pouët.net

Commerce at demoparties

category: parties [glöplog]
 
I’ve been planning to write about this issue for a couple of years and the thing which finally triggered me was Gargaj’s thread about YT monetization. Simply put, most demoparties welcome sponsors. Sometimes those are demoscene-related companies, very often they’re just some IT ventures that organizers know and talked into sponsoring. We got used to mentions of sponsors at prizegivings and most people don’t see a problem with it. Or do they?

A bit of a background. As somebody who had been organizing demoscene events for 20 years, I know a few things about sponsoring demoparties and relationships with commercial entities. At the beginning, any financial help from outside was very much welcome as raising money for a party that a few people go to is quite difficult. I understand that a sponsor who gives some money for the venue or prizes is godsent to small and new parties. However, since your party has matured and has a group of regular goers, international recognition and whatnot, shouldn’t you (as the orga team) stand up to the challenge and say goodbye to sponsors?

We did that with Riverwash in the last 5 editions. We refused to advertise any commercial entities and the obvious consequence was that they stopped giving us money and prizes. I can tell you that when you organize a recognized event which attracts several hundred people, proposals just keep coming and it took a bit of courage to turn them down. So, how did we fare with that? I can tell you that for the 10th edition I had so much money to spend (and I had to spend it because I was about to quit organizing for personal reasons) that the party was free for everybody.

I’d use this as a case in point. I dare to say that demoscene is mature enough to support itself while making demoparties and I’d gladly see more medium and large events following our idea and dropping sponsors. This could mean raising entrance ticket fees but there are other ways too. When we initially decided to set our entrance fee at almost double what other Polish parties asked for, there was an uproar. But then we quickly realized that those voices were scarce and they didn’t matter much in the long run. If you think about a major demoparty in your country, which usually happens once a year, if you think about other costs of going there, like travel, accommodation, etc., the entrance fee isn’t going to matter that much. Of course, not every scener is well-off. However, majority of them (I wrote “them” not “us” because I’m not a good example) have decent jobs in IT which give a lot of financial freedom. And again, I learnt throughout the years that people are willing to give you money to organize a quality event if you ask them gently or just suggest it (private sponsor tickets, donations). You can also sell your own merchandize (like t-shirts) and actually make some money from it too. And for those who aren’t well-off, you can always offer a social ticket option or a job on the orga team. You can raise money through an association or society monthly and then spend it once a year (something we didn’t do but I know such cases). There are many ways to raise money than getting them from sponsors. Of course they require more effort but isn't that part of organizer's duties?

I hope to see comments from both orgas (how much financial support of your event comes from sponsors and can you imagine not having it?) and partygoers (do you care if your prize was sponsored and you see banners and stands of companies, slides on the bigscreen, etc.?) Demoscene takes pride in being non-commercial and independent, but aren’t we just fooling ourselves if demoparties still have that kind of support?
added on the 2019-06-30 09:33:20 by Fei Fei
Some parties need sponsors, some don't. Personally I couldn't care less, as long as the party itself is fun.
added on the 2019-06-30 11:28:24 by britelite britelite
Quote:
I can tell you that when you organize a recognized event which attracts several hundred people, proposals just keep coming and it took a bit of courage to turn them down.

That sounds more like an exception rather than the rule :)
added on the 2019-06-30 11:58:38 by Gargaj Gargaj
Quote:
Some parties need sponsors, some don't. Personally I couldn't care less, as long as the party itself is fun.

^^^this!!!
added on the 2019-06-30 12:04:03 by bonefish bonefish
Quote:
shouldn’t you (as the orga team) stand up to the challenge and say goodbye to sponsors?

Why?
added on the 2019-06-30 12:11:02 by gloom gloom
Also I'm fairly sure 99% of demoparty sponsors treat the venture as "money to burn" and get literally nothing out of the deal, except maybe a tax deduction if they're lucky.
added on the 2019-06-30 12:12:30 by Gargaj Gargaj
Well, nobody forces sponsors to do anything.

Quote:
Demoscene takes pride in being non-commercial and independent, but aren’t we just fooling ourselves if demoparties still have that kind of support?


