This week is “Behind the scenes week” on social media for Phoenix Comic Fest. The convention is answering questions submitted by fans and I thought this one was of particular interest (which can be found on their FB page)
“What do you spend membership revenue on?” “Why have your prices gone up this year?”
Revenue generated by membership and exhibitor sales pays for all the expenses associated with the convention. Those expenses are significant and will dramatically increase in 2018.
Along with multiple street closures downtown, we rent the entirety of the Phoenix Convention Center (minus the South Building), and that pricing goes up every two years. We’ve been at the convention center for nine years, which means we are into our fifth pricing increase on the rent of the facility.
Given our size, number of attendees, and as a direct result of the security incident last year we are now required to have a security and enhanced screening apparatus in line with major annual sporting events, such as the Super Bowl or the NCAA Final Four. Those requirements have added additional expenses.
We’re proud that our early Full Event pricing in 2013 was $50 and four years later in 2017 it was only five dollars more at $55. That our early pricing was $80 this year is a jump from 2017 but allows us to invest in areas our attendees have asked for improvement. The limited price increase from 2013 to 2017 demonstrates our commitment to keep pricing affordable and only increase when necessary. Our Full Event credentials are $100 now, which compares with $65 last year and $60 in 2013.
In prior years we were run by a mostly volunteer staff. Regulations and higher profile of conventions like ours means we now pay all our crew who work our event and have full-time salaried staff who work year-round. Having a full-time staff comes with additional expenses such as the office space we work in.
We pay for travel, lodging, stipends, appearance fees, and missed guarantees on all our invited celebrities, comic book creators, authors, voice actors, and cosplay guests. This year we’re investing more money in bringing out more and bigger name guests in all categories than ever before. It’s not lost on us that the shows that bring out big-name celebrities that our attendees clamor for also charge more than we do for Full Event passes. We aim to strike a balance between being able to bring out the guests you all want to see and keeping our prices affordable (Ace Comicon in Glendale charged $95 for their 3- day full event pass and Emerald City Comicon in Seattle was $120 for their 4-day full event passes and sold out in hours).
We hire a decorator to set up our exhibitor hall with pipe and drape for booths and tables, chairs, carpet, stanchions for all other areas. We rent walkie-talkies so our staff can communicate easier onsite during the event. We lose a percentage of all sales due to credit card processing fees. We pay for electrical use and internet lines we need onsite. We rent audio visual equipment for all the programming rooms and set up video projection in the main ballrooms so everyone can hear and see the guests on stage. We print the program guide, purchase badges, wristbands, and over the years lanyards and badge holders. We’re required to pay for licenses for music to be played during our event. We also pay to promote the show, for programming supplies for events, and for the thousand other expenses, large and small, that are too many to list.
We strive to reduce expenses when we can, though sometimes those decisions aren’t popular. We eliminated lanyards, reduced carpet in the exhibitor hall, and shifted nighttime events out of the Sheraton and Renaissance in order to save money and keep our pricing low.
Phoenix Comic Fest does make a profit, and it needs to do so to continue to operate. We are not backed by any large corporation like some other conventions are, and if the convention loses money, it impacts our ability to hold Phoenix Comic Fest. We’ve always made efforts to reinvest revenue and profits into our company and our events by expanding our physical space, bringing out more guests and offering more programming, and by keeping a hold on raising our pricing until we absolutely have to. We know that not everyone will be able to afford a full event pass to attend, and we make sure that our single day pricing provides value for attendees.