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InsaneDavid

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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #40 on: May 16, 2014, 10:02:03 AM »

You have to also remember that at the end of the day it really comes down to where the guests want to go.  I would hope (and assume) that many potential guests wouldn't be swayed strictly by waving around more cash in their faces.  Have you ever attended a panel at a convention where you could clearly see that the guest didn't want to be there?  I have - puts a weird vibe in the air of the room.  Sometimes being a big convention can hurt your chances with hosting guests that would rather have smaller and more laid-back appearances as well.

I think it's just as important, if not more so, to have guests that are enthusiastic and excited to attend a convention than to have a big name to throw up on a marquee.  Also remember, convention guests also, like, you know, have to work and live their lives and create the things that make us want to see them in person.  They can't pop around the world every weekend to show up at fan events.

However we should never be disrespectful to the guests who appear at the convention.  Don't know who they are at first glance?  Expand your horizons!
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hikanteki

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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #41 on: May 16, 2014, 10:15:25 AM »

You have to also remember that at the end of the day it really comes down to where the guests want to go.  I would hope (and assume) that many potential guests wouldn't be swayed strictly by waving around more cash in their faces.  Have you ever attended a panel at a convention where you could clearly see that the guest didn't want to be there?  I have - puts a weird vibe in the air of the room.  Sometimes being a big convention can hurt your chances with hosting guests that would rather have smaller and more laid-back appearances as well.

Being a big convention can hurt a con's chances at getting good guests?  Sounds like another excuse...and one that isn't even true at that, as AX/Otakon/ACen are consistently the biggest North American anime conventions and consistently get very prominent guests.

Quote
I think it's just as important, if not more so, to have guests that are enthusiastic and excited to attend a convention than to have a big name to throw up on a marquee.  Also remember, convention guests also, like, you know, have to work and live their lives and create the things that make us want to see them in person.  They can't pop around the world every weekend to show up at fan events.

However we should never be disrespectful to the guests who appear at the convention.  Don't know who they are at first glance?  Expand your horizons!

Ok, all of these I completely agree with.  I think the negative comments are directed more at Fanime's lack of organization than the guests themselves, even if they do appear on the guest threads or guest topics.  People have been frustrated and what's going around is coming around.
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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #42 on: May 16, 2014, 11:48:17 AM »

You have to also remember that at the end of the day it really comes down to where the guests want to go.  I would hope (and assume) that many potential guests wouldn't be swayed strictly by waving around more cash in their faces.  Have you ever attended a panel at a convention where you could clearly see that the guest didn't want to be there?  I have - puts a weird vibe in the air of the room.  Sometimes being a big convention can hurt your chances with hosting guests that would rather have smaller and more laid-back appearances as well.

Being a big convention can hurt a con's chances at getting good guests?  Sounds like another excuse...and one that isn't even true at that, as AX/Otakon/ACen are consistently the biggest North American anime conventions and consistently get very prominent guests.

Quote
I think it's just as important, if not more so, to have guests that are enthusiastic and excited to attend a convention than to have a big name to throw up on a marquee.  Also remember, convention guests also, like, you know, have to work and live their lives and create the things that make us want to see them in person.  They can't pop around the world every weekend to show up at fan events.

However we should never be disrespectful to the guests who appear at the convention.  Don't know who they are at first glance?  Expand your horizons!

Ok, all of these I completely agree with.  I think the negative comments are directed more at Fanime's lack of organization than the guests themselves, even if they do appear on the guest threads or guest topics.  People have been frustrated and what's going around is coming around.

Those other large conventions are corporate sponsored events. Fanime is "by fans, for fans". Therein lies all the difference in the world. Of course AX and Otakon are going to get consistently big names coming out, because their contracts likely call for it as being an extension of the company sponsoring these larger conventions.

At the end of the day, a fraction of a % of attendees use these boards, so we have no idea how the convention attendees as a whole feel about the trend in guests of honor. If things are as terrible as they seem, surely attendance will go down. Or maybe, people still keep coming because at the end of the day it's not as important that people see huge anime celebrities, as long as they get to cosplay with their friends and have a good time.

At least, that's my opinion having attended for ~11 years.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2014, 02:33:58 PM by FanFicGuru »
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hikanteki

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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #43 on: May 16, 2014, 02:49:34 PM »

You have to also remember that at the end of the day it really comes down to where the guests want to go.  I would hope (and assume) that many potential guests wouldn't be swayed strictly by waving around more cash in their faces.  Have you ever attended a panel at a convention where you could clearly see that the guest didn't want to be there?  I have - puts a weird vibe in the air of the room.  Sometimes being a big convention can hurt your chances with hosting guests that would rather have smaller and more laid-back appearances as well.

Being a big convention can hurt a con's chances at getting good guests?  Sounds like another excuse...and one that isn't even true at that, as AX/Otakon/ACen are consistently the biggest North American anime conventions and consistently get very prominent guests.

Quote
I think it's just as important, if not more so, to have guests that are enthusiastic and excited to attend a convention than to have a big name to throw up on a marquee.  Also remember, convention guests also, like, you know, have to work and live their lives and create the things that make us want to see them in person.  They can't pop around the world every weekend to show up at fan events.

However we should never be disrespectful to the guests who appear at the convention.  Don't know who they are at first glance?  Expand your horizons!

Ok, all of these I completely agree with.  I think the negative comments are directed more at Fanime's lack of organization than the guests themselves, even if they do appear on the guest threads or guest topics.  People have been frustrated and what's going around is coming around.

Those other large conventions are corporate sponsored events. Fanime is "by fans, for fans". Therein lies all the difference in the world. Of course AX and Otakon are going to get consistently big names coming out, because their contracts likely call for it as being an extension of the company sponsoring these larger conventions.

More excuses that aren't completely true.  While it's true that AX has corporate backing, it, and virtually all other anime conventions, are also still run by fans for fans.  Both the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (who runs AX) and Otakorp are nonprofit organizations.

