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A Fact or so about Virtual Events vs. Real

I found this information about the Gasparilla Festival today and want to share it for several reasons. Gasparilla Festival of the Arts made the tough decision last December to call off their in-person festival (scheduled for March 6 and 7) due to COVID-19 and do virtually everything virtually with a dynamic online platform. 

  • This event is known by artists especially for its very large amount of prize money, $65,000 which includes a $15,000 award for Best of Show. They have announced that even though the show will be virtual in 2021 they would still be awarding the prize money. Good for them.

This disclaimer from the event:

  • “We’re not kidding ourselves; artists might not sell as well as in-person. (italics mine) We’re just trying to provide a platform that they can make sales that they otherwise wouldn’t have and opening up to a broader audience that couldn’t come,” says John Scheffel, President of the Board of Directors of the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts. “It’s giving the festival a broader reach, so that’s one of the positives. Artists don’t have any costs to them except when they sell something, which is far less than a gallery’s commission.” Learn more.

When there is bad news there is also some good news.

Anyone here participating in this event? 

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Comment by Connie Mettler on March 8, 2021 at 3:07pm

This is great information, Jan. Thanks for all the hard work and the follow up. You know, I am wondering, if a virtual event is held in an area, like Florida, where at this time of the year people can go outside and enjoy the sunshine, beach, etc., a semi normal life, whether it is possible that there will be less "attendance" at a virtual event. Makes me wonder if they might be more successful in a different climate. 

I hope you'll keep in touch with this.

This last week I visited some old friends and two of their children have nice careers in the art fair business and I asked them for their opinions ... they both had fully participated in the alternative virtual events for two shows ... their experience was the work to prepare and participate has in no way paid off for them in the online arena.

Comment by Jan Herman on March 7, 2021 at 6:58pm

I have follow up comments on the virtual (online) art show by Gasparilla and Eventeny held recently. 

This started Feb. 18 with VIP and sponsors and judging, then it opened to public on March 1st. The Main event with demo videos, band videos, etc. happened on March 6th and 7th. The volunteers in the Gasparilla Arts organization did an amazing amount of work to pull this off which included securing a $80K prize purse sponsored by area businesses. They advertised extensively on social media. Where else they advertised,  I don't know. 

I watched "views" for everyone in my small media category. I averaged 24/day from Feb. 18-March 6 and then over 100/day last weekend.   With a history in sales, I was taught it's all in the numbers. Fewer people: fewer sales. So, how does that number equate to a live show? You know the answer. 

For the event, I did manage to get an award of merit. The piece that won the prize was sold the day I got the award. I did not have any other online sales to date, but shopping is open until March 21st. Realistically, I'm not expecting to sell anything else. 

The very good part is how the Gasparilla group made the event feel personal. 

I browsed other artist's booths regularly and feel I know them through their videos and slideshows. I watched for "this item is in someone's cart" or "sold" notifications, but found few. So, I feel blessed to have something worthy of an award. For the many that did not, plus did not sell anything, this must have been a big disappointment. 

You can plan a great party, make great food, have great music, invite lots of great people; but if no one comes, is it still a party? That, I feel, is the story for online art sales ... for me anyway. 

Comment by Connie Mettler on February 19, 2021 at 3:47pm

It sounds like you're participating at your fullest, Jan. Seems it is worth the try ... be as ready to grab the opportunity as possible and then evaluate the results. We have to admit a 5% commission is a lot less than a person would spend on a booth fee, lodging, food, gas, and travel time to participate in a live event. Stay home and make no sales (with no expenses) or sell at a virtual event and pay a fee. 

I can't tell you how much your report back would be appreciated by many. We look forward to hearing from you.

Comment by Jan Herman on February 18, 2021 at 9:21pm

I'm participating in the fiber category in Gasparilla's virtual event. Although my experience with virtual shows has been a disappointing to date, I'm hoping this event proves to be the exception. There are interesting facets to this virtual event that I can't imagine would take place elsewhere due to Gasparilla's jurying/judging, awards process, sponsors and advertising budget. 

In previous online events I did, there was obviously no attempt to attract traffic to the virtual event. I don't believe anyone had sales or feedback. I miss the feedback the most. That is what Gasparilla is trying to encourage: feedback. I've put a Zoom link in my booth, a funny slideshow and included (I hope) interesting comments in artwork descriptions and added lots of photos of each piece. 

There are 240 participants. That's a massive amount of content especially for everyone that included You Tube videos. 

But, content is key, they say. I'll let you know how it goes. 

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