artists have a choice to apply and attend or not.
    As to what you get for the increase well its anybodies guess. Most large shows that I've attended I've felt like a second class citizen. Like I've been "put up with". I don't want to be coddled, just treated right, after all I just spent $200 to $1000 to be a part of that show.
  • I believe it all depends on what the promoter does for that rise in fees. If it due to advertising costs going up, and the show continues to attract customers, then it's a necessary evil. But some promoters raise prices simply because they aren't getting enough exhibitors. And they aren't getting enough exhibitors because the fees are too high!

    And maybe the promoter is starting to "sell real estate". The B/S shows up, the customers that have attended before are upset and the show goes downhill. The fees stay the same, but the VALUE is lower, and that's the same as a fee increase.

    With the shows I do I am seeing the latter in one nationwide promoter. They've gone from 350 exhibitors to 70 at one particular venue.
    Another promoter has increased the value of the show while keeping the fees the same. She has kicked out all the B/S and is advertising handcrafted only. And the customers are showing up.
    Another promoter based here in Vt has taken over some shows in NJ. But they lowered the fees from $550 to $350 for those shows as they must resurrect them. And it's evidently working as we did the spring show and were very happy.

    But I think it's up to the individual exhibitor to decide what the value is. Some will balk at a $100 show while others won't blink twice at a $500 show.
  • I haven't seen an increase in show space on any of the shows I've participated in this year, but I can understand the need for an increase. The fees for a group to put on a show have remained the same, or increased. If there are less vendors, then the costs have to be spread out amoung a smaller number of artists, so the cost per artist is higher. Unfortunately, in our sour economic times, we can not raise our prices to offset the increased fees.

    Actually, one of the larger shows in our area lowered their prices this year in order to attract more Artists. It seemed to work for them, as their was a good turnout of both artists and shoppers!
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