Quote
At the end of the day, a fraction of a % of attendees use these boards, so we have no idea how the convention attendees as a whole feel about the trend in guests of honor. If things are as terrible as they seem, surely attendance will go down. Or maybe, people still keep coming because at the end of the day it's not as important that people see huge anime celebrities, as long as they get to cosplay with their friends and have a good time.

At least, that's my opinion having attended for ~11 years.

Personally, it's not the lack of huge celebrities that drove me away; it's LineCon (which is one of the biggest problems that contributed to what's been going around currently coming around) along with the messes that multiple departments have turned into these past two years (Masquerade, B&W Ball, Website, Artist's Alley). But yes, I agree that if things are as terrible as they seem then attendance will go down.  We will see what happens.
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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #44 on: May 16, 2014, 04:08:48 PM »

It isn't the lack of guests that would drive me away, either, since I'm personally not the type of care about guests (though a lot of people are), but the lack of guests seems to be emblematic of a larger problem with the organization of this con. It's the general lack of organization, constant excuses for said lack of organization, and then turning it around and attempting to blame the attendees or some other issue that has been driving me away.

I don't think that a ton of people will necessarily stop coming to Fanimecon entirely, but I do think that quite a few people, especially long-time congoers who have seen this con go downhill and know what better options there are, will attend for cosplay/hanging out/room parties/non badged events/etc. and not buy a badge. I think that at a certain point, large cons tend to attract attendees, now and old, simply based on size. As a cosplayer, I can say this is partly true for me, since large cons tend to be better for wearing more elaborate cosplays, even if I don't compete. (Small cons tend to not have enough space, or not very many photographers, or not very many other cosplayers, and it really isn't worth it to bust out something like Ultimecia or my Roxy ballgown for a small con I'm only attending for one day.)

I've bought a badge for this year, but a lot of people I know are ghosting. This is only partly because of changing priorities of these attendees, since a lot of them are citing the high badge prices without much to gain from it because of how horribly the con has been run the past few years (Linecon, Masquerade disaster last year, no guests they want to see, etc.). These are people who will gladly spend a lot more money than a Fanime badge on cons that have guests they like or other events that they want to attend, or who will go to numerous smaller cons just for one specific guest, and would love to be able to support cons.

I don't know about the general attendee population, since I have no way to poll them, but judging by what I've seen from people I know, I'd guess that paid attendance will either stay the same or go down this year and in future years, but the number of physical bodies at the con will stay the same or rise. I think that people might also be at the con all weekend but only buy a badge for the one day that has the event(s) they are most interested in, so paid attendance would be staying the same, but people would be buying fewer con days even though they would still be physically present.

Though, I'm seriously considering either not going or ghosting next year, since I'm pretty fed up. It's a good con to show off cosplay/participate in cosplay events and sing karaoke, and that's really about it in terms of my interest in this con these days. I'd be more likely to buy a badge in the future if there is more transparency on the part of the con staff, fewer excuses, and some real change. This isn't just change in the guest department (even though that's what this thread is about), but change overall. I think this con needs a serious overhaul, and needs to look deeply into the way it is being run and the way that issues are being handled. A comprehensive financial audit would probably be beneficial, as well as a comprehensive organizational audit (can that be a term? what I mean is looking at where work hours are going, looking at the way things are being handled, etc., basically just looking deeply at how everything is going behind the scenes and trying to quantify that as much as possible, and seeing where things can be handled better). It is shaping up more and more to be more than an issue of just money or just organization or just any other single thing, but rather a combination of all the factors along with a deeply problematic attitude towards the convention and its attendees.

For a con that claims to be "by fans, for fans," it seems to be more "by staff, for staff." I really think that the transparency issue is one of the main reasons why this con is failing in the eyes of its attendees, since no one knows what is actually happening, and the things that people do see are things that they do not like. (Also, maybe some of the fans would be more willing to step up with suggestions, help, and expertise in areas that need more work. Telling people to step up and help won't do much if people don't know specifically what it is that is going wrong and how they specifically can help fix it. Just a thought.)

Bit of a long rambling post and a little off-topic, but I felt like I needed to say it, and that it was relevant to the discussion at hand.
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Tony

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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #45 on: May 16, 2014, 04:45:23 PM »

I wrote a long reply to address all of these very valid points, but I'll have to be a jerk and hand-wave it away. I mean, I'd like to talk about the complexities of guest relations, but I think it'll all come off as making excuses, when instead I'm intending to share experiences. I'm still happy to talk about that, but not in this context.

I'll say this instead: I hope those who aren't pleased with the lineup will at least check out the guests. They may not be your cup of tea, but I've never met a guest that wasn't interesting.

I'll also say - not to make excuses or ask for pity or whatever - that the staff are extremely concerned about getting amazing guests for you, and providing amazing experiences for the guests themselves. And I know they'll be working even harder next year to do even bigger things.
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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #46 on: May 16, 2014, 11:06:56 PM »

I hope those who aren't pleased with the lineup will at least check out the guests. They may not be your cup of tea, but I've never met a guest that wasn't interesting.

I'll also say - not to make excuses or ask for pity or whatever - that the staff are extremely concerned about getting amazing guests for you, and providing amazing experiences for the guests themselves. And I know they'll be working even harder next year to do even bigger things.

Im not pleased with the guest line-up, but I will check them out as thats the cards we've been dealt. I said pretty much the exact same thing last year.

As for the working harder next year...now thats something I hear every year yet things seem to be getting worse. The lines last year, masquerade and guests left me wondering what the hell happened. How has Fanime responded? They removed the ability for people to post on their facebook page so people had to post concerns/complaints/questions on individual announcements. They then asked us to file all our complaints on some form so no one would publicly see the complaints. I have yet to see any explanations for what went wrong or any practical assurances that the issues will be fixed.

I can ignore many things like linecon, I mean I only lost like half of 1 day out of the con (which is technically unacceptable for a one day pass!). The masquerade issues made no sense as it appeared to be run by people who have never run or been to a masquerade before, but I didnt come for masquerade. I come mainly for the guests and there has been a noticeable decline in the last few years. Fanime used to be real consistent and reliable so I ignored it and assumed it was a fluke. I now see a definite decline in all areas and hope it would change for the better. The problem is time and time again I am seeing signs of problems to come from how Fanime and their staff are preparing 2014.
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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #47 on: May 17, 2014, 03:13:11 AM »

It's quite complex, and the terrain has changed since I started in cons ~10 years ago.

