FREE SHOW AT EDINBURGH FRINGE

HOW TO MAKE THE BEST OF IT

I recall standing outside the Pleasance Dome flyering my show a few years ago.

I was exhausted and knew I had to fill a big room and faced losing cash so I was anxious and desperate to make sure people came to see me.

I had rented a good flat and paid for amazing posters and had what I believed to be a fabulous show.

Then I spotted a couple of people who had seen me at a showcase show and had taken my flyer after the gig as they liked my stuff. I brightened up and as I approached them I watched a comedy promoter hand them two free tickets to his latest newly signed act’s show.

They took them. They were FREE.

He had a HUGE wad of free tickets and was giving them to people all around the Pleasance Dome. I lost the sale. I watched and my heart sank as people didn’t give a fuck how funny I had been at the 1pm showcase show.

They had free tickets and free is everything in this current climate.

No doubt the fringe this year yet again will release the BEST EVER SALES AT THE FRINGE and sit back as they manipulate the figures and the PR will spin it good.

I know that the figures aren’t always true, for ONE BIG SELL OUT there are hundreds of smaller shows underwriting them in the big venues and those comics were doing it on their own cash in the hope of a crowd.

Performers go home skint, owing money and are artistically broken.

I have no issue with the big paid venues, I just see issues that the Free Festival can resolve.

On the last weekend of the last few fringe’s I watched BIG NAMED ACTS give away TWO for ONES on the last Thursday and Friday. That’s not a great financial sign and was I aggressively flyered for a comic whose face graces the BILLBOARDS to buy tickets for his ‘EXTRA SOLD OUT SHOW’ which is a weird oxymoron. It can’t be sold out and still have tickets to sell.

Also audience members must be horrified to find out they had paid full price for tickets and realised half the audience were in for free or HALF PRICE and that’s an insult to early bird ticket buyers.

People were so scared of losing face.

This year am back at The Counting House Ballroom as is my daughter comedian Ashley Storrie.

Last year both me and Ashley had a BUMPER run and played to full rooms every day. I had people sitting on the floor of my venue and Ashley had people standing in her room and outside for a chance to get in.

They put cash in the buckets. We left with a profit, a very good profit if truth be told. We also told the crowds if they donated silver and bronze coins we gave that to the homeless and later on we dished it out fairly round the city’s street collectors.

I encouraged other comics and acts to get up and pitch their shows to my big comedy loving full capacity crowd. I tweeted about other comics gigs and helped flyer for other shows. It felt like THE FRINGE.

The people who came to the shows were brilliant.

Dealing with hard cash was weird. I felt like a mid price day time sex worker, I haven’t had that much money in my bag in years. We generally don’t carry much cash as a society now. It reminded me of when I owned a pub and used to count the takings.

People no longer see the Free Festival shows as ‘well it’s free it must be shit’ and I don’t believe they ever did. This is a nice neat rumour and label put on it by the same people who resent the free shows but have no issue giving out free tickets at a paid venue for a show that can’t shift a ticket.

When I did all the big “paid” venues I made thousands of pounds but the financial cut left to me was woeful and I STILL made a profit am one of the few who did. My accountant was stunned by the business model that means you pay for seats in advance and a venue is guaranteed their cash and cut NO MATTER WHAT before you step foot in the capital. The artist takes all the risk. Every seat you dont sell the venue has already been paid for that, the loss is not theirs….it’s YOURS.

Think of it this way…

Imagine you hired a bus with twenty seats, you paid the company for twenty seats….if you only sold 6 of those seats, you lose money.

Now think of that in a 200 seater venue at the fringe where the market is SATURATED with comics giving away FREE SEATS AND TWO FOR ONE SEATS every single day. Now you see my point.

Tax was a well worn phrase when talking about the free venues.

“Yes, but do the free festival comics declare their takings?” one comedy promoter asked me.

I don’t think anybody has the right to assume anyone is fucking their taxes based on a dislike of their business model. If you have an issue with people not paying their due tax please go check some Tory peers before you nitpick at comics you avaricious cunts. While you are at it please make sure the big venues who boast “BEST YEAR EVER” are not putting their profits into an offshore account to avoid taxes in UK.

I pay my tax.

I love the fringe and the past few years doing free fringe shows means I have loved it more. It felt like the old days. It felt good and it felt fair.

I encouraged the people who were skint and living under austerity to come see our shows for free. I also encouraged people who saw the show to take money OUT OF THE BUCKET if they needed some cash.

some tips for acts putting on a FREE SHOW….

  1. Hire staff to look after your doors/room, pay them a living wage. They can crowd control and stop people opening the door and walking about during the show.
  2. Don’t over fill your room, make it comfortable for everyone.
  3. Don’t keep mentioning the bucket and how much they should give you, make it optionable not a constant veiled plea. Be respectful.
  4. Get your door staff to be venue aware so they can help people/tourists with questions and directions.
  5. Don’t expect the bar staff to know where your show is, speak to crowds around the venue and make them aware where your show is on.
  6. If you can afford it, give all the spare coinage to the local homeless.
  7. Do your best to be generous of spirit to other free performers and mention their shows to your crowd, to help each other.

Me and My daughter Ashley Storrie are back at the Counting House this year.