Convention Review: Youmacon 2017
I'm quite late writing this convention review and for that I apologize!
This was my third year attending Youmacon, if you'd like to read my past reviews you can find 2015 and 2016 in the respective links.
Since I've done Youmacon before, not much has changed. I initially didn't get into the artist alley (which I will go into later), but got in off the wait list. The events of Midwest Media Expo greatly impacted the artist alley in terms of which artists got in, but aside from that, much of what I said for previous years remains true.
Youmacon has pretty standard convention rules. They do ban the sale of some items (such as clothing) which they feel would be better in the vendor area as well as any food. They do not have specific rules against manufactured items, something I've become more aware of as I now have the bats manufactured, but there have been hints that should the artist alley change to a juried selection, this may change and there are other things (such as my little pony plushies) which are on the fence so be sure to read the most up to date rules for the year you are applying. In general, though, these are easy rules to follow and there's no tricky rules you might accidentally get caught up on.
I feel like every year I say sign up is a mess and this year is no exception. It was first come first serve via Eventbrite which generally I have no problem with. I love the convenience of using Eventbrite and having all my information saved for fast check out and all my receipts and tickets in one place.
HOWEVER because of Midwest Media Expo there was a large number of people (myself included) vying for a greatly reduced number of tables. For those who aren't familiar with the situation, MMX is (was?) the sister con of Youmacon which is a smaller con held in Dearborn, MI. Days before the event it was cancelled due to a dispute with the venue. Artists were offered the option of a refund or a table at Youmacon. While I understand the show runners decision to do this, I didn't necessarily agree with it because Youmacon and MMX were two different cons. Artists like myself who find a good fit in one might not have seen the same as the other, yet not going to MMX put them at a huge disadvantage when it came to getting a table at Youmacon. I know I'm never guarenteed a table at any convention, but I like to think that I'm at least on even playing ground with other artists. Again, though, I understand the reasoning behind it. There were no good choices for Youmacon/MMX here someone would have been upset no matter what.
However, in previous years Youmacon sold out in minutes. This year it sold out in 10 seconds. There was no early bird sign up this year as in the previous year.
I also experienced my first issue with Eventbrite. I refreshed the page at the correct time, saw there were available tables, added one to the cart, hit the button to checkout... and it took me back to the ticket page showing no tickets available with only the option to be added to the wait list. Eventbrite theoretically "saves" your ticket for a short time to allow you to complete checkout, but others also reported this same glitch happening to them.
Again, there was no option to purchase a helper badge. Artists had to purchase a regular badge or pay in cash the day of the con. By the time I got off the wait list, pre-registration was closed and I had no option other than to pay in cash. There was no itemized receipt available for tax purposes. I haven't encountered this specific issue before and would like to see the option of a receipt now that I think about it.
There is a lot of discussion about what type of artist alley is most "fair" and what fair even means. Take a peek into any group of artists who primarily do artist alleys and you'll find a lot of discussion on this topic.
First come first serve has it's time and place, but I personally believe Youmacon needs to give some serious thought as to whether or not they want to keep it around. When you are selling out in 10 seconds, you aren't choosing artists based on anything other than the speed of their computer and how fast their button clicking reflexes are. And a bit of sheer luck about whether or not the system you are using glitches out. I don't think that is in the best interest of the artists or the attendees.
After this year, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a change in the way sign ups are handled, but if there isn't, be ready to be quick.
Personally, once I got off the wait list, Beth set up a chat between myself and the artist who could no longer attend. I transferred the artist the price of the table via Paypal and received a copy of their confirmation email. Even though it was short notice, I had been building a small amount of "just in case" stock so it was amazingly thrilled to actually get off the wait list.
Communication continues to be a problem with Youmacon. Communication takes place primarily through the Facebook group. This works well for me, I'm on Facebook regularly and prefer it over email where I often get 100+ messages a day and it's easy to lose one. Beth, the artist alley head, is quick to respond to Facebook messages and friendly. But this wont work for all people, so be aware of this.
As in previous years, there was no info packet sent to artists about where to park or load in ahead of time.
Despite knowing basically where to go and what to do, even if I had issues this year due to conflicting information and changes in Cobo policy. Due to miscommunication (or a lack of communication) between Cobo staff and con staff, many uncertainties arose with trying to figure out parking and load in. There seemed to be some changes and no one seemed to have any real answers which generated more anxiety and confusion. In the future I'd like to see more concrete information BEFORE we get to the con.
Despite conflicting information, load in remained easy for us. As in previous years, we parked on the Cobo Center roof at the far end marked D. The elevator inside is almost right at the entrance to the artist alley. We simply walk through the front doors. We have a wagon and can do this in one or two trips.
I don't advise artists use the loading docks as there is often a line of vendors waiting to use them and there can be miscommunication. This year some artists were told they need a pass to use the loading docks, something artists weren't given. For small loads, loading in from the roof is significantly easier.