As lovely as the excuse sounds, it's really just that - an excuse.  There's no reasonable excuse why other conventions across the US are consistently pulling in famous animators/bands while Fanime's guest list diminishes every year.  I'm not comparing you to AX as that's still out of your league.  But I am comparing you to Otakon, and to Animazement, a con that has about 1/3 your attendance.

True, digital is destroying the industry; So why not bring in some guests from older, fan favorite productions like Gundam, Macross and Sailor Moon, many of whom would probably be thrilled to have the opportunity to travel to the US to meet with fans. How about some older mangaka? 

The last time Fanime had an impeccable guest list was in 2011.  So, three years later, and the question is, what is really going on?  Yes, the industry changes in three years.  But I can't imagine that those changes have affected Fanime to the point where the guest list, especially in the area of animators and Japanese seiyuu, has been so completely decimated while other conventions are thriving.  There obviously is something else at foot, and as I'm sure it's proprietary knowledge, something the attendees will never be told.
Honestly, even if Fanime couldn't bring in the latest trending mangaka or voice actor from Japan but instead got some old fan favorites I honestly wouldn't complain. I'd love to meet some Japanese guests that were part of older animes, heck, I'd be more than thrilled.
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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #48 on: May 17, 2014, 03:55:28 PM »

Everyone sure likes to throw around the word 'excuse'.

Personally I dont see the appeal of guests beyond MusicFest Guests. Sure it is nice to have them but I certainly don't go to Fanime for the guests, I go for the panels and atmosphere.

Though there is nothing wrong with having a bit more high profile guests. But there is a lot of competition for the few guests willing to come out here, especially for a convention taking place on Memorial Day Weekend.

Ehh...while MusicFest is certainly my favorite part of Fanime too, someone could turn that around on us.  They could say "I don't see the appeal of MusicFest guests. I don't go for MusicFest or atmosphere, I go for famous Japanese animators."

"A lot of competition" = just another excuse.  There are multiple anime conventions virtually every week of the year.  If there's a lot of competition, then Fanime needs to do what it takes to become competitive.

It wasnt meant to be a argument against those who want more guests, just me stating my opinion on having guests. There surely are people who come only for the guests.

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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #49 on: May 17, 2014, 05:37:06 PM »

I wrote a long reply to address all of these very valid points, but I'll have to be a jerk and hand-wave it away. I mean, I'd like to talk about the complexities of guest relations, but I think it'll all come off as making excuses, when instead I'm intending to share experiences. I'm still happy to talk about that, but not in this context.

I'll say this instead: I hope those who aren't pleased with the lineup will at least check out the guests. They may not be your cup of tea, but I've never met a guest that wasn't interesting.

I'll also say - not to make excuses or ask for pity or whatever - that the staff are extremely concerned about getting amazing guests for you, and providing amazing experiences for the guests themselves. And I know they'll be working even harder next year to do even bigger things.
Your previous reply in this thread, while still not entirely satisfactory, was one of the best staff responses that I've seen recently, since you gave some insight into how things work behind the scenes. I'd actually be interested to hear what you had to say in response to all the criticisms in this thread. One of the main problems I see with the way this con is being run is the total lack of transparency on operations, and anything that could help would that would be welcomed. Just...be careful not to make it sound like you are going into defensive mode or pushing responsibility off of the con entirely. I think that the main problem people are having in this thread is that other cons of the same size or smaller can get "better" guests than this con has been getting, so while your answer makes sense on its own, it doesn't entirely add up with the other evidence that people are seeing. (I think that it's probably a combination of the factors you mentioned and some other behind-the-scenes organizational issues, but I don't think we'll ever get to know what those issues are.)

It's also a problem that staff are always saying that next year will be better, and yet criticism is hidden away or denied (whatever happened to the promise that all of the comments from last year that were inputted into that form would be released?) and things haven't gotten better. That's the most frustrating thing. (I also think that a lot of people, like me, are simply fed up and frustrated and maybe even angry, and none of those negative thoughts or feelings are being relieved because we're hearing, for the most part, the same old BS about improvement we've been hearing, and we aren't seeing results.)

I'm not frustrated at individual staff members as people here, but rather the entire organizational attitude and PR climate surrounding this con. It's everything, not anything or anyone specific by itself.
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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #50 on: May 18, 2014, 12:49:07 AM »

Your previous reply in this thread, while still not entirely satisfactory, was one of the best staff responses that I've seen recently, since you gave some insight into how things work behind the scenes. I'd actually be interested to hear what you had to say in response to all the criticisms in this thread.
I cannot speak for staff because I'm not involved much this year, but I can talk in generalities.

The industry thing is probably the biggest, because it affects so much else.

People in the industry are working hard, so they're busy. It means they are either booked solid and can't come, or they can come only at the last minute when it's clear they can make time for Fanime.

Fun, related fact: nearly every single year, a Big Name contacts us days to weeks before con saying they are available. By then it's too late. We could certainly scramble to make things happen, but: 1) we look disorganized making announcements too close to con, 2) we're usually out of money, meaning we have to fight and scrape for cash, and 3) theres zero marketing value at that point - i.e. the "I wish I'd heard about this earlier!" effect from attendees. Yoshiki's appearance in 2011 was one of these, and thankfully it was a great experience, but we pulled a lot of strings and had some late nights making it happen.

"So pull strings, work some late nights, then!" That's how GR typically operates; it's a soft-skills game and doesn't scale well, operationally. Just contacting guests is taxing - maybe a 10-20% response rate - then there's a long back-and-forth waiting for confirmation, then budget adjustments, then contracts negotiation. Now we can get started: the fun of coordinating press releases, dozens of flights, passports, taxi rides, hotel room check-in and check-out dates, panels, events, stage plots, equipment lists, set lists, appearances, interviews, dietary restrictions, sightseeing requests... it's a fun challenge, but it makes "just work harder" not much of an option.

