1001 Avenida De Las Americas
Houston, TX 77010
April 3-5, 2015 | Table Cost: $160
To start out with, I, and other artists who came early to set up, had no idea where to register and pick up our badges. We literally roamed into the exhibit hall in search of anyone in charge, only to find no one. I went up to the badge registrations and they told us to go to exhibit hall C and find the person in charge, but no one was even there. Eventually we found an AA volunteer who said that they weren't supposed to be sending artists inside, and that we were supposed to get our badges in the front. The lack of organization was astounding.
Who thought it was a good idea to shove the dealer's room, the artist alley, the game/amusement hall, the car show, a stage, and just about everything into one giant room? I didn't even get to explore half of the exhibit hall because there was just too much shoved into one space. It was my first time tabling here and I ended up in the far back facing the wall where no one walked by. Luckily I was a good enough artist to attract enough customers to make a decent profit, but I definitely could have made more if people actually knew there were tables in the back. My neighbors didn't make enough to even pay for their meals that weekend, and they were from out-of-state. I spoke with other artists and we all agreed that traffic was slow because everyone was at the dealers side, not even knowing there was an artist alley side (all the artists were lined across the exhibit hall, with random empty tables/booths and islands of artists stuck in the most unfortunate, secluded positions where by the time people reached their tables, they had already seen enough and didn't bother going to those tables). The only artists who got it good were the ones whose tables were near the dealers in the center of traffic, everyone else got little to no traffic. Attendance means nothing if people don't even know where you are.
The AA staff and AA volunteers (can't say the convention staff, since they weren't the most helpful) were kind though. They often came by to ask us how we were doing and if we needed anything, and I've been to conventions where I didn't even know the staff existed, so that's a plus.
I'm giving it 3 1/2 stars only because the AA staff was nice, and I didn't have it as bad as others, but it's definitely not worth it if you are not local. I will be going again next year simply because it's one of the few large cons that are in Texas, and I only do in-state cons. Hopefully they fix this problem by next year because the layout was an absolute joke.
I made about 1/3 of what I made at San Japan last year while still selling plenty of fandom oriented merch, etc. None of this was the artist alley staff's fault. If anything, they were amazingly kind and completely understood how messed up the layout and organization was. According to what I understood, the layout is up to the chair ( John Leigh, ie. shittiest human being on the planet ) and all they really care about is raking in money from the dealers. I asked later Friday if I could move to one of the empty tables and the staff was amazing about helping me actually be able to do it. Even after moving to a place with more foot traffic closer to the Dealer's Booths, though, I still wasn't making what I needed to. I was definitely making around double as much as where I had been placed originally, but all in all, Matsuri was a total bust. Staff was amazing, but it's not worth the loss. I'm guessing this is why tables are 160$ for a convention supposedly with 30K + attendance.
Don't be fooled by their huge attendance numbers. The Artist Alley at this con seemed like an afterthought. The AA was tucked in the back of the Dealer's Room and saw almost no traffic. Attendees who did manage to stumble upon my table complained that the prices were too high. (my prices are perfectly reasonable and average for most anime cons)
The staff was RUDE!! I had a friend who decided to come with me as a helper last-minute, so I didn't buy her a vendor badge beforehand. When we arrived at the con, they wouldn't let her in to help me set up because she didn't have a vendor badge, and they refused to sell us one at the door because they were too lazy and weren't set up to take payments. She had to go wait in line for two hours to buy a regular badge (which cost $100).
The contract required artists to be set-up by 10am Friday, but even when the con opened, attendees were scarce and we didn't even have our first sale until about 4pm. Waste of time.
The layout overall was terrible. "Exit Only" doors were obnoxious and unnecessary. Signs and arrows pointed to doors that were locked or escalators that were closed. We had to walk in circles for 45 minutes just to figure out where to check-in for artist alley.
Also.. "No outside food or drink allowed in the convention center"? Excuse me??
This con MIGHT be OK local artists who are just getting started and can't afford to travel.
I just finished tabling this last weekend where estimates for attendance were around 30,000 (although that number has not been verified, and has already been hotly debated). The artist alley and vendor hall is of course large, and very competitive. People are supportive of the arts here, but the buying power may not be as strong as other conventions (that I have been to). The layout was also not beneficial to the AA, and a lot of attendees seemed to dodge the area entirely. I was appreciative of the AA staff that were flexible and helped me move to a table that was in better foot traffic (I've never had Sunday sales be better than Friday or Saturday, what a doozie).
Specifically speaking to numbers:
Anime Matsuri is over 10x larger than my other main convention. At Anime Matsuri, I made less than double what I do at the significantly smaller convention. I'm sure there are a lot of factors for this, but it still feels like a huge gap.
I travel to AM when my budget allows to visit friends and have some fun, so I'm sure I'll be back. However, for those traveling from out of state, you may not find the convention worth it. Caveat: I sell all original work, and it's definitely not as well received as fan art pieces.
Saving grace: FOOD TRUCK HEAVEN.