Brighton Fringe 2015 – Round Up

Background

I’m a comedian. I do solo stand up which makes my show one of the cheapest possible to put on (I only need a mic and a light… my venue doesn’t even have a raised stage). 

I started working on the bare bones of this show 18 months ago. I decided to do the Brighton Fringe after attending an event in Edinburgh 2014 from the management team at the Brighton Fringe. They had some outstanding points and really sold me on the idea. I’ve since asked additional questions about the festival to Julian Caddy (the managing direct of the Brighton Fringe). You can listen to this episode of my podcast here. It really helped me. 

The show was incomplete. It was a  work-in-progress for Edinburgh.

I live in London, and did not have the money to live down in Brighton. Also I was working a day job during 5 out of the 9 shows. I hope that paints you a picture… here’s my Brighton Fringe.

Aims

I only had a handful of simple aims for the festival. I realise now that I should have had a few more aims and maybe pushed myself harder, but it’s the first time I’d done the Brighton Fringe and I had no idea what to expect.

  1. Have a good run of preview / work-in-progress shows to real audiences.
  2. Get used to doing more than 20 minutes on stage. I often get 20 spots in indie clubs around the UK. But the show is 40 minutes long… Logic says that means you just do 2 20s how hard can that be? Very… if you’re not used to it. So it was flexing that muscle way before Edinburgh. It’s another reason why I booked so many previews in London (please come see one, they’re all listed here).
  3. To start to build a tiny audience base in Brighton. This one seemed wildly out of reach at the time, but was worth throwing in.
  4. To test some marketing ideas pre-Edinburgh. (See point 5 under “things I’ve learned” to know how this went).
  5.  To have fun! 

Prep

  • I had posters and flyers made (by Bella Noell who was an absolute professional and I’d highly recommend). She also did my headshots. This has been a great weight off my shoulders as I will be using the same marketing materials in Edinburgh.
  • I did 3 gigs in Brighton in April (the Fringe is in May) to meet locals and warm up for it. I also asked the audience after the shows (as well as on Faecbook) for cool indie companies who might like the show that I could contact. I emailed every single one of these companies individually to tell them about my show and asked if they wanted to come, and if I could put up a poster… this meant I knew how many posters to order to put them up and had secured locations ahead of time which meant I was super efficient when I arrived in Brighton.
  • I wrote a show.
  • I wrote a press release for the festival after contacting a ton of media to find out what they wanted in a press release [view that here].
  • I made EventBrite free ticket links to extend the reach of the show. This way people browsing the app / website for things on during the Brighton Fringe could find it in a new way… although this led to very few “sales” / reservations it did lead to some coverage which helped. And anyone who reserved a ticket did sign up to the email newsletter (see results for more info).
  • I went and spoke to Luisa Omielan about her experiences in taking a show to the Brighton Fringe and then to Edinburgh. Listen to that here.
  • I spoke with Jill Edwards, who is a local to Brighton but also runs comedy gigs by the coast as well as a comedy course. Listen to that here.

Marketing / How people heard about the show.

This is not an exact science. I simple asked people at the start / end of each show how they heard about it / found out it was happening. I didn’t get exact numbers, but here’s a brief breakdown.

I purchased 10 posters and a bunch of marketing materials. I didn’t flyer at all. If you want to know how that turned out in terms of audience numbers go down to the next bit about “profit / loss”.

Most people found out about the show from the programme. They did say it was confusing to navigate. So a lot of people said the website was their “main” place to go to find out about shows which were happening. Next was word of mouth. Then my own marketing materials. 

I was most proud of the fact 3 people came back to watch it twice. And a handful of comedians as well as half a dozen non-performers came down to see the show after hearing about it in my podcast.

Profit / Loss

Something I think most comedians will be interested in is the “bucket”. As I was a free show, nobody had to commit to paying upfront for the show. This is a system I believe in and enjoy. If you can’t afford to pay £10 for my show, I still want you to see my show. It’s usually not people being “cheap”, it’s usually people simple not having the funds to pay what you need them to in order to cover overheads. But by keeping my expenses low and doing everything myself I’ve managed to have an “OK” Fringe run in terms of money. Here’s a full disclosure of what stuff cost me and my profit / loss sheet – 

Costs –

£126.75  Trains
£100  Show registration with Laughing Horse
£162  “early bird” special for web & program listing (advertising).
£72 Posters / Marketing materials
£460.75 Total
£51.19 Cost per show.