I'm sure I'm coming off whiny here, but I do want to give some idea as to the scale of effort involved. This is something that can, and is, being improved on each year. So let's move on.

Back to industry. People in a lean industry have to stick to what works. They can't afford to take risks - including servicing a smaller, foreign market: the U.S. This is a major problem with MusicFest guests - as the music industry is likewise suffering - because performing here may mean turning down a domestic gig that makes them real money. For anime professionals, there's no financial incentive in promoting your work overseas unless it is actually imported there - which is not happening like during the licensing sprees of the 90's and 00's. Seiyuu are a combination of both scenarios, in that they are typically multi-talented, incredibly busy, and so have even less incentive in turning down paying performances and coming to a place that doesn't sell what they create.

U.S. industry isn't good for us, either. Fanime has always shied away from industry involvement - we didn't want to become AX - and so our relationships are underdeveloped. Yes, CR and Viz still come to con, but they're not showing premieres or announcing, for example, Sailor Moon. In the past, you could arrange to bring relevant talent to con with the industry: maybe they'd pay half for the mangaka of that new license they just picked up. Between our lack of relationship, and the state of the industry, that's not happening for Fanime. This also leaves us without the advantage of sponsorship dollars.

Speaking of dollars: guests tend to need compensation nowadays. It's part "I have to eat", part "I'm tired of crappy cons screwing me over". No one is happy with that. One guest even remarked how the money issue tainted their visit, as they really prefer to come out of their own passion. We don't like it, either.

"So what - quit being cheap, accept reality, and throw some cash at the big names!" That's pragmatic, but I've never liked it, because it takes tremendous discipline not to start looking at guests as a money problem and start thinking about profit. Next you're looking at guests as an investment, measuring ROI, and you're charging for VIP seats, photos, autographs, etc.

"Fine, then stick to your philosophies - invite guests that want to come!" That's what we do - we don't invite guests that don't match that philosophy. If it seems they don't care, or are in it for a payment, we pass.

But it's not like it was 10 years ago, where coming to the U.S. was a new, interesting thing. Meeting American fans, playing an American gig - that novelty has worn off. It used to be a big, exciting thing - it's why some huge names in music and anime were coming in the early and mid 00's. But the grand experiment didn't yield much, and the market never broke open. The licensing bubble popped, U.S. companies collapsed, Japan turned inward, and here we are.

--

Let's put all this together as a typical scenario. I'm a member of a band and our manager comes to me talking about a possible appearance in America. But I work a day job to pay the bills, and I don't know if I can get time off until after Golden Week. The drummer and the bassist can't stay past Sunday morning because they have a gig Tuesday night. This isn't an event for us specifically, or a music festival, but an anime convention - the ones known for hosting "concerts" in hotel banquet rooms with borrowed equipment run by amateurs in costume. The crowd only really knows that opening song we did for that anime 5 years ago. They want to offer me free hugs and want my autograph, which is weird.

Our performance fee? They can't afford the Japanese price. Our sound technicians, guitar and drum techs? We can only afford to bring the FOH guy. Upgraded flight? Nope, we're flying economy for like 24 hours of lives. It's too expensive to ship lots of merchandise that may not sell, so we have to make money off of however many CDs, photographs, and knick-knacks can fit in a check-in. Americans don't buy CDs, you say...?

--

That's the kind of thing that makes it difficult to get big names. How do others do it?

Brand is big. It's easier to convince, and to explain, when you're #1 or #2. That carries its own momentum, because once you're known as a place where big names have been, big names are more comfortable to visit. See: AX, Otakon. You can even screw up and still have this advantage. See: AX.

Relationships are key. Otakon, ACen, etc work really hard to maintain relationships. They do a good job, too, so they are trusted. This is something that can literally take a decade to build up and one year to destroy. We have had volatility in certain areas that harmed us; I know I went through several promoters with MusicFest before we got and really developed our current relationships - which are stronger than people might think! - around 5 years ago. The anime side is more hit-or-miss; we are building relationships with seiyuu and their management, but many individuals represent themselves and don't have a management layer to trust and delegate to.

Related is staff. Otakon in particular has long-standing staff that have floated around and kept some consistency in the quality in execution. Personally I did not do a good job in this respect: I handed things off and took a nice vacation, leaving the new guys and girls hanging. They've had to re-learn things I could have taught them, but didn't. Then again, I was making it up as I went along, too. Like relationships, this is also something that can take years to develop, but one bad burn-out year can ruin it.

Money. Some conventions happily raise and pay fees and move along; others, like us, are more hesitant to go down that road.

--

There's some inside info. I hope it explains a bit why guest relations - across many conventions - are why they are what they are.
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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #51 on: May 18, 2014, 04:00:58 PM »

I was going to refrain from saying anything, but I have to chime in and I will start with a story. Someone I know from an anime group who goes to Fanime every year, also happens to be good friends with Momoi and her management. He had spoken to Momoi's manager while in Japan just after Fanime 2011. Said manager had asked if they could come back to Fanime because they really enjoyed the con. So, the guy relayed the message back to Fanime management (someone in the management department) about this. When nothing was done and they were questioned, the excuse given as to why Momoi could not be brought back to Fanime was because Momoi was too busy, which was incorrect as Momoi WANTED to come back to Fanime.

I started going to Fanime in 2010 and 2011 and loved it. I had a blast as I hadn't been to a con since AX 07. I quickly named Fanime my new con and was excited for every year. Then, 2012 and 2013 fell below expectations set by the previous two years. Lo and behold, 2011 was also the same year that we got a second con sistering with Fanime. Could that have anything to do with anything? I've heard it's different people handling that con, but I've also heard that the Fanime top runner is also handling that con, so I'll refrain from making any hard finger pointing. But to deny that the past two-three years haven't shown a clear slide down in terms of quality would simple display blindness. I realize that this is off-topic, but the GoH situation is simply a piece of the many other things that have shown Fanime go down in quality.

