Silly, Geeky, Money: The Big Business of a Fandom

Perry The Inventor – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Orlando, FL, United States (4E) – Thousands of super fans geek-out at the most recognized fandom con on the planet. Just as a King runs the kingdom the fans run the fandom. And at LeakyCon fans are King.

LeakyCon, named after the Leaky Cauldron Pub in Harry Potter, is a yearly event attended by fans from all over the world to celebrate iconic works of Literature, Film and Television. It started out as homage to Harry Potter but quickly grew so big it’s being rebranded as GeekyCon in 2015.

At LeakyCon 2014, a sold out crowd was treated to author led panels, bands, a Universal Studios Private Pass to the new Diagon Alley and Hogsmead, a live Quidditch match, and a gathering of likeminded fanatics from all over the globe.

Three years ago Michael and Jamie Weigt had their honeymoon at LeakyCon “because the Tsunami stomped our plans to go to Japan”. They were back again this year to celebrate their anniversary. Why? Jamie said, “We just love it!”

Nich Penner, a Digital Operations Professional, traveled from Ontario, “because it’s a great con and I reconnect with the friends I’ve made throughout the years.”

LeakyCon is big business too. Rockstar tickets sell out in hours for $350 each and a general admission ticket is a plump $175. But the fans can’t seem to get enough.

Donna Brandt, sales manger at Universal Orlando said, “we sold out our [private pass LeakyCon] tickets in 7 minutes”. These tickets were an additional $150 each above the entrance ticket price.

Authors, including Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan, Uglies, Peeps), John Green (The Fault in Our Stars), Malinda Lo (Ash), Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet, Harry Potter US Book Covers), and many more, were eager to greet their fans, sign autographs and answer intimate questions about characters, plots and their craft.

Actors and YouTubers, including Dominic Barnes (Glee) and Jon Cozart (After Ever After Disney Parody) were often rushed, by giggling fans, for impromptu selfies.

Ever see Disney’s Aladdin say Sh*t or Jafar say the F-word? In a StarKid production all rules are off the table and fans love it. StarKid, a silly assembly of writers and actors who spoof, parody and cuss their way into the hearts of their fans gave a behind the scene view of a production-reading. StarKid gave an onstage reading of an unreleased script of “Tootsie Noodles” to a packed audience in the main auditorium. Fans swooned, giggled and applauded in unison.

Actors would break the fourth wall to explain, apologize or give background info about the future production. It all seems silly until you realize that StarKid’s production, ‘StarShip’, premiered to 7 sold out shows in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The StarKid channel has generated over 130,000,000 (130 million) views. Under all of the silly there is a real business model unfolding.

Next year LeakyCon will operate under its new brand GeekyCon. With tickets for GeekyCon 2015, being held at the Orange County Convention Center July 30 – August 2, 2015, probably selling out as quickly as they did this year and the year before.

Should marketers take an interest in this demographic? The smart ones already are. Penguin Teen books, Tumblr and Scholastic sponsored the event and Universal Orlando made out in a big way as a vendor. An informal survey shows the demographic to be about 70%/30% female/male and they purchase the products they like.

But companies beware; these fans know a Peter Pettigrew from a Phoenix Tail. While they stood in line for hours to meet with John Green they also quietly ignored the vendor selling poorly made wands for $15. I watched the vendor lower the $15 price tag to $10 then $5 and then saw them leave with them all.

In addition to the fun and the business there was also a bit of monkey business too. The fans attempted to garner a Guinness Record for being the largest group to simultaneously wear paper crowns. They believe they won and are waiting for certification.

As a personal note, when I asked my daughter Shaina, “what do you think of all this?” She said with a big grin, “I can’t wait till next year!”

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