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Does a show admission fee "winnow out" looky-loos, thereby increasing the percentage of buyers at a show? 

Do such shows actually have a higher spend per customer? 

And how do you know? 

This issue was brought up by Nancy Grimsley on my Coconut Point show review today, and we thought it was worthy of its own topic.  I've heard lots of debate pro and con  about whether artists like fees or not.  But the debate, while impassioned, has never been accompanied by data. 

So I thought I'd ask here:  Has there been done any actual RESEARCH (you know, with numbers and all ;-)  ) done on the relationship between a show charging an admission fee, and the percentage of buyers and per-customer spend at the show? 

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I have always done better at shows where an admission is charged. But some promoters get too greedy and charge too much and that can affect sales. I did the NJ Flower and Garden show a few years back and was unaware until it was too late the admission was $20 per person. Take a family of four and there's no money left for the cash & carry exhibitors. But a show with a $5 or $6 admission means sales as the lookers and strollers aren't there. We're the reason they come, we're not just part of a street fair.

I have mixed feelings on this one. I've only done a few shows with a show admission. My results have been all over the place. A good show can get away with it. I don't think a $5 fee will stop anyone. Customers at shows that charge admission are more likely to walk in all the booths and see some art; they are paying for it after all.

It does take money out of the pocket of potential buyers. Also, the show isn't the only one taking a cut of the show goer's spending budget for the day. At gated shows the food and drink vendors have a captive audience resulting in $4 bottles of soda and water. If parking is limited, special lots charge $10-$15 per space. A family of 4 can be out a considerable amount of money by the time they reach my booth.

I am wondering if charging admission hurts adjacent shows to a main show. For example, did Coconut Grove keep more people at their show and hurt ST. Stephens when they started charging admission?

Geoff, although this is an interesting question, I doubt you will get real RESEARCH results from artists. The comments are going to be empirical. I think there are way too many variables from the artists' side. My inclination would be to try to get gross sales figures from promoters/managers for shows before and after gate fees charged. There would still be lots of variables other than the fee but less than with artists.

Well, I'm really just trying to stir the hornet's nest up a little! ;-)

And you're right, artists themselves aren't in the research business, but with so large an audience, I'm hoping the question reaches someone with knowledge of a study that's been done somewhere.  Always possible that a promoter may read it and weigh in, too. 

This might be a good question to ask on the Art Fair Radio program next time some promoters are on. 

A few of you mention the cost of taking a family of four to a show.  How often does the patron who is with their kids actually buy something?  I find more buyers among people who do not have kids tagging along.

As far as the fee, I a guessing you can find a show that proves any point you are trying to make here.  I did one show with a gate fee that could easily be bypassed by walking through a parking garage (and many patrons were bragging about doing that).  That show had the least educated customers I have ever dealt with and some of the worst buy/sell.  It was a decent show but I am not sure I am going back.  OOAK charges $12 but makes so many free tickets available that no one seems to actually pay, and the crowds are huge.  I've done shows in parks that don't charge and are so full of dog walkers that real buyers cant get near the art.

Ultimately the fee is one of many factors that need to be considered with all shows.  If the quality and quantity of artists is good, the fee may not be an issue, and as Nancy pointed out, if the show is not up to par and has a fee it will be shooting itself in the foot.

Amy couldn't help but what show has all the dog walkers? I love the site of dogs as it means leash and collar sales. Mom usually tells dad standing around while she outfits the pooch, that "you need a new belt to keep your pants up too". I don't mind kids either, as their interest usually gets the adults interested. LOL

Guess you haven't had your tent christened by a dog yet.  While I occasionally take my dog to a show it is a major hassle.  Too many people don't control their dogs, fights can break out or people can't get into booths because of dogs in the aisles.  Then there was the artist who asked if my dog could have some fried chicken.  I said no and he gave it to her anyway.  I left that booth without buying anything.

What is the best way to get grease off of leather?  

Never had a dog problem in over twenty years. Dogs like the smell of my booth and must be that Western dogs have good manners. I enjoy seeing all of the different breeds and talking to their owners. Grease on leather depends on type of grease and type of leather. Is that a serious question?

Yes, it was a serious question.  I was thinking of food grease from  the types of food normally sold at art festivals.  

Soft, chrome tanned garment leathers, wipe off excess, dust with talcum powder overnight or longer. Brush off talcum. Bark tanned belt, saddle leathers, clean with saddle soap, apply light coats of neatsfoot oil the match color. This is the simple stuff to try first. More complex involves reconditioning the entire piece.


If that doesn't work, email me some pictures at: When I was apprenticing in Scottsdale the old saddlemakers would tell easterners "the only thing that will stain leather is blood and whiskey". LOL Lots more to it than that.


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