Promoting a fringe show is really an article in it’s own right. Some of the basics are covered in the “How to Produce a Free Festival Show” article but it’s an entire article in itself. It’s worth bearing in mind that promotion in the paid venues is going to be pretty much along the same principles. The Fringe Office produce a helpful guide each year make sure you read it.
I’ve asked various people questions on this subject and combined their thoughts into one piece.
Lynn Ruth Miller – “Posters need to be as simple as possible: a great photo, where, when and how long and a one line review. The problem is that they need to be everywhere.”
Ivor Dembina - “Don’t bother with them. Arriving in Edinburgh you’ll feel left out seeing everyone else’s but after half an hour you’ll realise nobody looks at them.”
Bob Slayer – “It is very important that you find a way to make flyering enjoyable, because you will be doing more of that than comedy on a stage! In three years I have probably only ever handed out three flyers on the Royal Mile. I can’t stand the thought of doing it and I don’t think our punters would be there. Our show did well with audiences this year and people in our venue were asking us where we were flyering like we must have a magic place, but I don’t think they exist you just need to know how to connect with like-minded people. For us it was easy we found them in pubs! We got drunk all day and night, met other drunks, had a laugh with them and told them to come along and bring their friends… that wouldn’t have worked for a show about a lady in her bed.”
Ivor Dembina – “In the bottom right hand corner of your flyer print, in very small letters, the words ‘ten pence’. When someone takes one demand payment.”
The major venues and companies recruit from Universities each year – presumably the ones that they run gigs in all year round. Students get worked really hard for the summer and then usually don’t return the following year. Consequently it’s worth bearing in mind that not only are the people out there flyering for you unlikely to know you, or have seen your show it’s also quite possible they’ve never seen that much live comedy before. In previous years a flyerer for Sarah Millican came up to me informing me that she was a character act, another told me Jim Jefferies was American and John Bishop told me one year someone came up to him on the Royal Mile and offered him a flyer for his own show. To avoid this kind of thing happening the street teams who work at the Stand have to go and watch the shows they’re flyering for. In 2010 Paul Sinha hired his own flyerers from people who knew him.
Bob Slayer – “I think that for Free shows all promotion needs to be done with passion – if you can get someone else who will really sell your show then yes use them, but I don’t think a paid assistant handing out a flyer for a free show would work at all.”
Lynn Ruth Miller – “These work only if you do something colourful so people notice. Mostly they annoy people and interrupt them on their way to something else. People In Edinburgh during the festival are always in a hurry.”
Ivor Dembina – “There needs to be an award for best-dressed flyering team. Please keep this idea secret or some cretin will do it.”
Effectively an agent that approaches the press on your behalf to try to get you coverage. The best advice has to be asking around to see whose recommended and who to avoid. I know acts who have had refunds due to the PR person being so inept. The problem is it’s not just simply a case of getting a refund, your whole Edinburgh can be ruined. The refund doesn’t cover loss of ticket sales and compensate you for the year you have to wait before you get another go at it. So you must have the right person doing it for you from the beginning.
Lynn Ruth Miller – “PR is way too expensive for a fringe show. If you can afford proper PR (which is very good and helpful) you should be doing a regular show not a free one.”
Bob Slayer – “I think PR can work – I have seen Free shows benefit from that but so far I have done my own – doing it myself I am not going to reach as many possible reviewers but I can target the right ones.”
Additional ways to help push a show
Ivor Dembina – “Try making the show worth seeing. It’s a crazy idea I know but…”
Bob Slayer – “Youtube – but you need 100,000 views+ and you are unlikely to get that for comedy on stage – it just isn’t watched that much. Kunt and the Gang have some great videos. I managed an act that earned a living for a few years from the notoriety his youtube videos gave him – google “Devvo” he had millions of views just for being a chav twat! “I think that it is extremely important to find out what works for you. Watch and talk to everyone and see what you can do to be different and stand out that will still suit your show / performance.”
Lynn Ruth Miller –”Youtube, facebook and face to face encounters. They work and so do other performers recommending your shows, I do that for others and I know some people do that for me. Also do as many guest spots in the late shows. That always helps me.”
Bob Slayer – “Oh and one last way to get an audience which I really recommend is to go to another show and then when that show is cancelled due to a performer forgetting to bring a hat or something – just get up and start titting around – this happened to us. I’d already drunk a bottle of buckfast so I can’t remember much of the show – but a friend was there with a video camera and I look forward to seeing it one day. A dozen people who were there came to our show the next day…”
Lynn Ruth Miller – At age 76, Lynn Ruth Miller is a renaissance woman who wears many hats. She entertains audiences of all ages with comedy and song. She is living proof that the older you are, the more fun you have.
Bob Slayer – Nominated for a Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality ‘for his continued services to anarchy in comedy, including his gobsmackingly anarchic Punk Rock Chat Show – which usually has nothing to do with punk, rock or chat’.
Ivor Dembina - Twenty-five years ago Ivor Dembina co-founded (with Addison Cresswell) ‘The Comedy Boom’, the first Edinburgh Fringe venue dedicated exclusively to stand-up comedy. In 1998 at The Pleasance, Dembina pioneered free stand-up at the Fringe with the eponymous, ‘Pay What You Like’. In 2010 his Free Festival solo show ‘This is Not a Subject for Comedy’ ran for nearly four weeks, did not receive a single review and made a clear profit of £37. Cresswell, his former partner at the Comedy Boom now manages Michael McIntyre. Ivor Dembina is 59 years-old and is resident host of the Hampstead Comedy Club in north London. He describes himself as neither rich nor famous but quite funny.
A follow-up article on promoting a show can be found here.