I had a thought today. (Folks who know me will be familiar with my occasional crazy ideas…)
I’ve been thinking about convention membership prices for a while, pretty much every time I need to pay one, or hear about someone struggling to pay one.
It’s been a while since I’ve been on the organising end of a convention, but I know they are expensive things to run. Hotel venues are usually in the vicinity of exorbitant, and I’d assume that the bulk of the membership fees go to covering this expense. And it isn’t a discretionary line-item, in that the con needs a venue.
I also know that in general cons don’t aim to run at a significant profit/surplus; while they may be able to put aside a few bucks at the end to pass on to the next con, this is often achieved through sponsorships or more people than expected attending.
So back to my idea. Right now we have possibly (on paper) the healthiest convention calendar Australia has seen for at least 22 years (which is as long as I’ve been attending). We have three guaranteed annual conventions: Swancon (Perth), Conflux (Canberra), and Continuum (Melbourne); as well as occasional natcons in other cities (and in recent times the 2-yearly NSW Writers Centre SF Festival, a slightly different beast, I’m also excluding the Sydney FreeCons from this as, I understand, there is no membership fee required to attend).
All of these makes for a lot of expensive travel in order to attend as many as possible. A conservative $1000-2000 ($700 airfare, $1000 hotel + food, $300 membership) in rough figures to attend a con not in your home state. These are rough figures, and while savings may be able to be made through room sharing, it’s still a sizeable chunk o’ filthy lucre. Possibly enough to discourage interstate attendance.
At the same time, I really believe that the best and strongest conventions come from having as many attendees from all over Australia. I think this helps out with programming, and the overall vibe of the show. I think that whatever can bring as many people together to these events is best for the community.
So, as the idea goes, would a convention gain from offering an interstate discounted membership; say $100 at the door?
It’s just an idea, I don’t know how it would work in practice. I’d start by looking to exclude NatCons from this suggestion, as I think the nature of those events encourage interstate participation and attendance. So I’m only looking at non-NatCons. So would like to throw some questions out there for discussion.
1. Would such a discounted membership encourage interstate visitors to attend?
2. What is the rough current proportion of local to interstate attendees: would such a discount be taking money out of the convention?
3. Would there be local resistance to “foreigners” getting a cheaper rate?
4. Are there other/more effective ways to promote and encourage interstate attendees?