There were over 100k attendees and people were rarely wearing masks.
The con also gives artists little to no space. Tables are all connected to each other and you have to connect your photostands to the table. Con staff is pretty strict and will constantly make sure that your table isn't too high from the ground.
The con does have a printing service on site so you don't have to worry about running out of prints for all 4 days. $2/print isn't too bad for a last minute job. The service is cash only but you'll most likely have plenty within the first few hours.
Saturday surprisingly felt like a slow day since most people were getting a feel for the AA room for the first day. The rest of the days were super busy the moment the AA doors opened.
Competition is high with over 700 artists in the AA and Annex room. Where you get placed will highly affect sales. If you're closer towards the entrance , have a corner space, or are relatively in an early row then you'll do fine. If you're towards the back this will hurt your sales. Since there's over 700 artists, it is worth noting that bringing anything from oversaturated series like Genshin is a terrible idea. About 80% of tables contain Genshin content so people will be super picky. You are better off selling literally anything that isn't Genshin. Niche anime , cartoons, or visual novels like Umineko does super well here due to low competition.
Since this always takes place around July 4th the hotels and flights will be expensive. You'll also have to take into consideration that you'll most likely be taking an Uber/Lyft unless your hotel provides a free shuttle service.
Sales were pretty great and a lot better than they were during the pandemic this year.
The con was curated this year instead of FCFS like the usually do. Thankfully they weren't lottery based. Also the con doesn't do background checks on artist so they currently have a problem with plagiarism and AI. This year there was an entire table that contained nothing but plagiarized art.
Before Covid, I usually made a pretty good profit, but this year was very lack-luster. I talked to other artists, too, and their sales also didn't go so well either. I heard the exhibitors did pretty good, so maybe most people spent their funds there first before the scraps trickled down to the artists (exhibitors and artists are located in separate buildings).
Another factor was also so much competition! There were a lot of vendors/artists to choose from, and with limited funds from the pandemic, I understand attendees would be picky with how they spend their money. For all the stress AX gives you, and with how pricy they are, I'm not sure if I can recommend going here anymore unless you have a big following.
In non-sales related news, guests were okay, staff didn't know anything and there was a lot of miscommunication, lines were long, some people were stubborn and didn't wear their masks, but the events were pretty fun. Not sure if I'll do AX next year, unless the economy improves and recovers from Covid. We'll have to wait and see.
As with all big cons, crowds are a problem but this year improved a lot from last year where they provided AC and wider aisles. Staff came around a lot to check but in general were pretty nice. The attendees were what made this con worth it tho, people just wanted to spend and that made me so happy that they appreciated my art!
It's a pricey to come to AX but with the high attendance, you can see why it's worth it.
Venue: But with higher attendace comes space issues. I think that's why this year, they moved AA to Kentia Hall. Because of fire safety regulations. I had heard that Exhibit Hall was about to exceed its maximum room occupancy, so AX had to move AA to Kentia Hall. I was pissed about that at first, but after hearing that was the reason they did it, I was fine with it. But still doesn't excuse why they didn't freaking turn on the AC at all in Kentia Hall UNTIL THE LAST DAY. LIKE WOW THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION TOO FREAKING LATE. I wasn't anywhere near where this happened, but I had heard that three artists fainted from the heat. And what's so annoying is that people had been complaining to AA staff about turning/blasting the AC because it was really hot down there. Only when three people fainted did they turn on the AC. Dude, I don't care what LACC says. They said you can't? Screw them. Do whatever it takes so that people never faint or just get ill here. I was mostly saved from burning in Kentia Hall Hell because I had three people registered to the table with me. So while me and one of my friends were burning down there, the other two went up to Exhibit Hall AND BLESS THEM THEY GRABBED THE FREE FANS EXHIBITORS WERE GIVING OUT. I'm hoping next year, they turn the AC really high. I'd rather shiver my ass off than faint of heat stroke. That's just. NO.