Now, you may take this as me hating on Fanime, and you would be wrong. I love Fanime. For the past four years, I have gone all out for Fanime, from getting a hotel room, even though I am local, to all sorts of other expenditures, I have thrown myself at the con fully. This year, that won't happen. I will most definitely be going saturday for Home Made (thank you very much Fanime for making this happen), possibly sunday as well. But I have seen little this year that has gotten me excited like past years. And how big Fanime is I really can't buy as an excuse anymore. In 2013, Fanime was the fifth largest anime convention in the entire U.S. It makes it hard to believe and understand that Fanime has the kind of issues it has, from the incredibly small GoH lineup to a website that doesn't go up until a little over a month before the con. And my only reason for this post is because I want to see Fanime get back to 2010-2011. All of the things I've listed are reasons why most of the friends that I've gone to Fanime with in the past years are ducking out this year in favor of AX. I understand there are issues in organizing a con, but Fanime isn't the small, fan run con it was in the past. It is a major con now, one that doesn't feel like it's being run like a major con.
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melancholyfox

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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #52 on: May 19, 2014, 08:28:32 AM »

Your previous reply in this thread, while still not entirely satisfactory, was one of the best staff responses that I've seen recently, since you gave some insight into how things work behind the scenes. I'd actually be interested to hear what you had to say in response to all the criticisms in this thread.
I cannot speak for staff because I'm not involved much this year, but I can talk in generalities.

The industry thing is probably the biggest, because it affects so much else.

People in the industry are working hard, so they're busy. It means they are either booked solid and can't come, or they can come only at the last minute when it's clear they can make time for Fanime.

Fun, related fact: nearly every single year, a Big Name contacts us days to weeks before con saying they are available. By then it's too late. We could certainly scramble to make things happen, but: 1) we look disorganized making announcements too close to con, 2) we're usually out of money, meaning we have to fight and scrape for cash, and 3) theres zero marketing value at that point - i.e. the "I wish I'd heard about this earlier!" effect from attendees. Yoshiki's appearance in 2011 was one of these, and thankfully it was a great experience, but we pulled a lot of strings and had some late nights making it happen.

"So pull strings, work some late nights, then!" That's how GR typically operates; it's a soft-skills game and doesn't scale well, operationally. Just contacting guests is taxing - maybe a 10-20% response rate - then there's a long back-and-forth waiting for confirmation, then budget adjustments, then contracts negotiation. Now we can get started: the fun of coordinating press releases, dozens of flights, passports, taxi rides, hotel room check-in and check-out dates, panels, events, stage plots, equipment lists, set lists, appearances, interviews, dietary restrictions, sightseeing requests... it's a fun challenge, but it makes "just work harder" not much of an option.

I'm sure I'm coming off whiny here, but I do want to give some idea as to the scale of effort involved. This is something that can, and is, being improved on each year. So let's move on.

Back to industry. People in a lean industry have to stick to what works. They can't afford to take risks - including servicing a smaller, foreign market: the U.S. This is a major problem with MusicFest guests - as the music industry is likewise suffering - because performing here may mean turning down a domestic gig that makes them real money. For anime professionals, there's no financial incentive in promoting your work overseas unless it is actually imported there - which is not happening like during the licensing sprees of the 90's and 00's. Seiyuu are a combination of both scenarios, in that they are typically multi-talented, incredibly busy, and so have even less incentive in turning down paying performances and coming to a place that doesn't sell what they create.

U.S. industry isn't good for us, either. Fanime has always shied away from industry involvement - we didn't want to become AX - and so our relationships are underdeveloped. Yes, CR and Viz still come to con, but they're not showing premieres or announcing, for example, Sailor Moon. In the past, you could arrange to bring relevant talent to con with the industry: maybe they'd pay half for the mangaka of that new license they just picked up. Between our lack of relationship, and the state of the industry, that's not happening for Fanime. This also leaves us without the advantage of sponsorship dollars.

Speaking of dollars: guests tend to need compensation nowadays. It's part "I have to eat", part "I'm tired of crappy cons screwing me over". No one is happy with that. One guest even remarked how the money issue tainted their visit, as they really prefer to come out of their own passion. We don't like it, either.

"So what - quit being cheap, accept reality, and throw some cash at the big names!" That's pragmatic, but I've never liked it, because it takes tremendous discipline not to start looking at guests as a money problem and start thinking about profit. Next you're looking at guests as an investment, measuring ROI, and you're charging for VIP seats, photos, autographs, etc.

"Fine, then stick to your philosophies - invite guests that want to come!" That's what we do - we don't invite guests that don't match that philosophy. If it seems they don't care, or are in it for a payment, we pass.

But it's not like it was 10 years ago, where coming to the U.S. was a new, interesting thing. Meeting American fans, playing an American gig - that novelty has worn off. It used to be a big, exciting thing - it's why some huge names in music and anime were coming in the early and mid 00's. But the grand experiment didn't yield much, and the market never broke open. The licensing bubble popped, U.S. companies collapsed, Japan turned inward, and here we are.

--

Let's put all this together as a typical scenario. I'm a member of a band and our manager comes to me talking about a possible appearance in America. But I work a day job to pay the bills, and I don't know if I can get time off until after Golden Week. The drummer and the bassist can't stay past Sunday morning because they have a gig Tuesday night. This isn't an event for us specifically, or a music festival, but an anime convention - the ones known for hosting "concerts" in hotel banquet rooms with borrowed equipment run by amateurs in costume. The crowd only really knows that opening song we did for that anime 5 years ago. They want to offer me free hugs and want my autograph, which is weird.

Our performance fee? They can't afford the Japanese price. Our sound technicians, guitar and drum techs? We can only afford to bring the FOH guy. Upgraded flight? Nope, we're flying economy for like 24 hours of lives. It's too expensive to ship lots of merchandise that may not sell, so we have to make money off of however many CDs, photographs, and knick-knacks can fit in a check-in. Americans don't buy CDs, you say...?

--

That's the kind of thing that makes it difficult to get big names. How do others do it?

Brand is big. It's easier to convince, and to explain, when you're #1 or #2. That carries its own momentum, because once you're known as a place where big names have been, big names are more comfortable to visit. See: AX, Otakon. You can even screw up and still have this advantage. See: AX.

