Thoughts on measuring the "furry economy”
Surveying furries for psych and demographic research is a well established interest. Canada recently gave out a $75,000 grant for it. But has anyone ever tried to measure the "furry economy"? I'm talking about spending by fans, companies and creators that serve them, and markets for their work.
I think the data could make interesting news, help creators and professionals, and it already has notable indicators calling for attention. Consider the strong growth in con attendance for over a decade, and the Furry interest that brought surprise success to adult crowdfunding site Offbeatr. I'm drawn to furry by fursuiting, and I've noticed a leap in quality over time that shows development of that specialized craft. On the other hand, some have seen a big decline in spending at con art shows that points to changing times. In the interest of informing the "Furrysphere" (is it a hairball?), here's a few thoughts on measuring the "furry economy".
Treat this as a sketchy list of ideas from someone who has nothing to do with real research.
Who: Fans and creators
- The total size of furry fandom
- Timeline and growth of furry fandom from the 80's to now
- Comparison to other fandoms (size, growth and longevity)
- Demographics- what do they say about spending?
- Who are the active core fans, peripheral or overlap groups, or those “loved by” but not part of Furry?
- Fan participation levels: high amount of creating, not just consuming
- Audiences- casual vs. cult devotion
- Prominent creators, “furry celebrities” and their audiences
- Who has furry fandom launched into mainstream success, and do they claim it or not?
- Definitions are difficult. (Capital-F Furry vs. general anthropomorphism.) Give credit for influence, but don't be over-inclusive for actual data, so it doesn't get diluted.
The industry of fandom
- Cons and their growth- the reason organized furry fandom started.
- The size of the “furry industry”: there's a handful of big fish in a small pond, some small indie businesses with a few employees, partnerships, and many self-employed creators. (Are the biggest presences worth six figures, like Anthrocon's $450,000 budget?)
- Creators making a living from love, "the Long Tail" and “1000 true fans”
- Business and Nonprofit are loose goals on a personal level. Fans do it for socializing and creativity as much as profit or charity.
- The power of fandom: compare two movies as Gateway vs. Grassroots. The Lion King (a Gateway) was the height of animation blockbusters of it's time, an original creation of Disney's empire that they haven't yet marched. The Last Unicorn (Grassroots) was a low budget, left field movie from a beloved book, which grew audience organically for many years, even while the author's career died then was reborn through fan interest. (Author Peter Beagle has been a beloved Guest of Honor at many furry cons.)
- Con budget sizes, art auction prices, and charity earnings
- Internet auction prices (e.g. FurBuy and The Dealers Den, or furry sales on eBay and Etsy)
- Private commissions from artists and fursuit makers
- Kickstarter and crowdfunding successes
- Other spending like art services, event promotion, games, etc.
- Other spending on not specifically furry activities that overlap
- Largest internet sites- their values and users
- Size of furry companies and sellers of goods like clothes, books and comics
- Values of notable movies, books, MMO's, etc.
- Sales by furry publishers
- TV or internet viewership
The shadow market
- Visible spending vs. private adult goods spending - separate activities?
- A point of separation- Bad Dragon vs. Anthrocon (two big presences in furry)
- Bitcoin for furries: a proposal to make digital business easier and more anonymous
- Piracy (a counterpart to TV or internet viewership)
- Offbeatr's success- an indicator of demand for stuff that may be hard to track
Value of the furry dollar
- How Anthrocon earned its welcome in Pittsburgh by bringing in tourist spending
- Are young, creative furries over-burdened by debt? (The Art Institute of Pittsburgh gives America's worst investment for cost of education.)
- How much do individual fans spend on furry stuff, and what do they get?
- Who are casual hobby/leisure spenders, vs. dedicated supporters and patrons
- The low value of furry art: Art as investment, vs. personal enjoyment through custom commissioning and using
- How many furries have fursuits, what do fursuiters spend, and how much use do they get? Does fursuiter involvement say something about an event, considering their conspicuous spending and the dedication shown by commissioning and using them?
Tracking the “furry economy” for the future
- Cons reporting in
- Companies answering surveys
- Measuring auctions
- Artists reporting to a professional association that can collect data (consider the proposed American Furry Association)
- Challenge: establish an active association for professionals who cater to furry fans
Have I missed anything? Please share your information and ideas!