Add to that 22 days MCing Clash of the Tight Tens (thanks to Sonia Aste for taking on Wednesdays and giving me a lie-in) and 25 guests spots (thanks to Simon Caine, Woodstock Taylor, Dave Nattris, Paul Richards and "Trevor Feelgood" for those) and it was certainly a busy month.
So how did we do and how did we achieve it? As is now becoming something of a tradition, here's the breakdown...
First World Problems
Where: Espionage (Kasbar Room)
When: 2:45pm every day, Aug 2-26
Total attendance: 628
Total donations: £1,217
A musical comedy of fist pumping therapy for modern living where the audience join in as part of the crew. The big change from last year was the introduction of a proper narrative and a much bigger role for Anna J, who now sings parts of the songs, carries much of the narrative and mixes it up with the audience to keep them constantly engaged. The show is now very much a double act.
We had modest expectations for this but these were blown to bits within days of the run starting. In a room that seated 30 (+ some space for standing) we had between 25 and 45 crew members in on 17 of these days. For the remainder, numbers were still decent for midweek and the donations were solid throughout - with a big bonus on the final day.
Early on in the run Mumble Comedy came and reviewed the show and awarded us four stars. We added this to our posters in the venue to entice people in. Mid-run this was joined by a very positive review in Fringepig, who recommended us as a show "to be first in the queue for." How much these reviews actually contributed to our numbers will forever remain a mystery but I look into this further at the end of this post.
Clash of the Tight Tens
Where: Espionage (Kasbar Room)
When: 12:15pm every day, Aug 2-26
Total attendance: 749
Total donations: £1,476
A variety show of stand-up, sketch and musical comedy. Every day five acts performed ten minute tasters of their full run shows at this lunchtime showcase. I MC'd every day except Wednesdays when Sonia Aste stepped in to give me a lie-in. Pretty much unchanged from last year, the lunchtime slot worked in its favour with many people making it the first thing to see and there were more than a few people who came several days in a row as the bill rotated. I expected the show to do well thanks to the quality of acts I had on board but it exceeded those expectations much in the same way as FWP.
Of the 25 shows, 18 had 25 or more people in the room. The remainder always provided solid audiences for the acts involved with just two shows under 15 and none under 10.
With a total income of £2,693 you'd be forgiven for thinking we were rolling in cash after the run. However, once accommodation (£2,138), registration for the official programme (£295 x 2), print and online marketing (£185), payment to Laughing Horse (a very reasonable £100 x 2) and flyers/posters (£112) are taken into account we actually returned a loss of £661 - not including at least £1000 spent during the fringe itself on food, drink and tickets (very modest when you consider there are two of us.)
Next year we'll book accommodation earlier with a view to halving this whacking cost. Elsewhere there aren't any easy savings to make. Therefore, our priorities for 2019 will be to ensure more bums on seats and more donations per bum. £2 per person is generally recognised to be the average donation at a free fringe show and given we hit this the challenge is not inconsiderable.
So what can I share with you that may be of some use should you be considering taking your own show up there in 2019. Well, this seems like a good idea:
What Got People In: The Top 7 Reasons
1. The Show Itself
It doesn't matter how much marketing you do, if the shows don't work then you are doomed from the off. Being pay-what-you-like shows people were free to up and leave if they didn't like what they saw and throughout the run handfuls did - usually people who'd got lost looking for Pottervision on the floor below. Given that FWP and CotTT retained the vast majority of their audiences from start to finish I'm happy to conclude that the shows met the audiences expectations. We certainly had a great time!
2. Location and Time
Twice as many people watched FWP and CotTT as they did the previous year when we were at Black Market with PBH. The shows are both slicker beasts than they were in 2017 but location clearly played a role. Espionage is at the centre of universe as far as "free" shows go, straddling both Grassmarket and Cowgate. It's also a dedicated nightclub with good lights and proper sound insulation, unlike 2017's pop-up with thin walls and the appearance of a condemned squat.
Time played a crucial factor too. Both shows were marketed as 12+ so families with older children could come. Families and older adults appreciated FWP for being completely free of swearing. CotTT was on at lunchtime, making it an ideal starting point for many fringe-goers, particularly the type most likely heading back to their hotels before the more in-your-face post-10pm entertainment kicked in.
3. The Free Festival Blue Book
Not to be confused with the PBH Blue Book - Espionage, The Three Sisters and Cabaret Voltaire shared a booklet with all their shows in that their staff distributed on the street every day. Huge numbers of people found out about our show through this very handy guide.
4. The Edfringe Guide and App
Those people who planned their day in advance largely used the official guide to the festival or its related app. There is no substitute for being in this publication if you intend to fill your show with people who are there because they planned to be - not randoms hooked off the street who may walk off shortly after the show starts because it's not their thing.
5. Exit Flyering Guest Spots
Giving people your flyer after you've performed a ten minute spot at someone else's compilation show does work to a limited degree. This was more effective last year when we did spots in the afternoon though. This year all our spots were in the evening and so it was less effective as we were flyering people who often had no intention of going to fringe shows before 7pm.
6. Street Flyering
This was useful for about 20 minutes before CotTT to grab lunchtimers looking for something to do before the shows they planned to go and see. It was less effective for FWP as the music aspect of the show made it less appealing to a general audience - though this was more than made up for by the numbers of people who specifically came having seen it in one of the guides.
If your show has a strong identity or angle that sets it apart from the sea of general stand-up shows then street flyering isn't as important as it might otherwise be.
It was great to be able to put stars and quotes on our posters but these reviews will probably contribute most in our applications to other festivals and shows in the coming year.
We had a great time this year. Great venue, great organisation and great people from start to finish. Next year we'll be back with an even stronger show - though we may take Wednesdays off because doing 25 days without a break is a serious killer!