Relationships are key. Otakon, ACen, etc work really hard to maintain relationships. They do a good job, too, so they are trusted. This is something that can literally take a decade to build up and one year to destroy. We have had volatility in certain areas that harmed us; I know I went through several promoters with MusicFest before we got and really developed our current relationships - which are stronger than people might think! - around 5 years ago. The anime side is more hit-or-miss; we are building relationships with seiyuu and their management, but many individuals represent themselves and don't have a management layer to trust and delegate to.

Related is staff. Otakon in particular has long-standing staff that have floated around and kept some consistency in the quality in execution. Personally I did not do a good job in this respect: I handed things off and took a nice vacation, leaving the new guys and girls hanging. They've had to re-learn things I could have taught them, but didn't. Then again, I was making it up as I went along, too. Like relationships, this is also something that can take years to develop, but one bad burn-out year can ruin it.

Money. Some conventions happily raise and pay fees and move along; others, like us, are more hesitant to go down that road.

--

There's some inside info. I hope it explains a bit why guest relations - across many conventions - are why they are what they are.

I really appreciate this post. Every time something is going wrong in any aspect of my life, whether that be why the government is so shitty right now, why my income taxes take so much from my checks, why my son's doctor can't schedule my appointments sooner, etc....all I ever want is a little insight so that I have the option to understand and move on, but without that I just remain frustrated and confused. So thank you for this. That being said...

From what I understand, there's a lot of trouble running this con because the staff is full of regular human beings, not corporate-funded business folk, putting in as much effort as they can to put together a great con for other regular human beings. Since Fanime is so big and Japan-US relations are changing have changed so dramatically, the staff is now having a tremendous amount of trouble competing with these bigger corporate-run conventions, right? I love Fanime, but in my opinion it seems as though Fanimecon isn't going to be able to compete over the next 5-10 years similarly to how, say, a family owned coffee shop is run out of business when a new Starbucks opens up across the street. And then there's also the possibility of the fans that love Fanime so much standing up and saying "We can still have fun at Fanime! Screw the big cons!" But considering the demand for "relevant" guests and so many people saying "Sorry Fanime, but this us going to have to be my last year attending", I don't see that lasting. It's a very sad reality that I feel has been approaching over the last few years. The only way for the con to lift itself out of the mud might be to seek corporate funding of some sort.
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cutiebunny

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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #53 on: May 19, 2014, 09:54:23 AM »

Thanks again, Tony, for weighing in the topic.  I realize Fanime staff is busy as the con is this weekend, but it does sadden me that it's up to (largely) former staff to respond to the valid concerns brought up on this topic.

For anime professionals, there's no financial incentive in promoting your work overseas unless it is actually imported there - which is not happening like during the licensing sprees of the 90's and 00's. Seiyuu are a combination of both scenarios, in that they are typically multi-talented, incredibly busy, and so have even less incentive in turning down paying performances and coming to a place that doesn't sell what they create.

Fanime had, prior to 2013, relied more on older, "past their prime" guests.  I don't think that the majority of people complaining that Fanime doesn't get enough guests would complain about guests who are best known for 1980s/1990s/early 2000s stuff.  Animazement's guest list this year primarily consists of older individuals whose "prime" was 20+ years ago.  Had Fanime gotten that line up instead, I would have been happily attending Fanime again this year.

Once again, the question becomes "What has changed so much in 2-3 years that Fanime can no longer get older guests like Tohru Furuya and Kia Asamiya?"

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"So what - quit being cheap, accept reality, and throw some cash at the big names!" That's pragmatic, but I've never liked it, because it takes tremendous discipline not to start looking at guests as a money problem and start thinking about profit. Next you're looking at guests as an investment, measuring ROI, and you're charging for VIP seats, photos, autographs, etc.

No, you're not.  You try alternate methods before you go down this road.  Has Fanime considered asking its fanbase for additional funds?  How about a Kickstarter?  Those who donate a certain level get front row seats at the concert.  Or Kickstarter supporters only autograph sessions.  Or maybe original artwork from a guest.  As someone who routinely spends a lot of money on charity auctions, I'd be more inclined to give you my funds if you could not only line up an older but well known character designer or mangaka guest but guarantee that I could get a nice color sketch from them.

I realize that you're not as involved in Fanime as you had been years prior, so the question isn't directed so much at you rather than Fanime as a whole. However, as an attendee who is willing to pay to enhance her convention experience, I grow tired of cons saying "We tried that once (10 years ago) and it didn't work, so, despite our more than double attendance since then, we're not going to consider it".  Things change.  Something that might not have worked when attendance was 10K might work when there's 20K.

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But it's not like it was 10 years ago, where coming to the U.S. was a new, interesting thing. Meeting American fans, playing an American gig - that novelty has worn off...

Yes, as someone who goes to cons for the artwork, I'm well aware of this.  Getting sketches for free used to be easy.  Now, you come to a con with cash in hand.  The way I see it, you have two choices; You either whine about how much artists now charge for what was once free and get nothing, or you suck it up, pony up the funds, and get what you want.

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Relationships are key. Otakon, ACen, etc work really hard to maintain relationships. They do a good job, too, so they are trusted...

I have to admit I was alarmed when reading this paragraph and noted that you failed to mention Fanime as working hard to maintain its relationship with guests/agencies.  That needs to change, possibly by paying someone to work on this full time.  I heard from one of my colleagues that Fanime asked a friend of his for a guest's phone number so Fanime could invite him to the con.  Depending on non-staff to get guests for your con is no way to run things.


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Money. Some conventions happily raise and pay fees and move along; others, like us, are more hesitant to go down that road.

..Yet Fanime has increased its price every year.  You're competing with AX prices now, though, granted with AX, concert/special event tickets are not included.

