Monday, 29 August 2016

What Does A Free Fringe Show Cost?

Having now completed my first run at the Edinburgh Fringe as one third of the show "Mirthquake" I thought it would be useful to share my costs for the month as a reference point for anyone thinking of doing it in the future - and perhaps for those who've already done it to point out where I possibly overspent...

Brace yourself, here comes the spreadsheet:

As you can see, I've costed this out in two ways. The 3 Man Show version is pretty much what I paid as part of Mirthquake (who all shared a flat), the 1 Man Show is the equivalent for those of you who would like the whole hour to yourself. The savings as a three hander come from sharing the cost of registering for a listing in the official fringe program, contribution to PBH, flyer/poster printing and, in my case, duplicating 100 CDs of my album to encourage £5 notes into the donations bucket. As a solo show I'm assuming I'd still share an apartment with other acts.

Given there were three of us we didn't pay anyone to flyer for us as we could do it effectively ourselves. The going rate is about £10 an hour if you need to factor it in.

"Ah, but what about all the money you make from the bucket to offset these costs?" I hear you ask. Mirthquake made just under £600 this run. That's £200 each. Our room was poorly located but our show was at a good time (4:30pm) and with an average of 19 people a show (in a room with an official capacity of 30) we were the most popular act in the venue and outperformed the norm for a first fringe show significantly - the classic number quoted being an average of 6 people per show.

To put our earnings into context, we made more from renting out our sofa and floor space to visitors and other acts than we made from the bucket. If you did the same you could claw back some cash but, with no disrespect to the other guys who shared our flat, next time I'd rather not house extra bodies and instead enjoy having a lounge and more than one third of a shelf in the fridge.

Here comes the breakdown:

Apartment: £970
We overpaid for this. The location was great and the views of Holyrood Park were stunning. However, we waited to rent it (through Air BnB) once our show had been confirmed by PBH and therefore missed all the cheaper properties available around January time. For 2017 I'll be booking somewhere at the start of the year. As Matt Duwell (our sofa surfing flatmate) pointed out to me, even if I failed to secure a show I could either cancel my accommodation or sub-let it to another act. One thing that isn't lacking in July are acts still looking for somewhere to live.

Food/Drink...: £850
I'm pleasantly surprised this is all I've spent. Thanks to being in a flat and not a hostel I only ate out once a day and otherwise made sandwiches and started the day with cereal. Drinking probably accounts for well over half of this money, not because I'm an alcoholic but because socialising is essential to stop you going mad and Edinburgh's bars largely charge London prices. Taxis are surprisingly cheap too, we crossed town in a black cab late at night for less than £8. It can't all be Free Fringe shows either to get the most out of the experience so I probably spent £70 or so on ticketed events.

Ed Fringe Registration (being listed in the official guide): £98.40 / £295.20
This is essential if you want to be taken seriously, are poorly located and want to have more than single figure audiences. PBH's own "Wee Blue Book" festival program and app is superb but we got a lot of our audience through the "now and next" feature on the official guide's app. Financially we probably just about made back the money through the increased audience numbers but personally I'd rather play to double digit audiences every day (we went single figure only twice in the whole run) than live in a world of audiences numbering 4 and having to cancel 2-3 gigs every week due to no-one turning up - as was the case with several acts at our venue who'd chosen not to be in the guide. £295.20 is the early bird price, it hikes to nearer £400 after the cut-off date. PBH deserve credit for getting our venue info out to us early enough to take advantage of this saving.

Return Train Ticket: £80
Book early and resist saving £30 by going on a miserable coach. From London the train is perfect, especially with heavy baggage that airlines would charge you excess for.

PBH Contributions: £21 / £63
At the equivalent of £3 a day this is an utter bargain as it covers the room, the equipment and printing the "Wee Blue Book". Officially it's a voluntary contribution but you'd have to be an utter bastard not to pay it. The low price does come at some minor cost though - more on that further down.

5,000 Flyers: £13.63 / £40.89
Some people pay over £100 for a flyer and poster deal. It's a matter of convenience really. There were enough of us to be able to order our flyers early and take them with us from London to Edinburgh. Many people get them delivered to their venue at the start of the run using specialist firms and pay a premium for it. Problems can arise though with so many people ordering flyers to arrive on the same day - several acts I know were without flyers on their opening weekend due to delays. Next year I'll be ordering in advance from a printer in Edinburgh (there are loads) so I can just pick them up from their shop. It'll cost a little more but nothing like the premium deals I've seen offered.

100 CD Copies Of My Album: £12.26 / £36.78
This was a gimmick to encourage people to donate £5 at the end of the show rather than chuck shrapnel in. At such a low cost for 100 CDs it didn't break the bank but as it turned out it made no difference to what people put in, with the exception of one girl who got her friends to lend her enough change to get one. In my case I'd do it again - but mainly as promotion for myself and not as a serious strategy to increase income.

Replacement Mic Lead: £12.99
A good example of the limits of the free fringe. One of our two 3m mic leads (which I'd connected together to make one of a proper length) broke and there were no replacements so I bought a new 6m one for Mirthquake with the intention of keeping it afterwards. After a week that one broke too. With the other PBH mic lead also on the way out I bought yet another one but this time shared the cost with the other acts in the venue. It survived to the end and was given to PBH for use next year. There's probably a lesson about the karma of sharing somewhere in this story. 

25 A3 Colour Posters: £3.33 / £10
Independent printers exist on Ebay who do this deal inclusive of postage. It saves a fortune and they're easily carried up to the festival. We only needed 10 but, like with the flyers, the difference between 10 and 25 (or 2,000 and 5,000 flyers) is utter peanuts so it's worth paying the little extra.

Lamp and Bulb: £5
Free Fringe venues are often spaces adapted for the fringe and therefore don't come with lights or, indeed, a stage. It's amazing how a desk lamp with a bright bulb can transform a usually brightly lit 30 seater room from something resembling an open mic to something hinting towards a low budget experimental theatre space. And you can keep the lamp!

So that's it. 2k and fringe fame awaits!


  1. Thanks, this is really helpful! Looks like you got a good deal on printing costs, but your food, drink, taxi costs seem quite high. Theresa Farlow (nice to meet you at Tom's gig) x

  2. Ah, I thought I'd seen you before! Yes, the £850 could easily have been lowered by drinking and eating less when I was out. Beware Edinburgh's £5 pints! Fortunately for me I'd budgeted £2,500 for this run so I loosened the purse strings somewhat when it became obvious it wasn't going to cost me that.

  3. If I'm round next and for me to do Edinburgh comedy festival I would be in bank watching people with draw lots of money, mug them out side