With Week 2 of the Edinburgh Fringe about to start (the Fringe oddly starts in what is called Week 0), a few people have asked me for advice on how to get a reviewer in and/or more bums-on-seats.
The latest person to ask me said: “This is our second Edinburgh, so we’re still relatively green.”
I feel this justifies my eternal advice:
Come up for three consecutive years.
The first year you are likely to be ignored.
The second year you will have some idea how the Fringe works.
The third year you may have some impact.
My other advice is always look at publicity from the point of view of the journalist and the punter, not from your own point of view.
The poor journalist wants an angle to make their piece stand out – they are trying as hard as you are to build a career and to get noticed. They need anything that resembles a unique angle – if it is a Scots angle, that’s a bonus. It does no harm if it also involves an eye-catching photo.
But, if you want to get reviewers to come in to your show at this point in the Fringe, you are probably already screwed.
The reviewers decided – mostly – what they would review in the first week after the Fringe Programme was published back in June. They probably sat down with several pieces of paper or a computer and worked out a schedule, because it is a nightmare of jigsawing one-hour shows with spaces between to allow rushing between the different venues.
You cannot review a 1400-1500 show in George Square in the Old Town then do a 1515 show in the New Town. It is not physically possible.
Many if not most reviewers working for publications reviewing Fringe shows have long ago had all the likely-to-be-interesting shows divided up between them. The Fringe-specific publications seldom have one single reviewer – not ones you want to get reviews from – so the shows have to be divided up in advance between a team.
The more canny reviewers who are not so tied-down will fill up the first two or three weeks as tightly as they can, then leave an increasing number of gaps towards the end so they can pick up on shows which they missed in the Programme but which have gathered a word-of-mouth buzz during the Fringe itself.
They can add in shows at this stage, but it may be difficult to find gaps which fit into their existing intricate schedule and also, given that it may take 3 or even 4 days for the review to appear after they have written it, getting a review will not help you get extra bums-on-seats to a great extent because, by the time it is published, you have almost finished your run.
As for just straight trying to getting more bums-on-seats at this point with extra publicity, bear in mind that the quality of your show is irrelevant when you are thinking of how to publicise it.
It is like a book.
Writing the book is one thing. You write the best quality book you possibly can. But designing the cover is entirely another scenario unconnected to writing the words in the book, because it is marketing and publicity aimed at making someone pick up an oblong object from a crowded shelf. Write it as art; sell it as baked beans.
It does not matter how fine and original you think your show is. Everyone is going to say their show is fine and original. So saying it is pointless, unless you have superb review quotes and a shitload of review stars.
Ignore the show’s quality (unless you have 5-stars from Steven Spielberg) and try to market the concept or the people in it. Look at what is in the performers which might interest a journalist. Don’t try to sell the quality of the show to journalists; sell the concept and the performers.
It’s the humanity that matters.
Any reviews you do get will deal with the quality of your show. But interesting performers will attract journalists who write feature pieces – and may also incidentally attract some reviewers who missed you in the Programme.
Finally, stick lots of new quotes and stars (if more than three) on your posters and flyers. If nothing else, it will make it seem there is some buzz about your show.
If you can afford to spend £2,000 or £3,000 on a PR person, of course, you may get noticed even in your first year; on the other hand, you may not. And it is now too late to get a good PR person anyway.
Put it down to experience. Eat porridge and drink water for the next twelve months And try again next year.
The Fringe is addictive.
Especially to masochists with lots of money.