---

I read through Freeden's post and nodded in agreement with it.  I could have written it because, like Freeden, Fanime was the first con I really loved.  2010 and 2011 were such fantastic years that I couldn't imagine myself going anywhere else.  Yet, as Memorial Weekend 2014 rolls around, I find myself packing my bags and making a 3000 mile trek to the East Coast to attend Animazement for my second time. 
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Tony

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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #54 on: May 19, 2014, 10:28:10 AM »

I really appreciate this post. Every time something is going wrong in any aspect of my life, whether that be why the government is so shitty right now, why my income taxes take so much from my checks, why my son's doctor can't schedule my appointments sooner, etc....all I ever want is a little insight so that I have the option to understand and move on, but without that I just remain frustrated and confused. So thank you for this. That being said...
Thank you :)

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Since Fanime is so big and Japan-US relations are changing have changed so dramatically, the staff is now having a tremendous amount of trouble competing with these bigger corporate-run conventions, right?
Yes and no. There might be some constrained resources we need to compete for, but I feel the most limiting factor is the industry itself, followed by operational problems like I described.

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I love Fanime, but in my opinion it seems as though Fanimecon isn't going to be able to compete over the next 5-10 years similarly to how, say, a family owned coffee shop is run out of business when a new Starbucks opens up across the street. And then there's also the possibility of the fans that love Fanime so much standing up and saying "We can still have fun at Fanime! Screw the big cons!" But considering the demand for "relevant" guests and so many people saying "Sorry Fanime, but this us going to have to be my last year attending", I don't see that lasting. It's a very sad reality that I feel has been approaching over the last few years. The only way for the con to lift itself out of the mud might be to seek corporate funding of some sort.
Yes and no, on this one too! Like I said, I don't think there's a lot of true competition; mostly we have to fight against much bigger forces - industry/market conditions - and fight to improve ourselves, as always. Funding would help, but there are other problems beyond that. All of these guests need experienced handlers, and that is even harder to manage than getting the cash. At one point as chair, actually, I realized I could allocate more funds to FanimeCon GR, to get more guests - but we didn't have enough extra staff to support the extra guests that the extra cash would have brought in. You don't want to end up in a situation where staff are strained and forget things like hotel reservations, a band's sound check schedule, or just leave guests running around on their own...

I do think there are different ways to address these growing pains for any convention, but they can take some radical turns. I'd rather not talk about it, though, because I don't want it to come off as a criticism of any convention.

Having that "We can still have fun at Fanime!" mindset is key, though, for staff and attendees alike to keep the convention going.
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Tony

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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #55 on: May 19, 2014, 11:10:59 AM »

Thanks again, Tony, for weighing in the topic.  I realize Fanime staff is busy as the con is this weekend, but it does sadden me that it's up to (largely) former staff to respond to the valid concerns brought up on this topic.
I definitely understand that. It might help to explain that the convention in general *hates* to discuss the con, especially the current season, because it's *really easy* for the conversation to get out of hand. Personally I feel pretty stupid for talking about it - I don't want my words to reflect poorly on the convention - but I'm also mostly-retired and a few years out from active work, so I'm basically that crazy old timer that you can safely ignore as you like. :)

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Fanime had, prior to 2013, relied more on older, "past their prime" guests.  I don't think that the majority of people complaining that Fanime doesn't get enough guests would complain about guests who are best known for 1980s/1990s/early 2000s stuff.  Animazement's guest list this year primarily consists of older individuals whose "prime" was 20+ years ago.  Had Fanime gotten that line up instead, I would have been happily attending Fanime again this year.
You're actually pointing out a really good strategy that I'd never thought of! Maybe it's a good time to "look back" a bit. I mean, look at how people are going nuts for Sailor Moon. Mix that up with some talent with newer work, and that could be a good recipe for any con.

Then again, you'll get the, "That guest? They haven't done anything in years! Get with the times!" kind of reaction. It's hard to use that kind of feedback to figure out where to go with your strategy.

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Once again, the question becomes "What has changed so much in 2-3 years that Fanime can no longer get older guests like Tohru Furuya and Kia Asamiya?"
Ah, Furuya-san. That was fun...

I think we can, but opportunities come and go, so it's hard to say why some lineups pan out the way they do. That's actually one problem in using agencies, for example: they're a great line to getting lots of talent, but they have certain people they want to promote over others, and that can appear pretty random on this side of the table. And random performance looks like incompetence.

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No, you're not.  You try alternate methods before you go down this road.  Has Fanime considered asking its fanbase for additional funds?  How about a Kickstarter?  Those who donate a certain level get front row seats at the concert.  Or Kickstarter supporters only autograph sessions.  Or maybe original artwork from a guest.  As someone who routinely spends a lot of money on charity auctions, I'd be more inclined to give you my funds if you could not only line up an older but well known character designer or mangaka guest but guarantee that I could get a nice color sketch from them.
I disagree with this because it stratifies the attendees. That's ok in small doses, but without discipline, that can evolve into the situation I described. Personally, I'd prefer everyone have the same opportunity to enjoy the guest. Though I think you are pointing out an interesting middle ground in having extras for supporters. Maybe a little bit of it is ok.

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I realize that you're not as involved in Fanime as you had been years prior, so the question isn't directed so much at you rather than Fanime as a whole. However, as an attendee who is willing to pay to enhance her convention experience, I grow tired of cons saying "We tried that once (10 years ago) and it didn't work, so, despite our more than double attendance since then, we're not going to consider it".  Things change.  Something that might not have worked when attendance was 10K might work when there's 20K.
That's an excellent point.

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I have to admit I was alarmed when reading this paragraph and noted that you failed to mention Fanime as working hard to maintain its relationship with guests/agencies.
We do, but I'm trying not to comment about Fanime specifically. :) We have at least three strategic relationships and a handful of long-lasting ones. There are other

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That needs to change, possibly by paying someone to work on this full time.
This would be a huge cultural shift. If it could work, then I would happily submit my resume for Chair in consideration of competitive market compensation. :D

I guess we could outsource it - I believe AX did something like that with BAM! - but that can be a volatile relationship. Plus I haven't seen any source worth the money...

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I heard from one of my colleagues that Fanime asked a friend of his for a guest's phone number so Fanime could invite him to the con.  Depending on non-staff to get guests for your con is no way to run things.
I'm not sure what that's about, so I can't comment. But guest acquisition is a weird and mysterious art, so I can't say whether that was a bad move or not. If I had to guess, that story doesn't sound right, because GR staff doesn't really use the phone. :D

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..Yet Fanime has increased its price every year.  You're competing with AX prices now, though, granted with AX, concert/special event tickets are not included.
Has it? I'm not sure.

