Ideas for the Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide – Live 1

SHOULD the show be more than a discussion? Should I turn up in white face paint and Victorian costume in solidarity with a 100 student theatre companies? Should I have a flipchart with a tally of everything I’ve spent and earned? Should I start with a song from a Fringe band?

Maybe, maybe not.

Here’s an initial list of ideas for the daily discussions:

  • Actors
  • Administrators 
  • Comedians
  • Directors
  • Editors
  • Musicians
  • Playwrights
  • Producers
  • Publicists
  • Reviewers
  • Venue managers
  • More from the book

Questions about marketing 1

THE marketing for The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide could have a big overlap with the marketing for The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide – Live.

Every person I try to persuade to come to the show is also someone I can try to persuade to buy the book. If they buy the book and don’t come to the show, I’ll probably be happier than if they see the show and don’t buy the book.

Because of this overlap I need to talk to Methuen’s marketing department about working together on flyers, adverts and sales. 

Forgive me being self-referential but this blog is also part of the marketing.

Questions about money 1

WHEN it comes to budgeting I have certain advantages.

  • I live in Edinburgh, so don’t have to worry about rent (or no more than I do for the rest of the year). 
  • As a freelance journalist, I can continue to earn money from other sources, assuming I have the time (see Questions about me and my stamina). 
  • And, as I can buy copies of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide at trade price, I should be able to make some money selling books, in the same way that many Fringe companies make ends meet by selling CDs.

But I am also at a disadvantage in the nature of the show I have in mind. The only person I interviewed inThe Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guidewho claimed to make money on the Fringe was Martyn Jacques of the Tiger Lillies, but his band a) sell out, b) charge £15 a ticket and c) have merchandise to sell.

For The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide – Live, I’m not at all certain I can get away with charging any money and if I can, it will have to be a modest amount. I looked at prices for similar shows in Questions about the audience 1.

The advice of the experts in my book is to budget for 30% attendance – a long way from the Tiger Lillies’ 100% – and to aim to break even rather than make a profit. Any negotiation I have with venues will have to take this into account.

Questions about the venue 1

THE closer I am to my target market the better. This means choosing the right venue.

As a theatre critic, I spend a lot of time at the Traverse, watching shows or chatting at the bar. But this isn’t a place where potential readers of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide will hang out in great numbers. Performing on stage in this venue are the kind of established theatre companies which, by and large, won’t need professional advice from a book. In the audience, there will of course be theatre-makers and interested parties, but in the main, it will be people looking to be entertained. If the Scottish Society of Playwrights has its bookshop there, I’d hope it would stock the book, but as a venue, the Traverse doesn’t feel right.

My instinct is the same about other favourite venues such as St George’s West and the New Street Theatre: great if I can have some kind of presence, but not natural places for my readership.

What I need is somewhere that large numbers of actors, directors and comedians at the start of their careers hang out. At this stage,The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guiderecommends I keep my options open and consider a number of venues. In my mind, there are two front-runners (and I shouldn’t rule out the possibility of doing something at both):

Fringe Central: initially, I was thinking my plans were so similar to the service already provided by the Fringe Office that I would be better doing The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide – Live somewhere else. But then Kath Mainland, chief executive of the Fringe Society, gave me this lovely quote to use on the book:

“Every single page of this book is enhanced by Mark Fisher’s lifelong enthusiasm for, and commitment to, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the greatest arts festival in the world.”

and asked if I was thinking about doing the show at Fringe Central. Dear reader, if you are trying to do a show of your own, I know you wouldn’t dream of getting a personal approach from the Fringe’s top dog and I understand this puts me in a position of tremendous privilege, even if our discussions come to nothing. It’s a reminder, however, that the more suited your show is to a particular venue, the more keen that venue will be to have you.

The Pleasance: all the big venues are dedicated to nurturing a new generation of theatre-makers and comedians but, having presented a couple of Pleasance Bytes podcasts in 2011 (did I tell you I got four stars?), it strikes me that director Anthony Alderson and head of creative development Hannah Eidinow are encouraging exactly the same kind of people as I want to reach. I’m already in talks about doing more podcasts and I’ve mentioned the idea of doing a show based onThe Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide.

At a recent meeting, Hannah suggested I draw up a plan for the show I’d like to do and then we can talk further. The same will apply to Fringe Central, so that needs to be my next task.