MomoCon’s changed a lot since the last time I went — four years ago! In 2010, MomoCon was a two-day, free convention held on Georgia Tech’s campus. In 2012, MomoCon became a three-day, paid convention at the downtown Marriott Marquis. In 2013, they jumped across the street to the Hilton Atlanta, and this year, they occupied both hotels. Additionally, MomoCon was previously always over spring break in March; this year was their first time on Memorial Day weekend, joining nine other anime conventions (this link doesn’t even list non-anime cons like Comicpalooza), including Fanime and Animazement.
This report is 7,151 words long.
Since MomoCon was the weekend after Anime Central, I had three whole days in between conventions. I’ve done my share of back-to-back cons, but this was my first time doing back-to-back, out-of-state conventions. I think I managed the time between shows really well though and was pretty much all packed and ready to go by Wednesday afternoon. I wrote a majority of my ACen report Wednesday night, and while I was really tempted to power through, finish, edit, and publish it in the wee hours of Thursday morning, but I actually decided to sleep a few hours instead. I know. Crazy.
And at 5:30am, I was once again dragging my weight in luggage to the lightrail. Since Momo’s a much smaller con compared to ACen, I decided to shed some materials and stock for the trip and went back to one checked bag. Unfortunately, despite weighing in at just about 50 pounds the night before with my new luggage scale, I came in at 8 pounds overweight on the airport’s scale. :| I spent ten minutes trying to repack, but there was really nothing to be done and I ended up just paying the overweight fee. There goes the amount I saved in taxi fare. D;
One downside of actually sleeping before my flight is that I wasn’t tired enough to sleep through my entire flight like usual. I ended up doodling to pass the time, but while I don’t mind friends or con-goers watching me draw, for some reason it’s always really awkward when my neighbours on planes watch me draw. <_< But the flight was uneventful and, in contrast to the flight to Chicago, perfectly on time. I landed in Atlanta right around 4pm EDT, grabbed my stuff from baggage claim, and got picked up by Shirly (S-girl / Tales of the Big Bad Wolf) — it was probably just past five when we parked at the lot across the street from the Marriott.
I haven’t been to the last three years of MomoCon, but Shirly has. Since the con has had a change or expansion of venue every year, Artist Alley hasn’t ever been in the same place twice in a row, and every location it ended up in was hard to find (one year they were in the basement??). This year, the Alley was on the second floor of the Marriott Marquis. The Dealer’s Room was in the main ballroom on the same floor, but the Artist Alley was…tucked under the escalators and two turns down an easy-to-overlook hallway from the FedEx Office that was in the building. Even having seen maps beforehand, it was very hard to find.
I really should have taken pictures of the space leading up to the Artist Alley entrance, but take my word for it. There was no way anyone was going to 1) get there without already knowing where it was, 2) wander through accidentally. The Artist Alley itself was three meeting rooms with the walls between them taken down, making for a kind of awkward space which was way more cramped than expected. When we got there, there were only a couple of other artists around, along with Shannon, the Artist Alley head, and an assistant (or two?).
Check-in was easy, but space was a huge concern. Tables in the main islands were cramped together with hardly any space behind them and two of the main aisles were ridiculously narrow as well. It was hard to imagine that anyone actually took measurements of the room (and of the tables) before deciding to squeeze in as many tables as they did. :/ Shirly and I ended up helping Shannon push some tables around and adjust things slightly, but there was no changing the fact that there wasn’t enough room there at all.
My table was against the wall, so I didn’t have to worry about potentially getting in the way of people behind me, but Shirly was in the first of two islands, and her chairs basically backed right into the chairs of the table behind her. Thankfully, almost the artists that were also setting up at the time were at other ends of the room, so we both had enough space to work with while we set up our displays.
I had a hard time adjusting back down to a six foot table after having an eight foot one at ACen. Shirly had a ton of random extra display materials though, so I played around with some of her things to see if they would work for me. I ended up clipping my buttons to some backing board she had, leaning them against my postcard stand, and then laying my postcards flat. I also used her thinnest plywood stand thing to prop up my mini artbook, my commission sign, and a single postcard pack.
I’m not sure it was the best use of space, but I’ve been moving stuff around a lot the last few cons trying to figure out what works… 6′ tables are still more common than 8′ ones, so I really need to prioritize display items. The opening I left myself in my print wall shrank again, but it’s still better than it’s been at some shows.
