Comic Con Volunteers and Phoenix Comicon

This is just a quick note about a phenomenon that is happening at conventions around the country.

Everyone that has ever been to a Con knows that there are volunteers that help to keep the event organized and enjoyable to all. Lots of volunteers. The bigger the Con, the more volunteers there are. Most volunteers are compensated with free admission to the event, maybe a little swag, or something like that, but what is abundantly clear is that without the volunteers, the events can’t go on.

Or can they?

Recently, complaints/lawsuits have been filed at various conventions concerning the pay status of volunteers. Liability issues and the like, etc… you get the idea.

Phoenix Comicon, in an attempt to get ahead of the situation, recently changed their policy to reflect this new reality, and announced that they would only accept volunteers from a certain volunteer group in the Phoenix area, but that membership in that group had a cost.

Predictably, chaos ensued, and the revelation that the convention organizer, Matt Solberg, had ties to the aforementioned volunteer group only compounded the problem.

On January 23, this official announcement was made [more comments below]:

January 23, 2017
After much deliberation, we have decided to shift to an all paid staff in the operation of Phoenix Comicon and all events associated with Square Egg Entertainment, including Phoenix Fan Fest, Minnesota Fan Fest, and Keen Halloween.

There are many individuals who helped make Phoenix Comicon one of the best run conventions in the country.  To them we owe our sincerest thanks and gratitude.  We hope that many of those who assisted us will apply for the new paid positions as we announce them.  In appreciation for everything you have done for us, those who served as volunteers in 2016 who are not selected for positions will receive two complimentary full event passes for Phoenix Comicon 2017 and 2018 as our gift.

We continue to support Blue Ribbon Army as a corporate member and through promotion of their group and activities.  We look forward to what they can accomplish and are excited to be a part of it.

While this was not the original decision as announced three weeks ago, nor was this the option selected by most of our volunteers, we do believe this is the best decision long-term for our company and our conventions based on feedback and concerns raised.  It avoids further controversies as this industry changes, keeps us compliant with changing laws, and increases the professionalism and effectiveness of our team.

As this discussion consumed social media and news outlets over the past three weeks, we have continued to work behind-the-scenes on making our events for 2017 stellar.  We look forward to sharing announcements on our upcoming guests and content at all our shows.

Phoenix Comicon will continue to thrive and be a source of joy for thousands of attendees this year and in future years.

Thank you all for your discourse and feedback,

Matthew Solberg
CEO, Square Egg Entertainment
Convention Director, Phoenix Comicon

So, now Phoenix will have a 100% paid staff. While this may seem like a good thing at first glance, I cannot help but wonder what this will do to ticket costs for future events (as 2017 ticket prices are already in effect). Will they go up? Will celebrity “guarantees” be reduced in an attempt to keep ticket prices down? If so, will this affect the caliber of guest Phoenix is able to sign to appear?

I don’t know. What I do know is that, in this ever-changing world of conventions and labor, I applaud Matthew Solberg for trying to get ahead of the problem, for being proactive, even if his first attempt was not received quite as well as he might have hoped.

Let’s hope that this solution will be the one that sticks, that works, and allows Phoenix to continue to grow as an event and as a venue for more events of this type.

Looking forward to Phoenix over Memorial Day. See you all there!

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