percussively-speaking

[2019 Update] Why we didn't go to PASIC 2018

Aaron + Lexie

Tags PASIC 2018

2019 Update - one year later: 

It's been one year since we posted this blog post. In that year, we've had so many great conversations about it with all of you, and many of you have expressed your desire for wanting to see more of your favorite percussion small businesses represented in the expo hall. Unfortunately, we still have yet to hear anything from anyone currently associated with PAS. 

Something to point out though: It's interesting to look at how different this year's expo hall map is compared to last year. And by "different" I mean... way, way smaller.

PASIC 2019 Expo Hall layout:

PASIC 2019
   
Here's the 2018 layout again for side-by-side reference:
PASIC 2019 2
There is an entire separate area of the hall that's not even in use this year - they didn't even include it in the map. Not to mention the huge decrease in the number of exhibitors in both the "Showcase Hall" area as well as the "Demonstration Hall" area. In 2018, there were 144 occupied booths. In 2019, there are 99 occupied booths. Despite the significantly reduced number of exhibitors/booths, there are the same number of larger sized booths (20'x20' and up) available as there were in 2018 - though the pricing hasn't changed a bit. Reducing the number of available smaller booths just makes it even harder for small businesses to exhibit at PASIC. Now the "big guys" just get an even larger percentage of the expo hall's square footage.
Something to consider when the price to attend PASIC inevitably goes up again next year.
                                                                     

 

PASIC is upon us - as I’m sure most of you are aware. And as some of you may already know, Artifact is not there. And since we super believe in transparency and openness with our customers, we wanted to give you guys the full explanation behind our decision not to go.

So without further ado, here are the three big reasons why we are not making an appearance in the PASIC expo hall this year.

   

Number 1: PASIC is expensive.

It’s actually pretty funny whenever somebody asks “why aren’t you going to PASIC?” and we give them our answer. Because when we actually tell that person how much it costs all in for a booth at PASIC, their response is always something along the lines of “Holy sh*t.”

Because, if you’re not a retailer or a business owner, there’s not really any reason for you to know that information. And it can be kind of a shock to people. But, since I know you’re all curious about it now, here’s the booth price list straight from the PASIC Exhibitor Packet:
   
PASIC 2

 

You may be thinking, “$750? That’s not that bad for a booth.” And you’re right. It’s not too bad. But 5’x10’ is really small. Realistically, since we have a lot of products and would be bringing large instruments, we would need at least a 10’x10’ booth. I mean we’ve all done that thing where you just awkwardly wave the mallets around in the air like you’re getting your degree from Hogwarts. But, that doesn’t really work... and not being able to accommodate for our customers to actually play with our stuff would kind of defeat the purpose of us being there. And a 5’ x 10’ just wouldn’t come close to cutting it.

So, realistically, we’re looking at $1,250 just for the booth.

But there’s a catch: in order to exhibit at PASIC, you have to be a PAS corporate sponsor. And that’s kind of like your yearly PAS membership fee that you have to pay in order to attend PASIC... but instead of being $55 a year, it’s a minimum of $500 a year. So, whatever the cost of your booth is, you really have to add at least $500 to that to get your actual cost.

PASIC 3

So, the total fee that we would pay to PAS is $1,750.

And that’s just the fee. That doesn’t include travel, renting a van, getting a hotel, eating food for the weekend. That all adds up. That’s another $1,200 right there (conservatively).

And then you also have to factor in the cost of materials for all the products that we would have to make and take to PASIC to sell. And that’s about $2,000 minimum.

So, the total cost for us to attend PASIC is right around $5,000. And that’s a lot of money for a small business like us.

You also have to consider that that $5,000 is not just $5,000. It’s kind of a gamble. PASIC attendance has been pretty low for the past few years and they also changed the setup and function of the expo hall last year, which I’m not going to get into fully here, but the short version is that: it’s kind of bullsh*t and it affects how much exposure certain retailers are getting or aren’t getting. A lot of retailers were unhappy about that last year, especially considering that PAS didn’t feel the need to inform everybody about the details of that change until we actually got there the day before the expo opened. And who knows if and when PAS is going to pull something like that again.

But anyway, we wouldn't be spending $5,000 with the expectation that we'll see a return on that expense, we would just be hoping that we would break even. But there’s a chance that we wouldn’t even do that and then we’ve lost money.

We don’t want to take that risk. We’d rather take that money and spend it on actually important things that are going to grow our business and benefit our customers. For example, expanding our product line beyond just sticks and mallets and also lowering our turnaround time. Both of which we are working on right now. Because we can. Because we have this awesome new space we've been talking about... and also because we didn’t spend $5,000 to go to PASIC.