Since my brother currently lives in Atlanta, I texted him to see if he could make it out for dinner. We’d taken our time setting up (though Shirly finished long, long before me, haha), and my brother got to the Marriott right around when I was finishing up.
We headed out to Shoya Izakaya, though we stopped at H Mart first to pick up some snacks for the weekend. I actually don’t like snacking much behind the table because I’m a messy eater and it doesn’t matter how portable or clean the food is — I will make a mess. I also really dislike being stuck with food in my mouth when people come up to the table. I picked up some nuts and banana chips anyway though. Those are relatively safe and mess-free, right.
At Shoya, I got an udon bowl… and also chicken heart yakitori because I’m a weirdo and gravitated towards the weirdest thing on the menu, but also because I love chicken hearts; chicken hearts are delicious. (❀◦‿◦)
My brother got a way spicier udon bowl and a more normal yakitori, and Shirly enjoyed some onigiri, ramen, and our endless banter. Dinner was really good! We even got dessert! It’s fairly rare that I eat at nice places during conventions, so it was kinda splurgy, but man, it was worth it. A+ restaurant, would go again.
After dinner, we dropped my brother off at his apartment, then headed over to Shirly’s place, where I was staying for the weekend.
If you happen to follow both Shirly and me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed that 90% of our conversations on the subject of Artist Alley and related topics and issues, so it shouldn’t be hard to guess what we warbled on and on about in the time before bed. 8D Aaaa, it’s so nice to hang out with friends in person now and again!
Set-up Friday was from 9am to noon, at which point we opened to the public.
Since we’d both finish setting up Thursday though, we slept in a bit and were up around 8:30am. It was a very leisurely morning! We made coffee and sat around the apartment talking more about Artist Alley, then we went out to Panera for breakfast (Shirly was kind of insistent on this whole “eating food” thing.), more coffee, and more shop talk.
After breakfast, we got gas and picked up Shirly’s friend Hart, who was at the table next to hers. It was a bit past ten when we showed up at the Marriott.
There were now various banner signs and display boards on the second floor pointing towards Artist Alley and noting the public hours. This was a relief, though I had mixed feelings about the placement of the banners and how effective they would be. One of my biggest concerns was the fact that the sign at the near-entrance of the Alley wasn’t too visible from outside the hallway it was in — you had to almost completely turn that corner or be right in front of it to see it. The small lounge area outside the FedEx Office meant that people would probably congregate there, too, which would block that final sign from view.
I rearranged some things on my table, but spent most of the time before opening wandering around the Alley to browse and say hi to people. Tori was in the far corner of the room, and I was surprised and very pleased to find that there was a former ‘Soulster at one table: Alex was sharing a table with A Fox & Wolf, and that makes four (I think?) ‘Soulsters I’ve met on the con circuit. :)
Billie (Dragonbeak) had the table to my left, but she had to work Friday and her friend Janelle was tabling in her stead. Greg Carter, another one of Shirly’s friends, had the table to my right. With 55 tables, MomoCon’s Alley is probably on the smaller side for a convention of its size, though the room was definitely very cramped. Though there were a handful of obvious Alley veterans and a few tables I recognized from ACen the weekend prior, there were a lot of first time Alley artists in the mix too.
Momo obviously had a very local Alley make up last I went — it was still a free, college con then, though they drew a respectable 7,800 attendees in 2010 — but this still seems to be case, which is maybe a bit odd, given that they’ve doubled their attendance since then. But with Fanime and Animazement the same weekend, many artists went for those more established shows, and I know more than one Atlanta local that went to one or the other and skipped on home town MomoCon because MomoCon has been unpredictable, changing dramatically every year for the last several.
A huge crowd burst through the doors when we opened at noon, though being right at the entrance of the room meant that a lot of the initial attendees pushed past us to make room for the people behind them. The room emptied of the crowd fairly quickly, but the traffic evened out nicely and the attendees that remained were interested, engaged, in-depth browsers and shoppers.
Being at the entrance of the room also meant that we had the only reasonably-sized aisle in the Alley — there was a whole eight or nine feet of space between the front of my table and the front of Shirly’s, and it never got so crowded that it was uncomfortable. I never visited other tables during active hours, but I can imagine that 4-5 feet of aisle space between tables elsewhere in the Alley made for poor experiences all around. We really lucked out with placement.
