Edinburgh Fringe insider tips

Edinburgh Fringe insider tips - from Edinburgh veterans Juliette Burton and Fay Roberts

Go as a punter first
If you’ve never been, or haven’t been for a few years, go as a punter to browse venues and get a feel for how it works.

Take a show on a short run
You don’t have to do the full month. If you don’t have the money, time, or energy, take a show for a short run. You’re less likely to get reviews and word of mouth recommendations, but if you’re not too bothered about these, this can be a good way to experience the Fringe particularly if you are a less experienced Fringe-goer.

Choose your venue carefully
Where you place your show is hugely important. There are venue ‘groups’ and they have varied reputations, audiences, programmes, and financial arrangements.
The ‘big four’ (Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance, Underbelly) are commercially run and you pay for a slot – how much depends on the time of day of your show and the capacity & facilities of your space. There are advantages to these venues – they tend to be in better locations for passersby  (walkup audiences); they’re run by experienced promoters; critics, agents and bookers trust them and are more likely to take a punt on seeing your work if it’s in one of these venues.

There are also other groups such as ‘C’ and Greenside venues, and independent / curated venues such as Summerhall. Summerhall tends to prioritise less commercial work (rather than comedy, which can dominate the rest of the venues’ programmes) including live art, new writing.

In a paid-for venue, you’re likely to lose money on a full month’s run, even if you sell out.

There are several free fringe groups including PBH, Laughing Horse, Just the Tonic and Forest Fringe. Again, they all have different programmes, deals, reputations. Most of them ‘shake a bucket’ at the end of your show so you will get some income as long as you have some audience. Do your research to find the best fit for your work and means. You are more likely to be able to break even in a free venue.
Some people will run two shows at a time – test out material for a new show in one of the free Fringe venues, while running a finished show in one of the big four.

Avoid evening slots
The Military Tattoo (which takes place every night throughout the Fringe) sucks up huge audiences. A lot of those people will be free to see Fringe shows during the day so it’s best to avoid an evening slot unless you’re confident you can sell well.

Getting Reviewed
There are many magazines / newspapers / websites who review Fringe shows. They vary in quality and reputation and range from the well known (broadsheet newspapers, specialist papers such as Total Theatre and The Stage) through to local media (The Scotsman, The Herald), and those set up especially to cover the Fringe (eg. Three Weeks).

Getting a clutch of four and five star reviews will attract attention to your show, so getting critics in is crucial. The longer your run the more likely you are to get plenty of reviews, although it’s getting more difficult in general to get reviews these days. The earlier you can get your PR machine going the more likely you are to get reviews: the Fringe provide a press & media list when you confirm your run.

Preview your show

Testing out your finished show in front of an audience before you enter the stress of the Fringe is invaluable in building confidence. Look out for opportunities (such as Troopfest) or create them.

Choose your guest spots wisely
If you’re invited to do a guest spot (eg. an extract of your show or testing other material) while in Edinburgh check out who’s running it, who else is involved, what the financial deal is, how well promoted it’s likely to be etc. before saying yes.

Stay healthy
It can be an emotional as well as physical endurance test, particularly if you are doing a long run and you are struggling to get audiences, reviews, etc. The likelihood of succumbing to a cold, flu, norovirus or whatever, is enhanced if you are out partying every night and not eating or sleeping properly, so look after yourself. You don’t want to have to cancel shows. Staying healthy will help with your sanity too.  But also don’t take things personally: it’s a hugely competitive environment. Be nice to punters and supportive of other artists. Remember each week has a different feel as do different days of the week, no one day will be the same, however tough.

Flyering is an Edinburgh institution: most acts have to flyer daily to get audiences in. Some people do their own flyering, some people pay others to do it for them.

Flyering top tips:

  • Create a visually bold flyer, and leave room to staple reviews to it without covering vital information.
  • Don’t bother to flyer on the Royal Mile, flyer near your venue if there is good footfall.
  • Find the ‘flow’ of the footfall so you can go with it and not obstruct passes by.
  • Be positive and kind even to those who may not want to see your show today: recommend other shows you’ve seen and liked, tell them about your favourite café, where they can find a loo, and they are more likely to remember you (and possibly come back to see your show).
  • Flyering in costume (or disguise!) is more likely to get you noticed and helps reminds you it’s part of your job (not a test of your personality).
  • Be prepared to promote your show wherever you are even when not flyering: have business cards ready to hand out, and giveaways such as sweets to help people remember you.

Use social media
Don’t forget to use social media too. Keeping your facebook / twitter / instagram feeds up to date will help punters feel informed and included.