Trading code for beer next time? I can't follow that thought at all.
There are far too many demoparties now for the constantly dwindling amount of people in the scene, so I imagine sponsorship is probably quite essential. Besides, I'm fairly sure some sponsors employ or are even run by demosceners so really what's the harm there. We're mostly middle-aged with responsibilities and jobs and the scene is an extra to that, so we can't live in a fantasy bubble and still expect things to survive purely on some wild independent spirit. I'd much rather scene people who go to all the trouble of hosting demo parties aren't losing money in the process.
added on the 2019-06-30 13:26:53 by 4mat 4mat
We've had sponsors previously but in our case money never exchanged hands, it was more companies I worked with day to day offering assistance (Epson loaned us a projector and PC World loaned us a compo box), and Temis from nVidia kindly donated a GPU+Barebones bundle to us back in (iirc) 2008 which we gave as a prize.

Although we haven't had sponsors for sometime (but we have raised entry prices from £30 to £50 over the course of 14 years), we wouldn't be against it at all if it provided an uncompromised and better experience for visitors. I don't frankly feel an impetus to discourage sponsorship because if everyone has a better experience as a result then it doesn't seem like that big a deal to me.

As an aside, if a commercial entity gets involved with a party that doesn't significantly compromise the experience, enables the demoscene to grow and guarantees parties can go ahead, I'm all for it.

The only problem I can foresee is where larger parties with better prizes will have more entries stuffed into them, leaving smaller lower budget parties languishing somewhat; but this I feel has always been the case regardless of financials.

My thoughts are much the same as the others who have posted previously.
Quote:
The only problem I can foresee is where larger parties with better prizes will have more entries stuffed into them, leaving smaller lower budget parties languishing somewhat; but this I feel has always been the case regardless of financials.

In most cases it's not about the prizes, it's about to get noticed by a large croud. You may remember the PC demo compo of Mekka and Symposium 2002. It had a large number of quality-wise good releases, that ended up way beyond #5 but could have won easily at a small party. People didn't care, they wanted their demo to be seen by a large crowd on this large big screen and PA.

Quote:
scene people who go to all the trouble of hosting demo parties aren't losing money in the process

The opposite has happend at German demoparties in the past. Nowadays (nearly?) every of them get's support from Digitale Kultur (DKeV) and/or Tastatur und Maus (TuM eV), who collect money from sponsors.
all the demoparties i've ever been to in my life had some company logos plastered around and they were mentioned during prizegiving ceremony. honestly, i couldn't care less. i know it's part of the deal, it is just as out-of-focus as banners on a website. it's there, doesn't bite.

making parties completely free is a nice gesture but you got to know that most of us are 30+ working people who can afford a 10EUR entry fee once a year. and being 30+ also explains the dwindling anti-commercialist rebel spirit. we are not the angsty teenagers who want to blow the roof off any more, we just want to re-live this reverie of digital oldschool art and possibly push Some boundaries of today's artificial limitations.
added on the 2019-07-24 10:41:26 by nagz nagz
It's a difficult topic.

1. Would you also tell the really long-term demoscene-led companies to not sponsor and support the event? For them it's not about getting a lot out of it but to support the scene (which would be in the same category as the "we can support ourselves" topic).

2. Most of the Ultimate Meetings were not heavily sponsored but supported by friends and mainorganizers monetary contributions.

3. No (big) sponsors for Revision would mean raising the ticket price from 65 EUR to at least 120 EUR. While I'm sure that some would pay that without much questions asked, I'm also sure that it would shy away a dozens if not hundreds of visitors. Which would it turn actually really hurt the party and the demoscene itself.

General question: what's the harm in having sponsors? As long as they don't nag anybody or do hard pre-compo-promitions with non-demoscene material, I don't really see an issue with having them. At Revision we try to only have sponsors that have a highly technical background, a connection to the scene (or them being sceners themselves) or have an additional value for our visitors - as our "Gamer Eyedrops" sponsor this year. Actually most long term sponsors we had and have are actually scener-run companies.

I can't remember at any time being told that sponsors are ruining the party for anybody. There have been some controversy issues at other parties, where the sponsors really took over some things - but that was IMO a long time ago and does not really happen anymore.