The entrance and exit of the room was supposed to be one-way, forcing attendees to filter through most of the Alley once they got in, but the one-way entrance wasn’t well guarded, and attendees flitted out the in-door all weekend rather than face the crowded aisles to the actual exit. (Artists closer to the entrance, including myself, also snuck out the entrance to go to the bathroom for the same reason. <_<)
Cell phone reception inside the Alley was also a huge issue.
Even on Thursday, when there had been few people around, I had a hard time sending texts and would sometimes need to try five or six times before they went through. Friday, this got worse, and trying to do anything on 4G was basically impossible…at least for Sprint and T-Mobile. Artists using Verizon and AT&T seemed to be doing okay.
In emails ahead of the con, Shannon, the Artist Alley head, had mentioned providing a wifi hotspot so people could run Square and other card readers, and there was indeed a locked Artist Alley wifi network that artists could ask for the password to. This was a really, really nice amenity, but there were many limitations, as it seemed to be provided by Shannon herself, rather than MomoCon. The wifi’s range did not cover the entire room, so artists on the far fringes, like Tori, could not connect. Shannon also had a limited data plan and thus requested that artists connect to the wifi only for credit transactions, so the wifi wasn’t supposed to be used for reference lookups, etc.
Still, the wifi hotspot was the only reason I could run credit transactions Friday. I was stupid and didn’t ask for the wifi password until halfway through the day though, and I lost several would-be buyers because I couldn’t run their cards at the time. :( Square Offline mode did work for one of them, but Offline mode wouldn’t even accept cards until it could at least connect long enough to initialize it or something?
Traffic remained steady throughout the day, and it was a very “high quality” crowd. That is, there were a lot of in-depth and repeat browsers — lots of folks made multiple passes through the Alley and stopped by several times, sometimes making multiple purchases, or bringing back friends to make purchases. More people made it through the entirety of my prints binder Friday at MomoCon than all weekend at ACen. There were also a fair number of commissioners, and while I still had time to draw random commission examples here and there, I did have paid work to work on for most of the day.
The people that found Artist Alley had clearly been looking for Artist Alley, and that really showed, I think.
There were only a few Yowamushi Pedal fans in the crowd, unsurprisingly — both Shirly and I think the Atlanta anime crowd has a heavy bias for TV broadcast and dubs, and that the number of people following simulcasted and streaming series is fewer than in other regions — but one that was there returned to my table a lot to blab to me about the series, which was really fun! She reported that there was zero Yowapeda merch to be found in Dealer’s, and I knew there were exactly three artists, including myself, with Yowapeda stuff, so we were a rare breed indeed!
She commissioned me for an inked sketch of her ship (above), and it was fun even though I have no idea what’s driving the popularity of this particular pairing right now, hahaha. She’s following the manga, and I’m only following the anime at the moment, so I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually. ^^; As a side note, no one needs to be self-conscious commissioning me for weird (or totally vanilla) ships because I really don’t mind and ain’t here to judge. ;) I mean come on, I have a print of Loki x Elsa because I do what I want. ^___^
A few SCAD and Atlanta-area friends stopped by to say hello throughout the day, including Brandy and Tigsie. I hadn’t seen either since I graduated, so that was super nice! Harper of Hatcore (I did their logo art, don’tcha know) also stopped by, though she hadn’t realized I was going to be there until she saw me, haha. Michael was working Animazement, so unfortunately, I didn’t get to see him.
Though there weren’t too many Yowapeda fans around, there did seem to be plenty of Free! fans, which was equally nice. Lots of excited jabbering about the upcoming season was had. :D
We closed at 8pm, making Friday a full eight hour workday. There was a bump in traffic at the end of the day, since we were open after the Dealer’s Room had closed, but like the opening rush (we’d apparently opened before DR as well), this traffic wasn’t of the same quality as what we had for most of the day.