   

Number 2: PASIC kinda sucks.

I’m not talking about the whole convention, obviously. I’m talking about the expo hall -  specifically that other side of the expo hall that you may not see.

In a lot of ways the expo hall is kind of like a high school cafeteria. You know that scene from Mean Girls?

Yeah, it’s pretty much like that. But with fully grown adults. Everybody is really nice and your friend and wants to check out your gear… but nobody is really your friend. And it’s easy for us to forget that because we don’t typically think about other businesses being our competition. We just do our own thing and we don’t care what other businesses are doing or what they think about what we're doing. But the PASIC expo is a reminder that there are businesses out there that do consider us competition or potential competition and therefore don’t want us around. And those are the ones that try to be your fake friends. It’s that kind of weird passive aggressive political friendliness/meanness in the industry that we just don’t have time for. Because we’re too busy making actually kickass gear and making sure that our customers are really happy with that gear.

So, with that being said, let’s talk about reason number three...

   

Number 3: The Percussive Arts Society caters to big business.

Nobody wants to say it, but it’s the truth. I mean, we would pay PAS about $2,000 for a spot in the expo hall, but big companies like Zildjian and D’Addario - and even not-so-big companies like Malletech and Marimba One - they pay $20,000 plus. Which means PAS makes way more money off of them than they do us. So, I get it. Because putting a convention on of that size is really, really expensive and PAS relies on those huge heavy hitters to make sure that they can see a return on that expense. And that’s fine.

But because of that relationship, PAS makes it extremely difficult and cost prohibitive for small businesses to even have a voice at PASIC.

To be clear: We don’t need to go to PASIC. Nobody really does. I feel like that’s a big misconception in the community that in order to be “legitimate,” you have to go to PASIC. Nah. That’s bullsh*t. More often than not, PASIC is a waste of money.  And honestly, it is also one of those industry standards that we feel like we don't really fit into. But it would still be nice to see some more small business representation on the expo hall floor. And if they could bring their prices down for smaller booths even just a little bit, maybe they could actually fill this sad empty corner of the expo hall every year:

 PASIC 4

 

Full disclosure, if you go to the PAS website right now and look at the expo hall map, you won’t see that.

You’ll see this:
PASIC 5

 

And that’s because the first screenshot is from the original map that PAS released back in August. But because they couldn’t get anybody to fill all those empty booths, they just hacked up that corner and rearranged it from 25 booths down to 12. But I bet that if they lowered their costs they probably could have gotten several other small businesses to fill those spots. I mean, wouldn’t they rather make any money at all off of that space rather than just not use it and get nothing for it? Especially when I’m sure that the attendees who pay hundreds of dollars to be there would rather see more of the industry represented in the expo hall instead of just a big open no man’s land.

But it’s almost like PAS would rather those small businesses not be there at all. Because even the smallest direct-to-consumer businesses eventually threaten the big ones. And PAS has to make sure that those guys all stay happy and un-threatened and will keep giving PAS their money every year to show at the expo.

And small business percussion is more important to you right now than you think. Zildjian now owns two of the biggest stick and mallet companies in the world - Vic Firth and Mike Balter. You may have noticed that over half of the entire Mike Balter line has been discontinued. Timpani mallets, bass drum beaters, chime hammers, and at least a third of the keyboard mallets. Gone. Why? Because all those models competed with a Vic Firth equivalent at a significantly lower price point. And now they don’t. See what I'm getting at? And the two goliaths - Zildjian and D’Addario - are basically in a head to head race right now to see who can own the entire industry first. Like a game of freaking monopoly. Which should scare you. Because that would mean that one or two giant companies would not only get to control what kind of choices you have in terms of percussion products but also how much you pay for those products - regardless of the quality you’re getting. They can - and will - sell you garbage and charge a premium for it, because they know you don’t have any other option. And honestly, we think that PAS can do more to prevent that from becoming a reality. We think that they can do more to help small businesses have a voice in the industry and to help ensure that you do have choices going forward... instead of just ensuring that the giant corporations are happy and not necessarily considering the everyday percussionist, whom it is PAS's stated mission to serve.

Anyway, that’s pretty much it. We just wanted to give you guys our full thoughts on why we are not going to PASIC this year. And we’d love to hear your thoughts on it, too. As a lot of you know, we built this business from nothing - literally $0 - and we’ve never had any investors or lenders, so our customers are kind of like our board of directors - you guys are the only ones we answer to. So please let us know what you think and thanks for reading.