Last year I analysed the performance of Mirthquake pretty thoroughly to help me (and the thousands of others of you who viewed the posts) get a better idea of how to make a free show work financially. I produced line graphs and tables to support this. Having tried to make line graphs again of this both of this year's shows I can confirm they're pretty meaningless, beyond stating the obvious, so I'm just going to stick with the spreadsheet this time.
I took two shows to the fringe with PBH this year for the full run.
Clash of the Tight Tens was a comedy compilation show with a rotating bill of four comedians plus myself doing ten minutes each. It was at 1.45pm every day in Black Market Room 2 (official capacity 30). On Wednesdays, my day off, Sonia Aste looked after it and received £10 per show for the first two and then £15 for the third one - the figures on these days reflect this as they only record the money I personally received and hence why the third show appears to have got £0 in the bucket.
Andy Quirk's Got First World Problems was my debut solo show that took place every day except Wednesdays, also in Black Market Room 2. My analysis from last year suggested Wednesday was the weakest day for turnouts and hence informed my choice of day off. This does appear to have been supported by the showings at Tight Tens on those days this year.
What I Now Know
Tight Tens was more popular than FWP. This wasn't any kind of surprise to me as this was my first solo show and variety shows are always popular, particularly in the early afternoon. I also had access to very good acts due to my shows in London. In total 564 people came and watched Tight Tens over the run and put a total of £940.62 in the bucket.
FWP did much better than I had expected as I had been bracing myself for days of single figure audiences (the norm for debut solo shows). In the end 341 people signed up for fist pumping musical therapy and donated a total of £667.51. On a few days FWP actually outperformed TTens - quite a surprise.
If you take out my (extreme) daily spending whilst in Edinburgh the combined donations from the shows came close to paying for all the costs I incurred. What really stopped my progress towards breaking even in its tracks was week three - which was much slower than the other two. Something to bear in mind for next year.
I spent a huge amount of money on a daily basis. Edinburgh hikes up its prices in August: drinks are expensive, food is expensive, taxis and tickets add to the debt. However, I'm a teacher and this is my summer holiday. Had I not been at Edinburgh I would have probably spent this anyway so it doesn't really "count". However, it's certainly something to take account of should you be looking to earn a living from comedy full time.
Sundays are a good day. Both my shows were in the daytime and both welcomed families with teenage children. This meant Sundays worked well. Saturdays were strong too and Fridays and Mondays were also pretty decent. The slump in numbers in week three can be partially attributed to the fact that Scottish schools begin their new term in this week and so the local family market disappeared.
Tuesday-Thursday are the hardest days. Though in no way impossible. I still had good, sometimes great, numbers for these shows.
My biggest bucket take was £99 on Saturday August 12th for Tight Tens with 35 people squeezed in the room. My biggest bucket for FWP was £83.29 on Monday 14th August (a bank holiday in Scotland) with 30 seated. Working out at less than £3 per person this was better than the average donation at a fringe show but I need to work on my bucket speech to crank this up to something that reflects the costs and effort incurred.
My lowest bucket take was £10.60 on Tuesday August 22nd for Tight Tens with just 7 bums on seats. The same amount of people donated £11.70 on Thursday August 24th at FWP. This reflects the general drop in attendance and generosity in the final week of the fringe - particularly midweek.
What Brought People In?
I did my best to ask people why they'd come to see the shows. There were plenty of different reasons - though the most popular routes were via the Official Fringe App and the PBH Blue Book. The ratio for these changed though as the run progressed with more and more people coming through the Blue Book as more and more of the books went into circulation. Was the £300 per show spent on the Fringe App worth it? Probably, but it's not the be all and end all if you can't afford it.
The limited number of guest spots I did this year also helped bring people in and a number of people came based on recommendations from friends who'd already seen the show. The 12+ age recommendation was a key factor for many as most shows had a smattering of teenagers in the audience. On one particular day FWP had at least half the seats taken by audience in their mid-teens choosing to come and watch a rap show whilst their parents went to something presumably of less interest to them.
Flyering was necessary but only within an hour of the shows starting. Thanks to Black Market being a hub with eight rooms in it there were plenty of people wandering in looking for a show on the weekends - though much less so in the week. A quick chat and the wave of a flyer with these people; particularly by my hiphop attired backup dancer and fiancee, Anna, was often all it took to encourage them in.
FWP received one five star review and a number of positive comments on Twitter. These will be great for the website and future press releases and show applications - but had little, if any, impact on bringing in people this run.
It was a great run with plenty of lessons learned for the future. I met plenty of great people, including bookers and media types, who I'll be following up on. I gained a backup dancer (and fiancee) who turned the show up a fair few notches and we're now planning next year's show and the route towards it via plenty of other festivals and full length show bookings in and outside of London.