Shirly and I were able to pack up pretty quickly. We dropped Hart off at her house, then headed out to a most excellent Thai place near Shirly’s apartment. After that, we…went to Target and got…stickers. We were there for something else, too, I think, but the best purchases made were definitely the stickers. U_U
When we got back to the apartment, we dug through Shirly’s ridiculous cache of random con supplies and I made notes to buy a couple of useful things I hadn’t thought of before, or didn’t know where to get, such as backing boards and sleeves for letter-sized prints or commissions. We also swapped references for original characters we intended to draw for each other the next day, and Shirly imparted knowledge of this freakin’ weird-looking back massage tool that was really kind of amazing. o_o
The numbers for Friday were strong — they were a fair percentage higher than Friday at ACen, and Momo is just about half the size. Commissions Friday made up 20% of the total, which is probably the strongest I’ve seen in a while. It was very encouraging, and I looked forward to Saturday.
Artist Alley opened to the public at 10am Saturday, so we were up a bit earlier at 7:15. It was still a pretty leisurely morning though — we had coffee at the apartment and I ate my leftovers from dinner. We didn’t need to pick up Hart this time, and so we got to the hotel a bit past eight.
Aside from Shannon, there was no one else around. I helped Shirly rearrange a few things on her display, then wandered through the Alley again. When I got back, Shirly was selling a dealer that’d wandered in on commissioning me. o_o The three of us chatted for a bit and hashed out the details of what he wanted. He was starting a themed sketchbook and wanted a sketch representative of both the artist and the convention the sketch was done at. This was a bit daunting, I think, because it gave me just enough creative freedom that I worried about delivering something the commissioner actually wanted. x_x I took down the info though and resumed wandering the Alley.
When Tori arrived, she reported that traffic and sales in her far corner of the room had been pretty abysmal Friday. I was kind of surprised by this, but I probably shouldn’t have been — I know I really lucked out on table placement. Tori was in the far back corner, and she was on the wider/outside end of the corner — attendees would clip the corner on the inner side, bypassing her table entirely. And since the exit had been in the middle of the room instead of the far end originally, a lot of attendees never made it there at all. Even her tablemate, Alex (Metal Artisan), who had been the only person at Aki Con 2012 to do well, was doing poorly.
There were two tables in the Alley that were empty/unclaimed, including one near me, directly across from the entrance, so I encouraged Tori to ask Shannon if she could move out of the corner. Tori did so and reported back that Shannon was open to the idea, but needed to first verify that the artists at those tables were definitely not coming. While we waited, we wandered over to the Dealer’s Room.
Though we were in separate rooms, artists and dealers both had “exhibitor” badges, so we were able to get into DR during setup hours. I went intending to visit Harper, since she was the only person I knew in there, but she was on the phone and walked out of the room just as we were walking in, haha.
Tori and I did randomly meet up with my brother in the DR though! Since AA tables came with two badges, I’d given him my extra. Actually, my brother has been attending MomoCon free every year he’s lived in Atlanta on my badges — even when I didn’t attend myself! I’ve submitted and had art accepted for MomoCon’s use every year (except this year!!) since 2009, which gets me some swag and a free badge (after Momo went paid), but since I couldn’t attend 2011-2013, I always passed that free badge off to my brother, haha.
We made a circuit of the Dealer’s Room, but none of us were looking for anything in particular, and we all distracted each other from actually browsing. There were a couple of artists in the DR as well, including Omi, the artist who does all of MomoCon’s official art. I actually didn’t know this until Tori mentioned it. Though she’s a paid staff artist doing work-for-hire art (I hope!), I’d always wished that MomoCon would mention and link to her now and again when posting promotion materials with her art; I’d always been curious, but didn’t know who the artist was until now!
At 9:30am or so, Tori and I went back to AA and my brother wandered off to go to a trivia panel. Shannon approved Tori’s request to change tables, and so the half hour to opening ended up being a bit frantic as Tori schlepped all of her stuff from one end of the room to the other.
There was no big rush with Saturday’s opening because we opened at the same time as the DR, and there had been a line formed outside already when Tori and I left half an hour earlier. Folks trickled into the Alley gradually and while traffic was still pretty steady throughout the day, but there were a few noticeable lulls.
There weren’t as many repeat browsers and sales slowed substantially. Commission interest also dropped off a cliff, and of the commissions I did get, two were from friends (though I’m dumb and didn’t realize it was Alex (the ‘Soulster, not Tori’s tablemate) commissioning me for a thing until the next day; I didn’t recognize them because we’d just met and I’m bad with faces and also they were cosplaying Saturday!).
