Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

ESCALATING BOOTH FEES--IN THIS RECESSION WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?

While I am happily typing away this morn I wanted to address one of my pet peeves about street shows right now.

The escalation of booth fees at shows on all levels is really getting out of hand--especially in this economy.

I just did my app for the Milwaukee Lakefront show on Zapp this morn.  They want $500 for the booth fee.  I have done this show many times over the years and it is not the show it used to be for sales.  The economy there is not good and sales are off.  When I last did it three years ago I barely cleared $2K in sales for a show in the old days where I could do $5-8K.  So now they want $500 for a booth which will account for 25%  of my total.  And, this does not include gas, hotel, food and the cost of replenishing goods sold.  Sorry folks this is not a good business plan for any sole proprietor.

I know, show directors are going to say,"Well we gotta pay for security,police, porta-potties so we need that kind of money.  BS.  We are also paying for nice large salaries that these show directors now make.

How do they expect most artists to make a living with these kind of fees and our meager returns on sales.  Most people are off by 50-40% on their grosses over past years because of our economy which is worst we have seen in our lifetimes.

These fees kill the chances of most newcomers to get in our biz.  Too high of cost for too little of return.  Only the well-off and most successful will thrive.  These fees will kill the street shows.

Naples, an already over-saturated market has routine booth fees of nearly $500 and most artists are not gettong a five-fold return on their money.  It is a recipe for failure.

Love to hear some feedback from those 6000 lurkers of you out there.  

I mean doesn't this rankle your feathers a bit.  How can you sit back there blase and think well that is just the way the biz is.  Guess what, we are all on the way to the Poorhouse with no salvation showing on the horizon.  Show fees can not continue to escalate like this in these times.  Nobody wins.

OK now I am off to play golf, with luck I will do better on the links than I did on the streets last weekend.  Come on folks, chime in and stop being lurkers.

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Comment by Daniel J. DiBernardo on December 30, 2011 at 9:45pm

Have been doing shows since 2007...like many, I have seen a decrease in sales over the past few years.  I have done high end shows, street festivals, arts & crafts shows and pumpkin festivals...my prices are significantly lower than most of the competition, and I do offer low cost "pick-up" items in the $4-$10 range.  High show fees have caused me to look elsewhere in many instances.  I had planned on trying to get into several "higher" quality juried shows, but with two day show costs ranging from $450 to $1000, I cannot justify even bothering to apply...the ROI will not be there. 

Comment by Daniel J. DiBernardo on December 30, 2011 at 9:44pm

Have been doing shows since 2007...like many, I have seen a decrease in sales over the past few years.  I have done high end shows, street festivals, arts & crafts shows and pumpkin festivals...my prices are significantly lower than most of the competition, and I do offer low cost "pick-up" items in the $4-$10 range.  High show fees have caused me to look elsewhere in many instances.  I had planned on trying to get into several "higher" quality juried shows, but with two day show costs ranging from $450 to $1000, I cannot justify even bothering to apply...the ROI will not be there. 

Comment by Sara Aune on December 2, 2011 at 9:04am

Very thought provoking insights in this blog, I think it rates as your best so far.

Comment by Pat Falk on December 1, 2011 at 12:36pm

Jeff, it sounds like buying lottery tickets might be a better deal. 

Comment by Jeff Brook Gibford on December 1, 2011 at 8:59am

I recently attended a seminar type thing put on by Cherry Creek Arts and ZAPP.

You sat in on a mock jury session, only one juror for this exhibition, and got to see your slides projected on the wall and critique given. Great to see for the first time.

What I learned mostly was that as long as the 4 art pieces you use to apply are pretty good, you are really only judged by your booth shot...Period... So for you $35.00-50.00 jury fee, the first run through is 3 seconds per artist. This they call the preview. No one is kicked out in this 3 second viewing.

Then they go through again and your slides are projected for 8-10 seconds. You may be dropped out of the show this time having been exposed for 11-13 seconds. This is also the time they are heavily scrutinizing you booth shot. Your work and booth shot in 8-10 seconds. Understandably, there are 1,000s of entries and they've got to start cutting but the whole gist of the screening really gets back to your "Booth Shot". If you are going to enter the supposed "Great Shows", your $35.00 - $50.00 spotlight time is extremely short and your work is less important than your booth picture.

I just see the profit in the jury fee being extreme. I hear about 2,500 applications get to Cherry Creek, times that by their new $40.00 jury fee they rake in $100,000.00 and you get a minimum of 11-13 seconds. Might be OK but you better have a Hollywood production team shoot your booth.

Comment by Tim McLaughlin on December 1, 2011 at 8:47am

Help me understand what the jury is all about. I am fairly new to this and where does that money go?

Comment by AL NEWLIN on November 30, 2011 at 9:29pm

It appears that the jury fee has become the goal and big money maker for many shows. that means instead of selecting the best work, they tend to pass the booth spaces around. Otherwise ,the artists who were not quite making the cut would not apply more than once or twice. It becomes obvious when you see a show with work that is clearly inferior to artists that were turned down or waitlisted. My 25 years experience in this business has shown me that a well established show will almost always get better with repeat years. This "mining jury fees" takes this away from artists who need repeated exposure to build customer base in the area.

Of course, another possible cause of the inferior entries could be that with automated entries ,many artists are combating the frivolous jury process by entering four or five shows each week-end the selecting the best offer. By the time the organizer goes looking for replacements, the better artists have gone to another show and they are left filling spaces with any one they can find. They are none the worse, because many shows make more from jury fees than booth fees. I have seen many fine shows decline in quality since the automated application process started making it possible for any lazy, uninformed group to take over a show and run it without any effort to contact or attract artists.

Comment by John D. Wilson on November 29, 2011 at 4:00pm

Yes as long as they do marketing at low cost art shows. This is yet to be proven but I think it will work. The flea selling prices will be lower, no damage if inside. my hips won,t go out, etc. I am presently using my pro-panels for walls. I chose a location near many shows. It is kept clean. The rest rooms are cleaned every 1/2 hour. I also buy many of my grocery items here. I chose with care as should you.

 

 

Comment by Tim McLaughlin on November 29, 2011 at 3:47pm

So ,  are you saying that if a group of artists do a flea market together the cost will be low and over time a market for art will be created?

Comment by John D. Wilson on November 29, 2011 at 3:26pm

What I see happening in my area is that co-ops don't get enough visitors to be profitable. Flea markets get a lot of people, although most are not interested in art but remember they have friends that are. Add to this with the artists doing a few low cost shows and the chance of building a large following seems very good. Graded fees according to what the artist is willing to do could make this the best way to sell your art. Live around Chicago? Come visit 1775 N Rand Rd. in Palatine, or email to johnisart@sbcglobal.net. This just might be the new future.

 

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