Monday 19 February 2018

Profit and loss

I've had several conversations recently about a certain individual who is putting on model railway exhibitions on his own and essentially running it as a small business. This has generated a fair bit of negative comment from most people I talk to and I really can't see why. I had the same conversation again yesterday.

I've been working under the basic shape entertainment model for donkeys years: the promoter books the venue, then books the band, the artists or what have you. Then puts out advance publicity and ticket prices. The show gets done, promoter pays everybody (hopefully) and takes the balance of the profit. He takes the overall risk - then takes the profit should there be any. Most people would see this as an acceptable structure. Not so the club modeller.

The basic shape of most model railway exhibitions is this: club books venue (usually the same as the previous year) books layouts (expenses to be paid for same). They book enough trade stands to cover the cost hire of the venue, and advertise in the mags with linage or possibly a display ad, plus flyers at previous shows etc. The entry ticket money is the bunce and goes to the club to pay for the club room/ modelling material etc for the year. No one personally profits - or do they?

The main negative response to the top structure is that there is personal profit - 'profiteering' was the phase used yesterday. This misses the point of a) personal financial risk and b) the fact that in the standard club show structure everyone personally profits by default, as if the show cash wasn't there, then they would have to fund clubrooms etc out of their own pockets. No they don't personally gain money, but they are saved from spending it which is the same thing - collective overall risk and collective individual profiteering.

The afore mentioned individual books the venue at his own expense (different every time) books the layouts (expenses to be paid) takes the linage ads, but promotes through local press and social media.

And here's the sucker punch: the resulting audience is mainly young- middle aged parents with under 16s in tow, exactly the demographic that the standard club exhibition structure and the hobby in general says that it is not reaching and can't attract. What he doesn't do is rely on word of mouth from the over -50s modellers.This may be the future and the conservative-thinking clubs are fighting it in every way, possibly toward their own demise.  Discuss.


  1. Personally I have no problem with this style of operation. It is similar, in my view, to the way certain magazines organise the exhibitions run under their banner. Possibly clubs are aggrieved because it may be seen as private individuals (entrepreneurs, if you will) poaching on the club preserve. I will attend any show, no matter who organises it, provided that it looks worth while, by which I mean having layouts that I want to see, traders I want to buy from, and is at reasonable distance and cost. Oh. and the parking facilities must be good, no driving round the locality for hours trying to find a spot (it has happened).

  2. Magazine run shows don't pretend to be anything other than what they are. This individual has in the past listed the organiser as a ficticious model railway club according to various forum posts. If this is true then I don't think that's fair.

    I do have a problem with individuals making money out of a show though. As an exhibitor, I put my cash into a layout and all I get back is my petrol money when I give up a weekend entertaining the crowds. For a club, that's fair enough, I'm supporting the hobby. For a magazine, well, it's up to me although they do at least look after you well (free meals all weekend including evenings) and I know what I'm getting in to. They also offer the chance to get on to the circuit without having to know the right people.

    An individual? If they are making money, shouldn't I get a cut for providing the entertainment? It's not easy spending 2 days on your feet after an early start and late finish. Expenses do not cover all the costs - wear an tear on the layout will require repairs that aren't free eventually.

    "Oh, but it's your hobby, you should be pleased to do it." is the cry. Well, it's my hobby (OK, was in my case, but the point is the same) but why should I have to pay for someone else to take the money? Why is it any different from the organiser saying, "You are a railway modeller. You have to give me a tenner." than saying "Give up your weekend entertaining a crowd for less expenses than it really costs you and I'll make a tenner."?

  3. It is a dilemma in my professional life. Even though many of the conferences I speak at are run by member organisations it still seems strange that "the talent" only gets expenses in extremely rare cases even when they are massive events. In contrast the openly commercial events realise it is more of a partnership, feel compelled to deliver value for money in order to survive, and, of course, do a much better job of publicity so the speakers get more exposure.

  4. I've also been that man at the front of a conference. Most of the time the organisers "generously" gave me a free ticket to the event. Expenses were only occasionally offered and only once, actual payment. Despite this, the people running the event will happily charge hundreds of pounds for entry, presuambly to make a profit for their company.

  5. This has come up a lot recently. Unfortunately its the way of the world these days.An interesting article i found recently that was written some time ago. Its here.