I did sketch cards of two of Shirly’s characters though, and she drew me one of mine. (She’d also doodled me a Loki on Friday. ♥) I also drew a couple of new ACEOs and some commission examples, but I had a hard time thinking of things I wanted to draw for myself for some reason.
On the up side, there were plenty of nice cosplayers to keep me entertained, and the phone issues I had at ACen had been fixed completely, so I could actually take photos. New phone battery works like a charm, and there was also a (free!) wall outlet right behind me, so I could charge my phone as needed.
My brother did a coffee run for me in the early afternoon, but by 4pm, I was getting really tired and sleepy again. Not having a lot to do always makes me more tired, and the number of engaging conversations I was having with attendees had also dropped.
I did chat on and off with Billie and Greg, but it’s always hard to hold a conversation with neighbours when we all need to break away mid-sentence anytime someone shows up at our table. I ended up spending a lot of time trying to get tweets to go through, since it didn’t really matter if I wasted phone battery doing so. u_u;
It was a pretty weird day, but comparable to IKKiCON this past year, where we had a very busy Friday and a very lackluster Saturday.We closed again at 8pm, making it a ten hour workday, but man, I was crazy exhausted. Ten hours really isn’t that bad, and I usually enjoy having longer hours, but it was still one of the longest days I’ve done in a while — both ACen and Sakura-Con topped out at eight hours a day.
Shirly and I made arrangements to meet Billie at a Korean restaurant, then headed out. For once, I was actually feeling a bit off instead of totally ravenous, so I got a light bone soup for dinner… but I still ate the crap out of the banchan!
It was more of the same when we got back to Shirly’s apartment. Lots of discussion of Artist Alley, MomoCon’s weirdness that day, MomoCon in previous years, and other such things. We caught up with our Twitter feeds, where friends were reporting good days at Fanime and Animazement, and I flipped through Shirly’s collection of art purchased and commissioned from Alley artists throughout the years.
Saturday’s numbers were just baaaarely better than Friday’s, though there were a lot more Square transactions? I think more shared hours with DR and lots more main events going on probably cut into the time attendees left for Artist Alley, but I also thought that maybe all the dedicated Alley browsers did their bit Friday? Who knows!
Sunday was another lazy morning. It was pretty weird for me to head to bed on the East coast while there were still tons of people tweeting about Fanime on the West coast (then again, I usually go to bed in Pacific time when East coasters are tweeting good morning, so I’m missing stuff either way…), and I spent some more time catching up with my timeline before actually getting out of bed around 7:30.
We had coffee at the apartment like usual, then headed to Einstein Brother’s Bagels for breakfast (and more coffee for me; Shirly was good and got orange juice). I’m happy to report that Einstein Brothers coupons sent to me in Washington totally worked at this Atlanta location!
When we got to the Alley around 8:45, there were several other artists camped outside the entrance. The room was locked and there was no staff around — apparently someone had already contacted staff, but there was no one available to man the Alley, and no one was sure who had the keys?
This was pretty frustrating as many artists had a fair bit of resetting to do at their tables before we opened at ten. When Shirly and I had arrived on Saturday, Shannon had been the only person around, so it seems that a shortage in Alley-specific staffers may be an issue. In the end, a staff person finally showed up around 9:10, and a hotel employee unlocked the door, apologizing and saying that she misunderstood and thought that the doors weren’t supposed to be unlocked until 9:30… hm.
Since we got in later, there were many more artists around when I did my morning circuit of the Alley. I chatted with a few artists in the middle aisle, who reported poor sales both Friday and Saturday, though things did get a little better Saturday. Because of the four feet aisles, attendees were shuffling sideways as they went by, viewing the art, but having no room to properly browse. :(
Alex wasn’t at their table, but I chatted with their tablemate and helper. A Fox and Wolf had sold out of quite a few things, so it definitely sounded like they were doing okay! In addition to having great stuff, their table also had a lucky location — they were right in front of the original Alley exit (they moved the exit to the far end of the room at some point, as people in the back weren’t getting any traffic), which meant they didn’t face any other tables and had actual space in front of them for people to look and browse without being pushed or pulled along by the crowd.
