This morning I got an invitation to a show happening in Dallas...
Once you've been on 'the circuit" for awhile, this happens quite regularly; you get applications or invitations from schools and churches and hair salons and art festivals and galleries and... and the list goes on.
This one was for a first-time music festival, StarFest, in downtown Dallas. Not only did I immediately reject it, but sent a pretty straightforward note 'counseling' these fools about their chances at attracting any artist!
What were the deal-breakers?
First of all, was the cost. For a well-known, well-established 2-day art festival with decent promotion, a jury and the caveat that no re-sellers are allowed (Resellers being defined as folks who buy and then resell the work in over 50% of the case), I expect to pay between $150 and $300 plus jury fees for a 10' x 10' space. This entity wanted $400 if I sent my money in by June 1st and $550 if after June 1st. Strike one!
Now, does that mean that $400 is just plain too much? Not at all! Put me in an established Fine Crafts show that caters to wholesale buyers (art galleries, gift shops, etc) and I'll expect to pay north of $1000K for even a small one of these...and it'll be worth it. SOFA, in Chicago might be several thousand...but those are geared toward my audience, guarantees me access to folks interested in purchasing large quantities of high-quality work and puts me in a crowd of like-craftspeople/artists.
The second "strike" is that all of the advertisement and brochures and materials that accompanied the application advertised this purely as a music festival. I don't know about you, but when I see an ad for a music festival, I'm going for the music..not to look at 100 art booths! If you want me to pay top dollar, bill it as an art event! Strike Two!
Thirdly, this is a brand new event. No one knows how it'll do or who it will attract. I don't mind taking some risks and trying a brand-new festival or show, but don't also expect me to pay 40% more for the booth until it's well-established as a superior show!
Some other things I look for that are important:
How well organized is the show? I recently signed up and paid my $25 entry fee for a small one-day show at a local community animal shelter. I had a Saturday show booked and had nothing, it was close and had some potential, as they were billing at least a couple of well-known artists' presence. So why did I bail at the last minute? They never aknowledged receipt of my application, addressed set-up or tear-down times or gave any of the applying artists any info about the show. They gave no information about the required donation, etc... And if the 'organizers' (SIC) can't return your calls or e-mails, how're they going to put on a good show, promote well and do all of those things that'll make it worth your while? Ditto for a seemingly good show that is announced a month or two out....if they're that late in the game, how's their other organization and promotion.
Now, find those good shows and spread the word! We need more of them!