The Edinburgh Fringe is unique. Uniquely big as well as uniquely varied, and therefore uniquely competitive.
52 weeks in a year minus 3 weeks of the Fringe = Edinburgh49
Edinburgh49 is a collaboration between Edinburgh-based writers from some of the most respected Fringe Theatre review titles. Their insights combine detailed local knowledge with a comprehensive Fringe overview.
49 Things You Should Know About The Fringe will help you get the most out of your experience this August. In Part One we examine how shows get noticed and what to do when you are.
- Locals can be slow to embrace the Fringe. They are often annoyed by the crowds and since many of the venues operate under different names during August are sometimes left feeling like tourists in their own city. BUT the Fringe is worth over a quarter of a billion pounds to the Scottish economy annually and brings in £245m to Edinburgh alone.*
- AND new year-round venues such as Summerhall (Europe’s largest privately-owned arts centre) and Assembly Roxy (part of the international family of venues) are blurring the lines between August and the rest of the year.
- Standing out from the crowd is hard. The streets are filled to bursting with the weird and wonderful. Even the brightest and best-conceived attention-grabbing stunt can be drowned out by the background hum of excitement.
- That’s why no serious festival goer (producer or punter) should be without the free Festival Fringe Programme, published by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. It’s also available in digital and app formats, but reading the paper copy cover-to-cover is essential if you are going to know what’s happening, what you’d like to see, and what else your potential audiences might also be interested in.
- Cross-pollinate your publicity! Ask yourself, ‘What should your audience see after attending your show?’ Contact the other shows’ producers and ask if you can hand flyers to their audiences before or (more usually) after their show is over. Offer them the same.
- Punters like to talk with informed and informative promoters. If you have friends or have hired someone to help sell your show, make sure they are as enthused and excited as you are. Have they all seen your show? Why not? It’s so uninspiring to hear, “Would you like to see some comedy tonight? Well, I’ve not seen him myself but I’ve heard he’s really funny.”
- Use the VIP lounges. ‘Important person’ is a relative concept but each of the main venues has a lounge where producers and pundits can escape the crowds. You’ll find as much friendly advice, support and sympathy as you will posturing and preening.
- The Fringe features live performance from across the genres. Media editors covering the spectrum from stand-up to ballet will develop their own standardised measures for critiquing each piece of work.
- Understanding how each title balances its reviews and awards its ratings is essential if you are going to manage your resources effectively.
- Some shows come into the Fringe as part of a wider tour. Others make a standing start. Whatever the genre of show, it’s important to demonstrate media interest as soon as it happens. Get stapling! No flyer or poster should be without fresh ratings and reviews.
- With the rise of crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, more projects than ever are beginning online. How do you stack up against what other producers are already doing? Check out Edinburgh49’s previews of shows coming to Edinburgh using Kickstater and make up your own mind about what does and doesn’t work. Are the producers talking about the work, or are they talking about themselves? Have they explained what they are trying to do? Are you at all interested in what they are doing?
“The essential marketing tactics of the Fringe: online, in print, face to face and (most importantly) word of mouth.”
- There is such a thing as bad publicity! If your materials are unengaging, badly formulated, contradictory or plain uninteresting then you might as well not have bothered. You won’t have time to waste. Here, 13 to 16, are some examples of bad deployments of each essential marketing tactic.
- Online. Make sure essential information about times and venues are on your front page. Punters using smartphones with uncertain connectivity don’t want to trawl through your entire online back catalogue of old rehearsal photos before finding what they really want to know.
- In print. With so many posters and flyers vying for attention, most will only be glanced at. Final judgements are made in seconds. Your printed materials are your main channel of communication, so keep it clear! Examples: Victorian costume drama = frock coat. Hamlet = skull.
- Face to face. Working a line of cricket fans queuing to see the blokes from Test Match Special, explaining to each in turn the background to your biopic about a Hollywood producer from the ‘70s, may keep THEM occupied until doors open, but YOU won’t sell many tickets. Read the schedules. Target the audiences most likely to be interested in your show.
- Word of Mouth. There’s no such thing as an empty house. Behind the lighting and sound desk is likely to be a seriously astute critic. Techies talk, so do front of house folk. Engage with them. Get them along and get them on board. When punters ask box office staff for recommendations you want your show to get first mention.