Staff: Didn't get to talk with them unless it was them asking for seller's permit and getting my badge. Badge people were nice, as usual. Those checking our seller's permits were nice about it, and never complained about our display. I did hear that others got told to remove their displays or something tho D: LOL I'm pretty sure this goes the same for other artists, but when you enter Kentia Hall during open hours and there's that big ass line of attendees wanting to come in and you flash them your AA badge, it made me feel like a star. The staff at the front were really, really nice! Day 2, I had left my badge in my friend's car, who had gone on ahead of me. She was already inside the hall, and still had my badge. So I was like, dude, how am I gonna get in????? My bro and I were parked in the underground parking in LACC this time, and went through the doors just beside Kentia Hall. As soon as I came in, one of the staff came up to me and was like, can I see your badge? I told them, my friends are inside and they have it with them. I was gonna tell her more, but she was like, okay, you can go in then. It's probably because she saw me struggling with all my shit to sell, so I was like thank you so much. These guys are the true stars. I think they knew me by face because one time, I was about to go in during open hours and was about to flash my badge, but the guy stopped the line of attendees from going in and let me in first. LIKE WOAH. This happened a whole lot tho.
Layout: OOOOOOHHHHHH BOI. As I said, we were packed like sardines down there in Kentia Hall Hell. What's more, it was hella hot. SOME OF THE ATTENDEES AND ARTISTS WERE COSPLAYING SO THAT MADE IT LIKE 100000000000x WORSE. Also, they divided the hall down the middle. The other half was dedicated to Tabletop, which almost no one gave a shit about really. I'm hoping next year, they cut Tabletop's space into half so they could further give more space for walkways for AA because despite our table being in the very back (3 tables away to be exact), PEOPLE WERE STILL PACKED LIKE SARDINES OVER THERE. Idk for other rows, but Row F would have tons of people struggling to get through in ours. The front tables must have it worse than that. Or change the layout a bit so that pillars weren't in the walkways, that way, attendees won't have anything blocking their way. Also, this is mostly personal, but they kept on making announcement of how attendees shouldn't be sitting on the floor. Like dude, these people have been standing and walking for HOURS. They're gonna need to sit. I get it if it's a safety hazard, BUT DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. It's not their fault they've been feeding exhibitors and this convention their money while still being treated like shit. Tons of people were sitting in Tabletop because their feet hurt so bad. What's even more annoying was that they were kicking people out of Tabletop if they weren't playing. Like dude, wtf. I'm so sorry if I sound so mean, but why do we even have Tabletop here in Kentia Hall??????????? You could probably give them a shit ton of the dead space all the way in the back of Exhibit Hall. I forgot which computer company it was, but it was dead in the very back. USE THAT.
Affordability: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA THIS ISNT REAL WHEN IT COMES TO AX. This convention is the most expensive one I've been to really. I haven't gone to Anime North, Fanime or any other big conventions, so I can't exactly say if the price is good for the attendance and potential profit. 2015, tables were 275, additional passes were 65. This year, it was 350. LIKE WHOA ALMOST $100 MORE. I swear to God Seven, next it'll be 1000. 2017 tables though, I got it cheaper than those that'll be released to public. It stayed at the same price, but I think for new people, it'll be $425. Like wtf. Another $75 increase. This is getting ridiculous D: But anyways, in addition to the whole ridiculous price for AA, there's also just getting around in LA in general. You'd need a hotel (for those not from LA/out-of-state), as well as just paying for food and shit like that. Hotels fill up really fast, so be on top of that. It'd be cool if you knew a fellow AA who lived in the area (I would totes offer if I could but I live with my parents and siblings still and it's really cramped at our apartment lol), it would totally help with expenses. If not, I've seen tons of people share rooms with their friends. That's always an option to lower expenses. There's also Airbnb, my friend used it for this year. Haven't asked her how it went. But aside from where to stay during AX, there's also food. OH MY BUDDHA. Food is really expensive in LACC, BUT EVEN WITH THE RIDICULOUS PRICE ITS SO BLAND AND NOT EVEN THAT MUCH. But lol that's how it usually is here in LA >.> It's best if you pack your food for the day (esp if you'll be by yourself at the table), or food trucks. Food trucks tend to go where there are events, and the food trucks know about AX. They're usually at the parking lot across from the South Hall entrance. You might have to wait in line though, since you'll be in line with tons of other attendees.
But despite all these complaints, doing AA is always a fun experience for me. AX wasn't an exception. Just gotta make the best out of it, and see the positive. I made profit this year (more so than I did in 2015). I made more than enough to get another table for next year, plus every AA is a learning experience. And as always, AX has really good programs that you could go to if you had the time. I usually go to the game panels (Aksys, NIS America), but lol I spend most of my money in Exhibit Hall and Artist Alley. This place is really dangerous to your wallet.