Since organizers do parties solely out of passion for the scene, sponsors really help them to sleep at night in case the visitor turnout is worse than thought or other things happening that you, as an organizer, can't control.
added on the 2019-07-24 11:32:00 by D.Fox D.Fox
To clarify. the Ultimate Meeting would usually cost about 7-10k and at most half of the revenue came from entrance fees. Then we had some revenue from shirt and drink sales. The rest usually came from ourselves or - once Revision started - from the T.u.M. e.V. surplus money we got at Revision.

The e.V. aims to have a monetary buffer to be able to host Revision at least once if we don't have ANY sponsors. A goal we haven't reached, yet since we also try to put most of the year's revenue into features and enhancements for the visitors :)
added on the 2019-07-24 11:42:27 by D.Fox D.Fox
Quote:
... Actually most long term sponsors we had and have are actually scener-run companies. ...


oops, left this part out from my rambling above.
yep, i also saw lots of scener-run (or ex-scener-run) companies in the sponsor roster, which is understandable. devotees feel the urge to give some back to the community where they grew up and hardened to become the gamedev/IT/whatever juggernauts.
not to mention, some companies even have 'application forms' scattered around, which is a win-win if some sceners are without a job and in their 3AM drunken post-compo stupor they pocket some "Fancy gamecoding? Work for us!" pamphlet.

That, or make a piggy bank which makes up for at least a good local party every now and then (kinda what MD1 does here)
added on the 2019-07-24 16:02:20 by nagz nagz
On one side, I like the idea of the demoscene being as much non-commercial and independant as possible.

On the other side, I personally don't think the state of commercial sponsorship in nowadays demoparties cross any ethic line or whatsoever.

Plus, for an equivalent set of features, having sponsors allows a party to lower the entry price. And that's important to attract new/young people to the scene (which is a most pressing issue imho).
added on the 2019-07-24 17:25:37 by wullon wullon
I'm all for sponsored video ads between the individual entries in a compo, they'd allow you to visit the restroom(where the audio of the ad continues to play), buy sponsored beverages or have a smoke in the sponsored smokers lounge! ;)
added on the 2019-07-24 18:57:16 by LJ LJ
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I'm all for sponsored video ads between the individual entries in a compo, they'd allow you to visit the restroom(where the audio of the ad continues to play), buy sponsored beverages or have a smoke in the sponsored smokers lounge! ;)

:D

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When we initially decided to set our entrance fee at almost double what other Polish parties asked for, there was an uproar. But then we quickly realized that those voices were scarce and they didn’t matter much in the long run.

So... your version of being "non-commercial and independent" is basically "fuck the people who can't afford it"? At least it's independent not giving two shits about the community :)

Using DFox's example, 55 euros is actual money. It's a week's worth of food, a plane ticket or a full tank of gas. You know, stuff you have to take into account when considering if you can afford going to a party.
And yeah, travelling to parties can be expensive. Even more reason to keep the ticket prices down, as 55 euros might be more than sufficient to topple a scener's total budget for going to a party.

In my view, getting/having sponsors should be a goal for any party. The less of the party you can fund by charging the visitors, the better. Even better if you can find partners that are willing to both fund you and support you by contributing to the party in some way. If some partner wants to recruit from the crowd that goes to a party, that is a benefit for everyone.
Of course, this is under the assumption that the sponsor/partner doesn't want to change the way you do your party. But why would you say yes to that as an organizer?


Basically: if I can take money from someone in a way that doesn't impact the party experience for the visitors in a negative way, I will. It's good for the party, it's good for the people who come to the party which in turn makes it good for the demoscene.
added on the 2019-08-02 13:00:44 by lug00ber lug00ber
just don't get cryptocurrency sponsors for prize money and you should be fine!
added on the 2019-08-02 13:11:54 by Maali Maali
Doing parties here and there can be a lot of fun but doing it each year is a different thing. Not everyone wants to chip in the same stuff they did last year for free and to gain "feature stability", money is the best way to guarantee that some aspect keeps working.
Unfortunately like gargaj said, a lot of the parties are barely break-even when it comes to finances, if not even in the red. It's no secret that Demoparties are never a financial success, any extra that comes out of organizing gets shuffled to afterparties for orgas in order to at least give some thanks for the efforts (or maybe by year 3-4 finally have enough to invest on gear/hardware you shouldve had years ago).

