Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
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?
Amy, I once made a remark about the behavior of sponsors at a show and a certain show director made fun of the remark. So, I will repeat the point. Golf tournaments and tennis matches have sponsors. Art shows have some of the same sponsors. They don't hawk beer, play loud rap music on a stage, or shout inane sales pitches at golf tournaments and other like sporting events. They are required to exhibit some modicum of sophisticated behavior. Why shouldn't they be held to same standards at an art fair? Isn't that a reasonable request? It doesn't mean that they should be shushing people and saying "quiet please," all day. I think that was the gist of the remark that was made to my comment. I'd like to see some, any, show director come to this forum and explain why it is better for sponsors to carry on like idiots ruining the art fair atmosphere with their loud hawking, than acting with a certain degree of maturity.
Btw, I had a dog take a dump right in front of my booth in 90 deg weather and the owner kept right on walking until I made the guy clean it up. And then, he only did a half hearted job, keeping everyone from coming in. Even if it was a justified criticism on my work, it never should have happened.
Thanks, Barry, for today's laugh.
Here is a little I know about shows charging fees.
We participated in CG before the fencing and before the tech bubble in 2000. Great sales, loved the show and who from Michigan doesn't want to be in Miami in February? After 2000, not great sales. The first year they put up the gates was after that bubble burst and our space was next to an entry area. We watched as the organizers figured out how to gate a show and it was much improved the following year. Still, there were plenty of people at the show. The reason they gated that show, as I understand it, was that CGAF was a non-profit and they were raising funds to restore something in the neighborhood, or to insure the continuation of the event, putting money in the bank. (sorry, my memory isn't pulling up the exact reason).
For us, the changing times, 21st century, meant that no longer was this show profitable for us and we stopped doing it in 2005. Many of our friends from the North also no longer make the trek. I don't think it is the gate, I think it is the changing nature of the neighborhood, who attends and changing demographics.
Another event I know well, Arts, Beats & Eats, had huge crowds and in the early years great sales. This was again before the tech meltdown. So many people you couldn't walk down the street and metro Detroit was flourishing, as were many other places. The attendance was touted as nearly a million people.
In 2008 they added gates and a $2 admission. The crowds were still huge, but now there was a gate count and it turned out to only be about 250,000. The art fair closed at 9 pm, but the rest of the event went on until 11 pm and consequently there were a lot of partyers in the late hours and of course you couldn't kick them off city streets at 11. Besides charging to get in they also instituted a policy that no one under 18 admitted after 5 pm (which caused raucous behavior to dissipate) and security issues were eased. It was a good thing.
The gate fee is split among charity partners, with half going to the event. This show's attendance was not hurt by the gate, but the stress of the great recession has affected severely the once affluent community where it takes place and subsequently the art buying.