That's at least partly due to our vendors no longer cutting us slack. Last I looked, something like 50-60% of everything went back to the facilities or city, and that only gets worse when they stop cutting us slack.

But that doesn't really address why prices go up, and I don't know enough to comment... just an idea.

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I read through Freeden's post and nodded in agreement with it.  I could have written it because, like Freeden, Fanime was the first con I really loved.  2010 and 2011 were such fantastic years that I couldn't imagine myself going anywhere else.  Yet, as Memorial Weekend 2014 rolls around, I find myself packing my bags and making a 3000 mile trek to the East Coast to attend Animazement for my second time.
As chair during 2010 and 2011, that makes me really proud, at least. I hope you'll come back in the future!
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hikanteki

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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #56 on: May 19, 2014, 12:29:47 PM »

I cannot speak for staff because I'm not involved much this year, but I can talk in generalities.

The industry thing is probably the biggest, because it affects so much else.

People in the industry are working hard, so they're busy. It means they are either booked solid and can't come, or they can come only at the last minute when it's clear they can make time for Fanime.

Fun, related fact: nearly every single year, a Big Name contacts us days to weeks before con saying they are available. By then it's too late. We could certainly scramble to make things happen, but: 1) we look disorganized making announcements too close to con, 2) we're usually out of money, meaning we have to fight and scrape for cash, and 3) theres zero marketing value at that point - i.e. the "I wish I'd heard about this earlier!" effect from attendees. Yoshiki's appearance in 2011 was one of these, and thankfully it was a great experience, but we pulled a lot of strings and had some late nights making it happen.

Relationships are key. Otakon, ACen, etc work really hard to maintain relationships. They do a good job, too, so they are trusted. This is something that can literally take a decade to build up and one year to destroy. We have had volatility in certain areas that harmed us; I know I went through several promoters with MusicFest before we got and really developed our current relationships - which are stronger than people might think! - around 5 years ago. The anime side is more hit-or-miss; we are building relationships with seiyuu and their management, but many individuals represent themselves and don't have a management layer to trust and delegate to.

Related is staff. Otakon in particular has long-standing staff that have floated around and kept some consistency in the quality in execution. Personally I did not do a good job in this respect: I handed things off and took a nice vacation, leaving the new guys and girls hanging. They've had to re-learn things I could have taught them, but didn't. Then again, I was making it up as I went along, too. Like relationships, this is also something that can take years to develop, but one bad burn-out year can ruin it.

Money. Some conventions happily raise and pay fees and move along; others, like us, are more hesitant to go down that road.

There's some inside info. I hope it explains a bit why guest relations - across many conventions - are why they are what they are.

Tony, thank you for your very detailed post about what goes on during the process of booking guests and how it has changed over the years.

One thing that jumped out at me though -- while it makes sense that some guests don't know if they can attend until a couple of weeks before the con, then how are other anime cons able to have guests lined up far ahead of time?  Take for instance SacAnime, which is over Labor Day weekend, pretty much has their entire guest lineup now and they began announcing them in January.  Granted they have mostly North American guests, who I imagine are easier to book than Japanese guests (although they've been adding some Japanese guests lately, and announcing them ahead of time) but this year Fanime still hasn't announced their guests earlier despite being mostly North American guests too.  Are they able to book earlier due to having existing relationships or contracts?
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Tony

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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #57 on: May 19, 2014, 02:37:05 PM »

Tony, thank you for your very detailed post about what goes on during the process of booking guests and how it has changed over the years.
You're very welcome!

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One thing that jumped out at me though -- while it makes sense that some guests don't know if they can attend until a couple of weeks before the con, then how are other anime cons able to have guests lined up far ahead of time?  Take for instance SacAnime, which is over Labor Day weekend, pretty much has their entire guest lineup now and they began announcing them in January.
From what I can see, SacAnime has pretty good, long-lasting relationships with domestic reps and talent. I've noticed for a couple years that they book domestics quickly and have been impressed with that.

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Granted they have mostly North American guests, who I imagine are easier to book than Japanese guests (although they've been adding some Japanese guests lately, and announcing them ahead of time) but this year Fanime still hasn't announced their guests earlier despite being mostly North American guests too.
I can't speak to this year, but a few years ago when I was running GR into the ground - but for the grace of my staff did things turn out well - I did this as a strategy. My thinking was that Japanese guests are harder and more expensive, so we should book them up first; with the hard work done, we could quickly book domestics rapid-fire closer to the con. That kind of worked, except I started too late with the overall process, and the Japanese bookings took a long time. It's like poker* in that you have a bunch of cards to play, but not sure which to keep to get a winning hand.

* I've never really played poker...

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Are they able to book earlier due to having existing relationships or contracts?
That's my guess.

Side note! I should point out that by "cheap" and "expensive" I mean that Japanese guests a) fly international, which can be 5x the price of a domestic flight, and b) tend to stay a little longer when they can, since they have to deal with a long flight, adjusting to timezone, and trying to squeeze in some sightseeing.
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Tony

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Re: Any more guests of honor?
« Reply #58 on: May 19, 2014, 02:42:41 PM »

We do, but I'm trying not to comment about Fanime specifically. :) We have at least three strategic relationships and a handful of long-lasting ones. There are other
Just realized I didn't finish this thought! We have a few strategic and long-term relationships and try to grow them where we can. It can be difficult in that some companies are in different competitive spheres. And there are a lot of amateurs claiming to be representatives that are little more than acquaintances to the talent. I've personally made some bad choices and trusted untrustworthy people, but thankfully my staff was much smarter than me and has maintained some great relationships.

GAINAX is the prime example of a relationship we've been maintaining for a long time. In fact, I hope to bring them some nice gifts this weekend - if both they and my baby manage to sync schedules. :) There are a few agencies a convention can work with, and some management folks, too. Sometimes, though, you have to call a friend of a friend, or say hi on Twitter. It's weird work.
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Father, 2014
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