Over the years, the Edinburgh Fringe has become almost a rite of passage for those looking to make it big in the world of entertainment. It’s the world’s largest art show, and everybody from Alan Bennett to Tom Stoppard to Ricky Gervais has performed in it at one point or another.
It’s safe to say that careers can be made or broken at The Fringe. The Perrier Awards are the Holy Grail for comedians, and the Stage Awards can land an actor within esteemed company overnight. When it comes down to it, however, a few good reviews from reputable critics can be enough to boost a company’s profile.
So, just how does one go about getting their foot in the door?
You’ve worked tirelessly for months on end to perfect your stand-up routine, or to get your cast and crew into shape; it’s finally time to apply to The Fringe. There’s no selection process for the festival, which in a way makes it all the harder to get started. First things first, you need to find yourself a decent venue on a budget that won’t leave you going home out of pocket. You need to consider the space, capacity, accessibility, and the equipment available. Once you’ve decided on your venue, you need to negotiate a timeslot and contract with the venue manager. Venues can cost anywhere from £0 to £10,000 a week, so it’s worth doing your homework to make sure you get the best deal.
This bit is easy, especially after having gone through the somewhat arduous process of securing a venue. In some cases your venue might register for you, but if not then it’s a simple online form. Head to the registration page and follow the links. There’s a fee to register, and prices vary depending on how early you get your application in and how long your run is. Once you’re registered you’ll have access to the Fringe Society services, which include things like advice on marketing, career development, as well as help with any legal issues you might be having with your venue.
As The Fringe itself has nothing to do with programming, finding sponsors is all down to you. The benefits of you having a sponsor are obvious, so you need to think long and hard about what a sponsor would gain from giving you their cash. It’s wise to approach businesses that are either local to where you’re from, or local to Edinburgh. Multinational corporations obviously have a lot of money, but local companies are much more likely to see the value in what you’re doing as well as the extra business it could bring to them. Think about your target audience and if you could find a company who has the same demographic, the sponsor’s locality, and what added extras you could offer other than an advert in your programme. Perhaps you could offer to put on a free workshop for their family and friends? Perhaps you could strike up a deal with a nightclub, whereby they offer you the use of their venue, whilst you hopefully bring in more paying customers. When you write your proposal to them, you need to briefly outline your show, but you also need to emphasise how your relationship with the sponsor will be mutually beneficial.
Handing out flyers is all well and good, but the Royal Mile is jam-packed full of people doing the exact same thing. You need to get ahead of the game when it comes to advertising, and ensure you’re creating a buzz around your show well before you arrive in Edinburgh. This can be done through online advertising that links directly to edfringe.com, getting a space in the Fringe Programme, or attempting to get your show talked about in the press. You’ll be sending out a media release to announce your show in June, and you need to make sure you stand out. High quality images to accompany the piece are essential, as is a concise summary of what your company is all about.
You’re almost there! Now it’s just a case of finding somewhere to stay, potentially for up to a month depending on your run. Edinburgh isn’t a cheap city, so it’s worth budgeting up to £200 a week per person for rent. Start your search as early as you possibly can, shop around, and don’t be afraid to stay a little further out from the centre if money is tight. It’s also worth thinking long and hard about whether or not it’s wise for your whole company to stay in the same flat for a month; tensions can run high during performance times!
That’s it; you’re ready! The Fringe doesn’t guarantee success, but for a new company it’s a fantastic chance to perform to new crowds, as well as to really learn what goes into putting a show together. You’re responsible for your show, every step of the way. It’s a great learning curve for performers, and can lead to fantastic opportunities.
If you’re heading to The Fringe this summer, then The Talent Bank is an invaluable resource. The Talent Bank can help get you and your work noticed by the people that count. It provides you with a space to upload your portfolio, and can create a buzz via social media to spread the word about your show. To learn more or register go here.