To gain this money in order to guarantee that the party "you wanted to do" keeps happening, external help is often needed.
Best cases allow you to outsource certain functions of the party such as prizes to the point where it's one less thing to worry about.
Also there is a certain point where you really don't feel like doing 5th year in a row with 120% of your efforts just to stretch out your pennies, at that point it becomes a second job.
You still want to have fun and not forget what you made you start organizing stuff in the first place.

Personally I think demoparties have never really crossed the line in terms of sponsor usage and taste.
If the visibility is higher then I feel it's been usually done in a tongue-in-cheek fashion that just works out in the end.
added on the 2019-08-02 13:30:25 by oasiz oasiz
It also depends what kind of party you wanna organize and where. If you just want to rent a shack in a village for 30 people with 2 compos and no prizes, you can more than likely get away with no-to-little entrance fee. As soon as you start scaling up certain parts (prizes, locations, tech), things will begin to cost more.

(Protip: Try organizing a party in San Francisco without sponsors.)
added on the 2019-08-02 14:28:38 by Gargaj Gargaj
The "harm" in having sponsors and using their money to lower entrance fees is that they become determining factors in your budget calculations. At Outline we solved that by making the ticket price correspond to actual expenses made, and using sponsor gifts or money for long term investments only. So Outline doesn't depend on sponsors whatsoever to be able to organize the party with the usual ticket price. And that's important because we want to be sure we can keep the party going for years to come.

By the way, I'm visiting one of the most heavily sponsored demoscene parties known to mankind this very weekend. Despite getting free entrance (for helping out with about 90 minutes of the weekend's programme) it's actually still the most expensive party out the 10 or so I'll likely attend this year. So the direct correlation between affordability and sponsorship is nonsense, I'd say. Some places are just more expensive than others.
added on the 2019-08-02 17:56:46 by havoc havoc
Thanks to everybody, especially other orgas, for sharing their thoughts. After reading the YT ad thread I had thought more sceners would be against ads but now I see that in many cases the attitude depends on who benefits from them. I also understand why most orga teams choose that way. If relatively few people consider it a problem, why bother.

@Gargaj: we successfully organized a demoparty in Washington without corporate sponsors.
added on the 2019-08-13 14:39:50 by Fei Fei
While that may be technically true, you organized it on the back of an existing event that has an established non-profit and received support, as you noted, from the Polish embassy - the financial onus wasn't on you - not that different from NVScene.

To me it matters little whether a sponsor is corporate or a private person or a non-profit - they can all be wonderful and they can all be assholes. But you need money and sometimes it's impossible doing an event without them.
added on the 2019-08-13 14:51:52 by Gargaj Gargaj
So far most parties with non-scene sponsors I´ve visited hardly had a noticeable negative impact caused by them, however seminars or hardware prizes usually are quite welcome.
Thus I´d say as long as you can get sponsors without the need to alter the party or organizing significantly go for it.

Can´t say the same about non-scene media presence which in most cases was pretty annoying, especially the streaming/TV ones.
added on the 2019-08-14 00:36:46 by T$ T$
The gamescom is an interesting example here. While at first glance it looks like it is comparable to the E3 and mainly about game studios showing new games and the gaming community overall. But in reality it's primarily an event around politics, which becomes clear in the opening speeches, where politicians get to speak in front of young people. Last year you didn't get the impression that the gamescom would/should be about press releases of games (like the E3) at all.
The main orga is done by "game – Verband der deutschen Games-Branche e.V.", which primarily focusses on politicial lobbying for the german computer/video game industry. And it shows.

You can think of it what you want. Having a political lobby for your cause (game (art) development in general) is good. But I don't like mixing politics with entertainment, especially as politics in germany mainly did/does decisions against the new digital age, the youth and against freedom or art (proof is the recent push of german politicans for the new EU copyright law).

To come back to the original point: I think sponsoring is fine, showing labels, maybe branded hardware or other prizes are fine, as long as the party/event does not suffer and is still about the people that take part. Where I would raise my eyebrows would be politicial influenced sponsoring giving politics a platform in your event. But there is probably a very long white/black gradient here, with lots of grey where the threshold is very individual.
added on the 2019-08-14 13:06:20 by WeirdCtor WeirdCtor

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