Bucket takings

Date Bucket Profit / Loss
5th £61.23 £10.04
18th £45.03 -£6.16
19th £46.73 -£4.46
20th £17.50 -£33.69
21st £48.56 -£2.63
24th £108.96 £57.77
25th £64.98 £13.79
26th £45.55 -£5.64
27th £37.57 -£13.62
Total £476.11 £15.40

So… I made £15.40 over 9 shows. Not exactly money I can live on, but a profit is a profit. And before someone asks why I’ve not included food costs… I’d have to eat either way, so that’s not a direct show cost.

Things I’ve learned 

I learned so much from doing this fringe, but here’s some highlighted points which I think will be good for both performers and maybe some comedy fans as well – 

  1. Look people in the eye when they’re donating. Nobody wants you to be staring at their hand to see how much they donated. It’s kinda rude as well.
  2. Flyering in Brighton annoys the locals and seems to not have the same desired effect that it does in Edinburgh. [hear more from the Brighton Fringe managing director here]
  3. Be honest about doing a work-in-progress. I did not include this in my blurb or marketing. Nobody really cared, but there were some other acts who (admitted) they were less prepared than I was and as a result their audiences would have liked to know before decided to attend that the show was not finished.
  4. If you can afford it, stay in Brighton. Book yourself into an airbnb or a spare room and just take the hit on the money. If you are going to do this, try and book a run of 3-5 consecutive nights. I live in Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire and worked near Covent Garden during my run. This meant I spent between 2 & 1/2 and 3 hours on the train (without any delayed) per day… looking back on it, this might explain why I got through a handful of books in May. Trains are shattering and although I love them, my body did not after a few days. On show 3 I had to miss work in the morning because my train was delayed the night before and I got back in the early hours of the morning. I couldn’t open my eyes first thing. I’m not looking for pity, I’m just using it as an example… don’t be a martyr. You can’t do everything.
  5. A form of promotion which works for one show will not necessarily work for another. I had some ideas this year (which are not included in this blog) and I needed a “dry run” of them to see if they worked or how they would be received. Sadly, it’s impossible to do a full “dry run” of Edinburgh because it’s such a different beast to all the other festivals. 
  6. Weekend train tickets to Brighton are cheaper than during the week… also you get big(ger) audiences on the weekend… so book weekend spots IF you can.
  7. Budget. Budget. And budget some more!
  8. Book into spots on other shows if you can, but remember Brighton is not really about getting “stage time” in that way.
  9. Trying to have a show ready 3 months early for Edinburgh is not possible.
  10. Brighton audiences are comedy savvy and so lovely. Also, they’ve not seen 10 shows before getting to yours, so the energy level in the room is higher than it can sometimes feel in Edinburgh. It’s really fun like that.
  11. Eat local. It’ll cost slightly more, but it’s nicer and also you can plug your show to them. 
  12. Get to know the venue staff. They’re usually all local people who REALLY give a shit about what’s going on at their place of work and will be a valuable asset to you in terms of telling punters who are looking for shows what’s on.
  13. Buy the staff a gift at the end of your run… they’ll really appreciate it and respect you for it and also, it bloody nice to do something nice for someone else.
  14. Have a bucket speech and a 1-minute pitch ready. This is key to selling the show to people. As well as getting people to donate at the end. It’s not always the case that you had a great show so they’ll just give you money… you need to find a unique and original way of asking for some sort of payment without sounding desperate.

The Results

 Given the intangible nature of all of this, it’s really hard to pin point “results” however, I’ve given it a go…

  • I feel more confident in my material and comedy abilities going into the homestretch / approaching the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
  • 59 new email address added to my mailing list
  • I made a profit (see above). It’s not much, but I made a profit!
  • I write two bits which I don’t think I would have come up with had I not been pushing myself to write and perform on a bunch of dates.

I will totally apply to do Brighton again. I loved it. They’re a really comedy savvy town and I got the chance to play to 400+ people over 9 dates in May. Can’t really beat that, can you? 

Thanks for reading. X

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