Location is always an important thing, but in a room that was obviously too small for intended purposes, location was really making or breaking people’s weekends…
I rounded out the morning chatting with Mika (Tetsumiro), who was hanging out at her friends Mittie and Arekay‘s table. All of them are SCADlanta students (recent grads?), so we talked mostly about college. Along with me and Tori, Mittie was the third artist that had Yowapeda stuff at her table, and as Tori was staying with Mika for the weekend, Mika had recently been roped into bike anime hell as well, so we geeked out about that some too. ;)
Sunday morning’s crowd trickled in very slowly, and it wasn’t until about five past ten that I actually returned to my table because there just weren’t many people around. I busied myself doing a art trade commission for Billie and a request sketch for my brother, but there was otherwise not much to do. I overheard several attendees say that they had no idea Artist Alley was there and one person was even asking if Artist Alley had always been a thing! It seemed that the Sunday crowd was full of attendees that had busied themselves elseplace all weekend and were just now stumbling in to our hidden corner of the Marriott. This was a stark contrast to the Friday crowd, which seemed full of folks who looked for us specifically.
There are basically two kinds of Sundays at cons — the slow kind when everyone’s either already spent all their money or when they all take off early, and the really, really busy kind where everyone’s looking to spend the last of their budgets. In the two hours before noon, it was feeling like the former. But then noon hit and suddenly it got busy in weird waves. Sales felt like Saturday — not especially strong, but not bad. There was no commission interest whatsoever, but this was probably for the best.
It was very poor planning on my part, but my flight out of Atlanta was at 6:50pm Sunday evening. I think I actually forgot that it was Memorial Day weekend when I booked the flight, or I would have probably chosen to fly out Monday instead. I had written down that I should probably start breaking down around 3:30pm, but I also overlooked and forgot this and was feeling panicked about being able to break down in time…so I actually started breaking down around 2pm.
I intended to break down very slowly and gradually, but again, that panicky feeling spurred me to go faster than intended. It took me a while to break down at ACen, but I definitely had time before my flight then, and it was also an eight foot table. At MomoCon, I also had my brother helping me, so that made things go a lot faster as well. There were a good handful of last minute sales as I packed things up though, so I feel strongly that it could have been a good-to-great Sunday if I’d actually stayed through to closing (5pm).
As it was though, the car was loaded up by 3:30 and Shirly dropped me off at the airport right around 4:15, haha. We’re too type A and paranoid to not show up at the airport two hours early! Weh!
It actually ended up being a really, really good thing I was there so early though, because I forgot to take my backpack with me after going through airport security. I’d left it in the bin after it went through the x-ray…. and I didn’t realize until a good half hour later when I’d settled in at a sports bar for a cheesesteak and some sweet tea. I’d been looking for my wallet, which was in my backpack, when I realized I didn’t have it.
Lots of panicking ensued because I could have sworn that I’d walked into the bar with it, but it was no where to be found and no one could have walked off with it because there was no one at the tables beside me when I was seated and the couple that was seated next to me afterwards didn’t see anything. I think because I felt phantom straps on my shoulders the whole time because that backpack is so heavy, I honestly thought I had it with me. The restaurant manager called airport security, which sent a cop over, who basically told me to just double back to the security checkpoint.
Long story short, my backpack was at the security desk of the checkpoint I’d left it at. I was lucky that I had my boarding pass and ID in my pocket (and not in my wallet) since I’d taken them out to go through security in the first place. I described the backpack to the TSA person at the desk and they handed it over without a problem. They hadn’t even opened it. (It’d already gone through the x-ray, after all). Wee. x_x
I’d left my suitcases under the watch of the the restaurant staff while I ran back to security for my backpack. When I got back, I found that the couple at the table next to mine had paid my bill — they told me to pay it forward, and so I tipped the waitress a twenty before shuffling off. x_x I still had about 20 minutes before I needed to board my plane.
MomoCon’s a weird show.
It’s different every year; a lot of things change every year, so it’s difficult to use past experiences to predict future ones. Next year, things change again. In 2015, MomoCon is moving to the Georgia World Congress Center, one of the biggest convention centers in the country. This is a huge move, especially considering Momo has only been a paid convention for three years, and considering larger Atlanta shows like Anime Weekend Atlanta and Dragon*Con haven’t made such the move (though plenty of people agree that D*C should).
It’s impossible to guess how things might go their first year at the GWCC. A lot of this year’s problems will be moot, but there will for sure be new problems to replace them.
