JANUARY TO AUGUST
Write and rewrite script for show. Perform ten minute segments at new material and open mic nights to see how an audience responds to it. Eat, sleep and breathe show.
JANUARY TO MARCH
Start with the participants section on edfringe.com. The Fringe guide to choosing a venue contains a list of all performance spaces along with basic information such as location, capacity, technical specifications plus health and safety requirements. Basic equipment usually includes a PA system and stage lighting. Other things such as projectors, screens and DVD players may not be included, so you will have to work out if you need to supply these items yourself. Make sure to ask about storage space for props and equipment. Not all venues allow you to leave things in them overnight.
Initially make contact with the venues via email. You’ll need to give them a working title for the show along with a written description and breakdown of what the show is. Some venues may require you to supply videos of performances and other supporting pieces of material such as scripts and reviews.
Venue deals are quite complicated and vary from venue to venue. Most operate a door split deal with a guarantee payable to the venue at the time of booking the slot. This figure usually represents a percentage of your maximum box office takings. Hypothetically, you book a 50 seat room for 25 performances. This a total of 1250 tickets. With an average ticket price of £5, this equals a potential box office taking of £6250. If the deal is a 60/40 split in the acts favour it means you have to guarantee the venue will receive £2500. You pay this fee to them when you book your slot. The first £2500 in your box office takings will then be yours. Anything over that is then split with the venue.
In addition to the £2500 you usually have to pay a fee to be included in the venues publicity and brochure, approx £500.
Small print to look out for.
Both the venue’s guarantee and publicity fee may be applicable to VAT. Which goes up in January so possibly add another 20%.
Check how much time you have between the previous performance ending and your show starting, and your show ending and the next show starting. Any less than 15 minutes is likely to be problematic and stressful.
Check how many free tickets you are allowed to give away to press, friends and general freebies to get an audience in on days when you are quiet. The venue will still want it’s share of each ticket even if you’ve given them away.
Check what deductions will be made before money goes into your box office fund. Expect to see these things and possibly more.
1. Discounted 2 for 1 offers on purchase price.
2. Bank charges for anyone using a debit or credit card to purchase tickets.
3. Printing fee charge per ticket.
4. Fringe box office booking fee. All shows that sell tickets through the fringe office have to pay a percentage to the fringe. It’s always been better for the acts if the audience buy tickets at the venue rather than the fringe box office, but edfringe.com is a convenient place for audiences to book tickets and have them delivered.
5. VAT. Chargeable on tickets. So that’s 20% off whatever price you get for them.
Venue hire is free on the condition that you don’t charge audience members to come into shows. You can however pass a bucket around at the end of the show and ask for a contribution. The venues are fairly minimal in equipment and staging and are more popular with stand up shows and storytellers, however in recent years the number of theatre shows has increased.
In 2010 Imran Yusuf became the first free show to be nominated for the Fosters Comedy Award. Well respected acts such as Robin Ince, Simon Munnery, Barbara Nice, Nick Wilty, Sol Bernstein have also produced free shows, either with Laughing Horse Free Festival or PBH’s Free Fringe.
Paid venues: Be wary of venues that aren’t organised enough to have diagrams of performance spaces and technical breakdowns. We’re only talking about a pen and paper drawing of how the room is going to be laid out and list of equipment. If they can’t get that organised in January, what will they be like in August?
Paid Venues: Be wary of venues that take an unreasonable amount of time to reply to correspondence. A couple of days is a reasonable to expect a reply to an email. Again either their organisational skills are questionable or you’re low on their list of priorities. These things can indicative of problems later on.
Free venues: are often turned back into nightclubs or bars in the evenings, so leaving things in the venue isn’t always possible. Bear this in mind if you need any additional equipment.
Free venues: guide to producing a free festival show.
Free venues: Peter Buckley-Hill of PBH’s Free Fringe has in the past made his views on his dislike for rival organisation Laughing Horse Free Festival very clear. Applications to both organisations are not looked upon favourably.
FEBRUARY TO MARCH
From 21st February 2011 the on-line system for registering your show with the fringe office will be running. So you need to write and rewrite your 40 words entry in the fringe programme until you get it right.
If you’re having an advert in the fringe guide you need to find someone to produce artwork for you. I design my own posters as well as for other people, but I have a professional background in those areas. Artwork needs to be produced to a professional standard and submitted to the fringe office in April. Make sure you allow your photographer and designer a reasonable amount of time to work on stuff to get it ready for production.
If you’re not having an advert in the fringe programme you still need to supply a small square image to accompany your fringe listing. Either a smaller version of your poster image or a promo shot.
Find a designer who understands what the show is and how to sell comedy. Overly slick designs don’t always work with comedy. Ideally you want an image that looks funny.
Photos accompanying fringe listings need to be professional quality. Home-made snaps aren’t good enough. They make your show look unprofessional and shoddy.
If you don’t want to use a promo shot, photo libraries can be a cheap and convenient way of finding images of chimpanzees in crash helmets or roller-skating badgers.
30th March, approximately two weeks before the final deadline for listing a show is the discount deadline. This is a saving of nearly a hundred pounds. Better to save the money now and make better use of it whilst you’re in Edinburgh. Once a show is registered you can still make adjustments to your 40 word blurb and change artwork up to 18th April.
18th April final deadline for listing in the fringe programme.
APRIL TO MAY
Find somewhere to live for the month. Now this is a stressful one! Ringing up estate agents and trying not to get ripped off, or ending up with a place in the middle of nowhere.
Start looking for cheap train or plane tickets to Edinburgh.
MAY TO JUNE
Write a full press release so as it’s ready when the fringe programme comes out.
Prepare websites and any additional material such as youtube videos to seduce audiences into your show, again so as they’re on-line when the programme is published.
Order discounted promotional material for your show such as T-shirts, Hoodies. The cheap deals usually have a long print delivery time as the merchandise makes it way from Eastern Europe.
Start previewing your show so as when you reach Edinburgh it’s ready for the spotlight.
Fringe programme is published.
Start approaching publications for publicity. Include Press release and any web links and videos etc.
Full length article on promoting fringe shows.
Prepare poster and flyer artwork to go to the printers. Schedule delivery for about a week before you arrive. Too early and it might get put into storage and forgotten about. Too late and it might not get put up in time. Check with venue when they want to receive stuff.
The posters and flyers need to arrive before you do.
2nd The date most acts will travel to Edinburgh. The most likely day to bump into comedy’s superstars at motorway service stations.
3rd Previews start in some venues and press launches begin.
4th Free Festival shows start.
5th-29th Official dates for the fringe.
6th PBH Free Fringe shows start.
30th Day most acts go home.
Fringe box office usually pays out at the end of September, so early in October you’ll either receive your payout from your venue or an invoice.