Hey everyone, this is an open letter to deliver some news we’ve been mulling over for some time now. It’s with a heavy heart that BUCK Events has declared that BUCK 2016 will be the last brony/cartoon convention that we run.
Once BUCK 2016 is all wrapped up in April, we’ll all be turning to other projects.
Instead of scaling BUCK down and fading away, we’re going all-out. We’ve got big plans, we’ve got a show-stopping musician we’re about to announce. This is not abandon ship, this is “Get over here because it’s your last chance!”
Now I’ve given the short of it, here’s the long of it – BUCK has been running since 2012. It started as a large-gathering that turned into a small convention in Manchester. The fandom was ascending, and there was massive demand.
In 2013 we returned with the intent of running something bigger and better to satisfy this demand, and although it was hard work, we managed the transition up to the 1000-1200 attendee bracket. We also launched the Summer Sun Celebration, a concert that went toe to toe with other similar events much bigger than ourselves. Changing up to a larger venue, we quickly discovered that UK venues just aren’t used to dealing with US-style conventions. All the time the costs were high, expecting us to have big name sponsors and a few hundred exhibitors each paying a high price for their table – but as a convention, not an expo, we are effectively a private party, and the attendees pay our funding to run it.
This business model is extremely volatile. We constantly wondered if we should scale back, cut the tech budgets, ditch the glitz and glam. But the thing that makes BUCK special is that it’s a blow-out event. You can go to a small convention and have a good time, hear some good music – but at BUCK, we want stuff you haven’t seen. We want a concert that matches the kind of environment you see on DVDs of platinum-selling bands where everything is off the hook. And we delivered that.
I asked people who go to other events what they thought, and always the answer was; “Oh no, BUCK is massive, it’s a whole different thing…” And since that’s what you’ve wanted that’s exactly what we’ve always aimed for. But it’s expensive, time-consuming, and exhausting.
In 2014, we ran our most successful event yet. It went almost without a hitch, and we all said; “This is it, we’ve got the recipe, now we just tweak the measurements and we’ll have this nailed…” It had been hard work, but we felt sure that the experience was now going to pay off, and the next event would be a breeze.
But the staff were exhausted, with most of us having been living and breathing BUCK for two years solid, and also many who had also been heavily involved in BUCK 2012 and were on their third year. We called a one-year hiatus to gather our strength, and check that the market was still ripe for another big-convention.
And it’s now that we find ourselves in 2016. Despite having the longest planning period of any BUCK, once again the work is exhausting. Despite having a tried and tested recipe, we are constantly faced with unexpected problems: people complacent that they don’t have to support us, or saying that it’ll be no different to 2014; and an on-going struggle to gain commitment from everyone involved.
It feels like we’re doing this for the first time, again, when we should be doing it in our sleep.
We feel that this has been reflected in ticket sales and the pool of community guests we look for – and this leads us to one conclusion, that the market for an event like BUCK isn’t there anymore.
We could make it smaller. We could cut the budgets. There are many things we could do – but all of them will leave us with something that isn’t BUCK, and that’s not something we’re interested in doing.
So with that load off of my chest, let me now clarify some things – We’ve been working our little rumps off on BUCK 2016, and despite all of the above, we’ve lined up an amazing event. We’re still finalising plans that make us say to each other “Oh hell yes, this is going to be amazing!”
There’s an array of all new panels, new musicians and guests, new workshops and interactive events. We’re a community event at heart and we’re supporting you the community, with community events. But it seems this is as far as the community is willing to go.
This isn’t the end of BUCK Events as a company. We’ve got other events on the back burners that are now coming to a boil, which we’ll be sharing later on this year – but they’re non-pony. We need to look at other areas that are more sustainable, and don’t require our staff to effectively work two day-jobs at the same time.
As well as these non-pony events, we’re also not ruling out smaller events like BUCK LDN, which was a massive success that proved to us that the medium-sized meetup is very much alive and well.
So what should you take away from this? This is your last chance to experience BUCK. It’s also our last chance to run it. So we’re going to make it a bloody good one. We’re going out with a bang. We’re going to quit on a high note: a tone that says “You should’ve been there… I’m not sure there’ll ever be anything quite like it again.”
Graham / Nethesem