So you’re all set to go up to Edinburgh at the beginning of August, the venue is booked, the tech time is sorted, the flyers have been ordered and the mild panic attacks have set in (this is normal). Doubtless you’ve been preparing for months, learning the ins and outs of producing for the biggest arts festival in the world and you’ve probably learnt a heck of a lot about yourself and your artistic style. But how do you capitalise on all this while you’re actually up there? How do you make the fringe one huge learning experience that will keep you coming back again and again, all the time more savvy and prepared? Here is our list of tips that can help with company development at the Fringe. This is not a list for this year, instead it is meant to provide a shift in mindset that can not only make this year less stressful but can make the Fringe a (relatively) stress free and positive experience for years and years to come.
1. Write it down.
The first step is easy. Make a huge list of all the preparation efforts you did for this year’s Fringe. If you thought you did a good job with any of these tasks and the goal of the task was completed effectively (Venue needed: venue booked!) then just write it down in black. Now reach for your red pen and write down everything you did which you could have done better (Flyers ordered: The day before we arrived). Now you have your first instruction sheet as to what to do next year AND how to fix the problems from this year! Do this at the end of the Fringe too and your list will start looking like a great Edinburgh guide. Keep hold of that red pen though, you’re going to need it…
2. Learn from companies you admire.
The only DEFINITIVE appointment companies have during the Fringe is that once a day for about an hour they have to be on stage performing. The rest of the time they’re either flyering, drinking or sleeping. This is great news for you because it means that you have a HUGE number of companies with a lot of free time on their hands (empty, drink-less hands) that can be spent on you. Contact companies who’s shows you like, or who are just in a place that you’d like your company to reach within 5 years. Of course try to sit down for a coffee with BIG companies that have been going for decades, but also focus on meeting people who started 5/6 years ago and ask them one question: what did you guys do to get to where you are? Get the red pen out, write that shit down.
No two venues are alike at the Fringe. What might work incredibly at Assembly might fall flat on its face in Underbelly. You’ll be seeing a lot of shows when you’re at the Fringe so make sure you and your colleagues make note of venues that you like. Take pictures if you can and remember the room names. Then start thinking tactically: ‘what venues program work that is similar to ours?’. Next year, aim to get your shows in those venues and even reference why your show would work by comparing it to shows you KNOW have worked in those venues.
4. Social Media is king
There’s a lot to be said for flyering every day for your show but unless these efforts are backed up by a strong social media presence, the hours spent flyering can go to waste. I’ve always found flyers a great way to be reminded of a show, not to hear about one for the first time. Consider having one member of your team in charge of social media for the whole festival. Send them pictures and videos of people you meet, people wearing your costumes, people holding your flyers. If you meet someone in the street who loved your show, ask them if you can record their thoughts on camera and boom, send it straight to your colleague who is sat in the flat so they can compose a decent Twitter post and you can get straight back to flyering. Now, how does a company gain a strong presence on social media? Easy. GENUINELY support shows or companies that you like. Get others to notice you online and your future posts will reach more people. For this first year though, get other companies involved in your social media efforts. Not for some insidious, ulterior motive, but because this is genuinely the best way to be seen online. And in real life.
5. Keep calm.
Make sure you’re doing Edinburgh for the right reasons. If you consider your first Edinburgh to be one long lesson that will benefit the rest of your career, suddenly not selling those last 12 tickets becomes more of a learning opportunity, than a stressful loss. You won’t make money. You just won’t. But that’s not why you go to Edinburgh. You go to market your show to bookers (have you invited them??) and to throw your company name into the industry. Chances are you won’t have a truly incredible Edinburgh until your 3rd or 4th visit. That’s fine. You’re in theatre and it’s a job you can do for the rest of your life. Always be learning and know that a positive attitude will do SO MUCH more for you than a stressed out one. One of your team never flyers? That’s fine, ask them to do something they might enjoy more like writing a blog post about company development or something. Got a bad review? Don’t read it (seriously)*. One show has only sold 3 tickets? Why? What could you have done to increase that number before the day arrived? Once you understand that it’s fine and every company goes through similarly tough times (yes, even the big ones) then you can actually start enjoying your time at the Fringe! Imagine!?
So there are 5 points to get you started. Think long term and all the short term rubbish will become a lot less stressful. The Edinburgh Fringe is DEFINITELY worth doing and therefore it is worth thinking about and planning well. Following these points might not help sales a great amount this time around, but it will certainly help your next Edinburgh Fringe experience. Good luck, see you there!
*Bad reviews will only stress you out and make you question your artistic decisions. If you REALLY want you can just save all the bad reviews in a file and look at them 2 months later, but never feel bad about not reading bad reviews. You didn’t ask for their feedback, you don’t trust them creatively, reviewers are NOT directors. I might even go so far as to say don’t read the good reviews either. But that’s often just too tempting. Defend your decisions and know that not everyone will agree with them, if they did, you wouldn’t be making art. I don’t know what you’d be making. But it wouldn’t be art.