ALSO FUN FACT: So many artists had so much shit bought from Daiso Japan this year! Which makes me kinda happy because lol I actually work at Daiso. It was really funny, walking down the aisles, looking at tables and recognizing our stuff.
So, what did AX do wrong in 2016 vs 2015? Well, Location, Location, LOCATION. This year the AA was in Parking B. They call it Kentia Hall, but that's kind of like the name it uses when it's DJing on the weekends. Parking B is its permanent name, if you look at the raised letters above the doors, it never says Kentia Hall. It's an ugly hall with bare concrete pillars everywhere, parking stripes on the floor, lousy lighting, crummy AC and way out of the way. The AA had to share Kentia hall with the autograph areas and tabletop gaming. That meant that even after AA shut down for the day, people were still inside the room, making security an iffy proposition. Also bad, the layout had giant pillars in inconvenient places. Many tables had their visibility and crowd flow severely limited because of pillars being right in the middle of the aisles. That didn't affect me, but I really feel sorry for anybody stuck behind one of those things.
The AC in Parking B is not suited for tons of people being there for extended periods of time. People are supposed to park their cars there and get out. On Thursday (day 0) it was a sauna. It wasn't much better on Day 1, Friday. Everybody was furiously fanning themselves with the freebie fans they got from the dealer's room vendors. Even so, I understand there was at least one person who had to be removed from Parking B by EMTs because of heat stroke or similar problems. Friday sales were lousy, mostly because hardly anybody wanted to linger in that hellhole for very long and I was in the very back of the room, where the air circulation was the worst. Fortunately enough complaints were lodged and by Saturday, they had opened one of the back doors that led directly to the outside so there was at least some airflow in the room. Also, the AC was left on overnight and the security guard was actually complaining about how cold the room was in the morning when he showed up.
The staff was pleasant enough but there were still a few issues of note. When the AA shutdown time came, AA staff would start at the back of the room and start herding people out of the room. I heard one vendor complain that aggressive AA staffers cost them a big sale because they wouldn't let the customer finish buying things. It never happened to me, but I don't doubt it. One thing that did happen is that they decided to check my seller's permit during hours of operation. Seriously, do that at setup or before the room opens.
Another thing they screwed up at AX is that they used to let you purchase next year's table on Day 3 or Day 4 before the room opened. This used to be the best way to do it because it didn't interrupt hours of operation and you usually had the cash in your hand, making it incredibly convenient. Now they opened sales online at noon the day after the con ended. That's incredibly difficult for locals that have to work the next day and non locals that have to travel the next day. One aspect of AX that I used to treasure got turned into an aspect I now dread. Last year, bad internet connectivity cost me the chance to renew my table and I only got in as a wait lister. This year, I managed to get a good connection at a friend's jobsite, but I can imagine other people had to scramble to make sure they could get signed up.
Is it worth all the hassle? Hell yes, it is. Anime Expo is the biggest anime convention in North America. It isn't cheap, but what do you want? It's the biggest anime convention in North America. If you're looking for the biggest crowds this side of SDCC, you need to try AX. Also, they always bring the A-List japanese guests. I really wished I had the time and energy to see the anisong matsuri. I missed JAM Project when they played Jpop summit and the thing in Las Vegas last year. OTL
In conclusion, it's huge. It's flawed, it's got fundamental problems and structural issues. But it's AX. It's really everything that's right and wrong with America in a cramped, crowded package. Fitting it's on 4th of July weekend.
Now to the actual convention itself, I'm glad they offered us day 0 setup, but the room was sweltering HOT. My package also got lost due to UPs so I had to rush print on the Thurs and Fri, this also affected my profit. I was seated near the entrance so it was a great spot for me, but I have heard that the back was not so great for traffic.
I still made pretty good profit despite my mishaps, but for a 4 day and 100k attendance con, I did better at smaller cons like Akon/Boston. There are way too many tables so where you are seated is important. Overall though, it was still a fun experience and I would go back next year. It's great exposure to be able to table at NA's biggest anime convention. I just hope that the staff can treat the artists better and be more reasonable with their demands.