I always leave my car on the roof all weekend for easy accessibility. They do charge an overnight fee in addition to the daily parking fee, but I consider it a small price to pay for the convenience of not having to shuffle the car around downtown Detroit's expensive parking. Plus it is well lit and we've never had a security issue. This year parking rates DID go up on the cobo center roof by about $5, but it was still well worth it.
Again, all this information may change, but it's been relatively consistent for 3 years. (Though I hear the Exhibitor hall may be moving in 2018)
At the Con
Check in remains an easy process. I had my table transferred from another artist so I had a copy of their acceptance email to show staff.
The layout could still use more space between artists. Neighbors on either side of me had backdrops and without any space between tables my only option if I wanted to leave to get food, use the bathroom, or even just stretch my legs was to try and squeeze between the stands and chairs without knocking anything over. There was some close calls.
Youmacon is a busy con, make no mistake about it. Though I noticed a significant difference in traffic between the back aisle where I was this year and a front aisle facing the dealers last year. I was still plenty busy, but sometimes I'd have no one in my row and look behind me to see other aisles crowded. A better traffic flow to the back of the room could be helpful for those artists (perhaps making registration more obviously enter into the back row rather than next to it).
It's nice to have a con like Youmacon where I attended multiple years because I am able to build up a small fan base. I had one person tell me they bought a ticket exclusively to come buy one of the new purple bats in person. Every year my Youmacon fans blow me away with their support and I love getting to see them all.
There was an issue with the schedule having the wrong times in it. Staff went around and let us know about it, I heard from at least 2 of them. However not all artists and certainly not all attendees got the memo.
I also had many attendees complain they had no cash left as registration is cash only and the ATMs charge a fee for use. While I would love to see this change as card readers are very common these days, it doesn't seem likely to be different in the future. So artists should be sure to bring along card readers as it will make a difference in sales when cash is limited. I never noticed this being an issue in previous years, but it came up multiple times this year.
Sales remained quite good for me, though I was limited because I had very little time to prepare. Most of the sales came from bats. Small batch manufacturing is a huge lifesaver for a business like mine that can't always keep up with demand, but can't afford place a massive order of hundreds of thousands of products.
Overall I love the atmosphere of Youmacon. It's busy, high energy, and a ton of fun to sell at. I chat a lot more at Youmacon than most other cons I do, I tend to lose my voice a bit at night. It's a good feeling though!
Similar to load in, this is very easy if you parked on the roof. We simply load everything into our wagon, walk to the elevators, and take them up to the waiting car. We were on the road in half an hour.
As an Attendee
This year we chose not to stay at the con hotel and, instead, stay at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites. They don't have as many amenities as the Marriott and they and the view wasn't as good. But holy cow did it makes a huge difference on our sanity! We are entirely over waiting for the people mover, waiting for escalators, waiting sometimes over an hour for the elevators. The Holiday Inn is a much closer walk if we need to make it, quieter, and no waiting!
We did buy people mover passes this year as well (though we lost them before the con). Even though we didn't use them much, I'd recommend them, the people mover went up in price and they're more worth it than ever. Even just 2 trips a day they were a good value.
I still love the amount of panels available at Youmacon, especially the late night panels. As I've mentioned before, I'm a fan of 18+ adult humor panels. It's nice to have a good laugh after working. This year the app was available on attendify and that was a huge improvement.
One thing that wasn't so funny at the time, but now we laugh about, was my mother got turned away from an 18+ panel for no ID. It's become an inside joke now. I'm at the tail end of 28 so you can do a bit of math in your head and it's safe to assume my mother is not able to pass for under 18. I'm glad staff took their job seriously, but we never had issues with this in previous years.
Suddenly having more time on our hands without all the waiting for elevators, we were able to enjoy ourselves a bit more. We made a trip Saturday to Maru Sushi and had an amazing experience with some of the best sushi. They even featured us on their Facebook page, which was pretty exciting for us. I'd highly recommend budgeting a trip here for a fancy dinner in cosplay it was definitely memorable.
While I enjoy the all night party vibe of the Renaissance Center, we absolutely wont be returning to the main hotel! It's way more fun to have extra time and if we absolutely want to go hang out there, it's a quick people mover ride away.
Youmacon still holds a place in my heart. I often describe it as being "alive". This is a con with a true pulse of life and there's something to do at all hours in a huge space. I feel swept up and I don't come back to reality until Monday morning comes crashing down. It's fun, plain and simple.
I do have gripes about the way the con is run, particularly with sign up. It is particularly annoying to encounter the same issues year after year, though it sounds like change will be on the horizon for the future. No con is perfect and Youmacon is still absolutely worth attending. At the end of the day none of my complaints are deal breakers. It just helps to be informed about what you can expect to encounter.
I was legitimately upset when I didn't get in for 2017 and then thrilled to get off the wait list. That's pretty telling when it's a con I look forward to all year. I hope to return to Youmacon in 2018 (fingers crossed that I get in the artist alley!).