2019 Convention Artist Census

After unsurprising, if not requisite, delays, the 2019 Convention Artist Census Report is ready for perusal!

The census collected information about the demographics, finances, and goals of artists who exhibit at conventions. In total, there were 366 responses, representing artists from 47 states/provinces and 4 continents, and practicing in 14 disciplines. The report presents the data in a variety of graphs and charts for easy consumption and analysis.

The 2019 Census Report

Features:

  • 55 total pages featuring neatly-presented census data, such as:
    • Artist demographics, including age, designation (professional, hobbyist, student), convention experience, artist discipline (illustrator, animator, comic artist, etc), preferred genre, annual income from cons, and more!
    • Various convention-related data points, such as number of cons per year, percentage registered businesses, artists’ financial goals, motivation for cons, and more!
    • Lots of comparative charts such as annual revenue by convention genre, by experience, by cons-per-year, and more!
  • 50 total data tables
  • 96 total charts and graphs
2019 Artist Census - Total Annual Income from Cons
Here it is, what everyone is probably most curious about.

The 2019 Census Data

As always, the spreadsheet data used for the report is available for free. There are dozens of ways to cross-examine and compare data points, and there’s no way for me to present the information from all possible angles. You’re welcome (and encouraged!) to run your own numbers and perform your own analysis.

Data is sorted alphabetically by artist discipline with timestamps stripped to help preserve the anonymity of respondents.

While past surveys required various adjustments to raw data to fix things like inaccurate regions and estimated convention attendance, the census required far fewer adjustments — mostly to assign categories to responses which allowed for open-ended user input — so the raw and adjusted spreadsheets aren’t that different.

2019 Convention Artist Census

The Census Process

This project was difficult from the beginning because the information asked for by the census, such as annual income, felt more personal. This made it a lot harder to both ask for and to get responses, and promoting the census while choosing not to continue with the more popular survey was awkward for me. I wanted to hit 350 responses on the census for a baseline statistically significant sample size, but the rate of response was too slow to reach it before the end of 2019.

I decided to continue collecting responses in early 2020, but some questions referencing “this year” and “next year” meant that data consistency was somewhat compromised. Still, I figured it wasn’t that important which year was “this year” as long as they were consistent within a single response. The census was aiming to collect more big-picture data, so which year specifically didn’t make a big difference, even though artists could only guess at the number of conventions they’d have on the schedule if “this year” was 2020 — an approximation was sufficient, especially into the spring, as schedules became more finalised.

And thankfully, the census hit 350 responses in mid-April and closed to new responses shortly thereafter. While there were already numerous COVID-19 convention cancellations (and reschedulings) by then, I don’t think it became abundantly clear that most 2020 convention plans would be moot until more recently.

It was demotivating to go through and analyze data that was already out of date with regard to the world though, and that was the primary reason the report took so long.

2019 Artist Census - Cons Per Year
This chart shows about how many conventions per year artists exhibit at. A majority (64%) do 5 or fewer shows a year, but 3% do 21+ a year.

36% of surveyed artists did six (6) or more cons in 2019. 43% of those artists wanted to add more shows to their schedule this year, while 66% of artists who’d done five (5) or fewer shows wanted to add more. In all, 58% of all artists wanted to do more conventions.

Well, sucks for all of them.

And it really sucks for the 23% of artists who made more than half their total annual income from conventions.

2019 Artist Census - Percentage Annual Income From Cons
This chart shows the percentage of an artist’s annual income that comes from conventions specifically.

Unfortunately, it seems like we’ll be dealing with COVID-19 for a while.

I have a of thoughts on the long-term effects of the pandemic on the convention scene, but that will need be a whole other post. As far as the census goes — I’m grateful I managed to get a snapshot of the way things were. It’ll be interesting to see how numbers stack up in another few years, in a post-COVID-19 world.

2019 Artist Census - Annual Con Income by Number of Cons
This graph shows artists’ annual income from conventions specifically, split by how many conventions they do per year. For example, this shows that artists who do 26+ conventions annually make at least $10k/year from them.

COVID-19 Survey & Next Census

Because I apparently just can’t stop doing new surveys, and because the pandemic, while terrible, presents a unique research opportunity, I’m conducting a new survey on the effects of COVID-19 on convention artists.

This survey will run through Friday, October 30th, 2020, or until 350 responses have been collected, whichever is later.

COVID-19 has crippled the entertainment, travel, and events industry. It remains to be seen what the long-lasting the effects will be both in and outside of our niche convention community. I think that this survey, along with ongoing censuses, will help underscore how really important it is for artists to have multiple revenue streams in their business.

2020 COVID-19 VS Convention Artists survey

The plan for now is to do the next regular census in 2025, so after the COVID-19 survey concludes, things will be quiet on the research front for a while.

The next census will probably ask for a lot more demographic data. It wasn’t until writing this blog post that I realised that I never asked for a lot of typical demographic information, such as gender, race and ethnicity, martial status, etc. These are not things I think about often, and they’re not things I think are particularly relevant, so it didn’t occur to me to ask — but I also think it would be really insightful to have that data, particularly since I suspect, based on personal experience, that artists are significantly more diverse than many other professions. I think the ratios of women, LGBTQIA+, and BIPOC are higher than average, as well as the percentage of those with physical and mental disabilities.

I know, unfortunately, that COVID-19 will be putting a lot of people out of business, but there are always new people starting out too. Hopefully there will still be plenty of diversity on the scene in five years when I do the next census so I can get some solid numbers.

Stay Updated

You can keep up-to-date with survey and census news via the email list!



This list gets 6-8 emails a year at most. You’ll get updates and info about the COVID-19 survey, the census, and… another thing I’m working on. 👀 The new thing isn’t a survey, but it should be relevant to most convention artists. No set date for a release because I always jinx myself, but it should be soon.

Once the new project launches and the COVID survey concludes, emails should be pretty infrequent until census time again, so uh, don’t go wtf and mark my emails as spam when 2025 rolls around and I suddenly rise from the dead to blab about data again, yeah?

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