The only thing that stays the same with MomoCon is its staff, but that’s actually saying a lot. Plenty of other conventions have very high staff turnover rates, especially amongst Artist Alley heads. Next year will be Shannon’s tenth year with the con, which means she only missed its debut year. That’s really something!
A lot of things factored into my decision to go back to MomoCon this year: timing convenience, being able to see my Atlanta friends and my brother, nostalgia… and staff awareness of AA issues and their receptiveness to feedback. I haven’t actually spoken to Shannon all that much personally, but I’ve exchanged a few words here and there with Jess and Chris, the con’s co-chairs, and they’ve always seemed very open to suggestions. Chris actually made time to come see me early Sunday afternoon because he saw me tweet about leaving early. It was the first time we’d met in person, and I was really surprised he took the time to say hello — as the showrunner, I’m sure the weekend was crazy hectic for him from beginning to end.
He invited me to send him feedback after the show, and that willingness to reach out and listen to potential criticism means a lot more to me than the convention going perfectly or my numbers at the end of the weekend.
There are a lot of problems that I think MomoCon is very aware of, but which they’ve been unable to provide satisfactory solutions to for whatever reason.
Artist Alley location is one of them. I think they’ve really struggled to find balance between having the AA in a decent spot and fitting in as many artists as possible and appropriate for a con their size. I think last year their Alley was significantly smaller, though still very cramped, and the location was lacking… but the year before that they were in a basement (or something), so 2013 was an improvement from 2012, probably. And 2014 was an improvement from 2013.
Even though I was iffy on the placement of some of the signs this year though, there were a good number of them, and Shirly says that traffic was way up from last year. She saw a 50% increase in sales — that’s huge! (I saw a 252% increase from MomoCon 2010, lol, but this statistic is not at all helpful. XD)
Different artists will have different opinions about what to prioritize in this situation — room location and space or number of artists? For me, it’ll always be room location and comfort, especially as a smaller Alley typically means less on-site competition. However, MomoCon’s AA registration is first come, first serve, and I think this year they sold out in less than a minute, so artists who are less confident in FCFS situations may want more tables over a more accessible or roomier location.
The tightness of the space this year made things really hit or miss for artists though, which really bothered me. Location within an Alley matters, but it shouldn’t completely make or break your weekend. I felt like more than half the Alley was a “bad spot” because of the narrow aisles, and that only about a dozen table locations were “good.” Less than eight feet of space in aisles is ridiculous, and less than four feet of space behind each table is equally ridiculous.
This will probably not be a problem moving forward, as I’m sure the GWCC has plenty of appropriate spaces for an Artist Alley, but I do kind of wonder where in the process someone went into that room and thought “yes, we can definitely fit fifty tables in here…” <_<
To be honest, I’m pretty iffy about MomoCon’s decision to jump to such a huge venue just four years after they became a paid convention… they’re also becoming a four-day convention at the same time. That’s another big jump! They were just a two-day con a few years ago! There are many, many conventions older than MomoCon that would probably never consider jumping to four days, especially since MomoCon isn’t actually over Memorial Day weekend next year. They’re the weekend after Memorial and their four days are Thursday through Sunday. Weird!
Will they have the attendance to justify the space? Will they have the programming to justify the four days?
Momo’s always had a strong game-related programming and a lot of American animation guests (Cartoon Network is right there in Atlanta, after all), but if they didn’t already tote themselves as one, they definitely can’t be mistaken as anything but a multi-genre convention in 2015. Being multi-genre will give them more options for related programming, but it also moves them out of my “home” genre con. I’ll probably never do as well at a comic or multi-genre con as I do at an anime con, and I know lots of other artists feel the same way.
Still, of the three big shows in Atlanta, MomoCon will probably always be my favourite. I got my real start in Artist Alley there; I like the staff; I like the attendees. I hope their move to the bigger space goes well for them, but whatever the problems that may arise, I’m confident they’ll make adjustments and accommodations as needed. If they’re staying at the GWCC for the long haul, then they’ll figure out how to make it work.
This year, I had a really great time hanging out with Shirly, and it was good to see my brother and my Atlanta friends as well. I did better than I thought I would, and I would’ve done better if I’d stayed all Sunday. I’ll give them a year or two to settle into the GWCC and their four day track, but I definitely would like to come back again someyear. :o