Why IPMS USA?
With another IPMS (International Plastic Modeling
Society) National show in the rearview mirror
I got to thinking. Why IPMS?
What is it about IPMS that draws some and repulses others?
Letís take a little look, shall we?
Letís start with what draws people to IPMS.
Letís rewind 25 years to the pre-internet (or PI as it will be
referred to throughout this article) days.
In that time IPMS Journal was a valuable resource.
The articles, the kit reviews and the new product reviews were a
lifeline to those living in the hinterlands.
This was especially true to those who lacked a club meeting to attend
and other modelers to communicate with.
You had a place to sell your old stuff or to join a SIG.
IPMS was also a conduit to the modeling industry.
They spoke for the modeler to the industry.
They expressed what we as modelers wanted from the industry in new
kits, aftermarket and in publications.
IPMS was also the hub of model contests.
Standardized rules, insurance and site selection all fell upon the
National Club. It was a
gathering of the best and brightest of modelers throughout the country.
Ok, letís now fast forward to 2002.
What has changed? For many of us, the Internet being readily available
and the volumes of information that this provides.
You no longer have to wait two months to see whatís new from
manufacturers. You also can
communicate with many of them directly, not through old fashion mail, but
instantly through e-mail.
Vendors are online.
One of the biggest disappointments in going to Chicago for Nationals
last year was the vendor rooms. Not
that I didnít get to meet a number of very nice people, but there were no
surprises. Basically everything
that was for sale there could easily be gotten from Roll Models, Great
Models or Hannants. These could
be ordered from the comfort of my own home and delivered to my house.
Manufacturers are online.
Another thing about what has changed is that large and small
manufacturers are online. Everyone
from MPM to Hasegawa are readily available through a website with their
latest and greatest. They are
also available for comments and suggestions from regular folks.
The Internet has severely kicked magazines in the groin
also. Places like Hyperscale,
Modeling Madness and Aircraft Resource Center all publish with greater
frequency than a conventional magazine, they generally have a wider band of
readers and above all, they are free. Now
granted, some of photos may not be crystal clear and some of the text may be
rough, but you get 10-15 new reviews every day between these three sites.
So in 2002, where is IPMS in this mix?
That depends on who you listen too.
If you listen to the common folk, they are a non-factor.
With a membership of around 5000 people, they arenít even a blip on
the radar that Hyperscale (that has at least 8000 visitors a day),
ARC or Modeling Madness are.
If you listen to IPMS (which I had the opportunity to
in Chicago during the business meeting), they ARE the industry.
The kit-producing portion of the hobby industry should just kiss our
butts because we are so important and such a huge part of their sales.
So where did things go so wrong? In my mind itís pretty simple.
We have a bunch of folks at the top that still think the world is
rewound to 25 years ago. Letís
start with our motto ďhelp your society growĒ, which is printed on the
back of each an every cover of the magazine.
It is pounded to us in e-mail messages from our Regional Coordinator
(which is an un-elected position for some reason and apparently you are
appointed for life if you get the job), hereís the quote: ďYour help and support is needed to increase the
membership of IPMS/USA. Please stress this at your upcoming functions and
perhaps throw a membership in the raffle for a nonmember. Help the list
question is very simple. Why?
What is it that the society offers any of us who are not contest
modelers? Well, we could get an IPMS clock or other tidbit
with the IPMS logo on it. Cool!
I can get a magazine that is printed late and has three month old
information in it. Wow, can I?
I can get the same group of officers that simply trade positions each
election (itís your turn to be President this year Chuck, Iíll be
vice-president). Iíll get to
vote on a ballot that has some way of only voting for the current group of
guys that are in office because they are willing to ďwork togetherĒ.
Lastly Iíll get to vote for constitutional amendments that are
ďnot recommendedĒ by the committee that puts together the amendments.
So enough bitching.
Whatís the solution? There
are a couple that come to mind.
First, get off your high horse and accept your lot in
life. IPMS is a club that
sponsors contests. It provides
insurance to clubs so they can host local contests and is a central listing
agent (point of contact) for all clubs.
Second, make the elections more honest.
Put in term limits of three years for each officer and make it
mandatory that they step down for at least a year between positions.
At least there would be some fresh blood in there with some new ideas
occasionally. Also eliminate
voting for a group of people and let each run on their own merit.
Third, make the regional coordinator positions an
elected position. Let the same
person run each an every year, but at least open it up to anyone that wants
to try to run for it. Lets face
it, the job ainít brain surgery.
Fourth, open the pocketbooks a bit.
At Chicago, there were thousands and thousands of dollars sitting in
the kitty, but when it came time to spend money to support the ďmake and
takeĒ program, which they deem so necessary, it was decided to raise the
club dues to the national club to support it.
If the program is so important cough up the cash.
Finally, bounce the editorial staff (I think itís
only one guy) from the Journal. Iím
not sure about all of you, but the snide comments at the end of letters to
the editor really are uncalled for and the general look of the magazine
needs some freshening up.
What do I mean by freshening up? Simple, get rid of all the kit reviews and in the box
reviews, itís stale by the time it hits the mailbox anyway.
Dedicate the magazine to contests and contest modelers.
Each contest should have 2-4 pages of photos with a brief write-up
about the venue, winning entries and thank youís for the sponsors and
judges. The photos should be
color (oh my, not color!) and should note the modelers name etc.
Local clubs would happily submit this type of thing to promote both
the hobby and their contests. Next,
the articles contained in the newsletter should be more geared to contest
modeling and tips to bring folks to the next level.
Approach folks at the various contests to write about their winners
and how they got built them. Stuff
that doesnít make it into print could easily be put on the IPMS website in
a supplement. Folks could then get a taste for what they are missing by not
being a member and subscribing to the magazine.
Also with regards to the newsletter.
Put in meeting notes and the action at IPMS.
The drivel from the club President is just that, put something
meaningful in. We have an annual meeting at each national, does anyone
actually take notes? Publish
them so the membership can see whatís going on.
We have a treasurer, where is there report on the current state of
finances? I think you see
where all this is going, right?
Does any of this get us any closer to building models?
Nope. Maybe the bottom
line here is, that is the bottom line.
If this hobby is going to grow, itís going to do it
at the local levels. Our local
club has a great number of very good modelers, all of whom are willing to
help. We publish a newsletter
with up-to-date content (nothing fancy mind you) and some pretty good
articles. All this is on our website (www.aerohistorians.org) and they
Are we giving away the farm by offering this for free?
Nope, were helping ďthe hobby growĒ.
The greatest asset that our local club has is people.
It has lots of people that have become very good friends and thatís
something that will keep me coming back to modeling for a long long time.
to IPMS headquarters I say, keep your club and your bizarre way of doing
things. To my local club, I say
thank you for the great times and the great friends that youíve provided