Edinburgh Festival Fringe may be a worthwhile investment paved with golden opportunity after opportunity … or it may be a learning experience with a hefty price tag. Unless you are a big-name act, you will spend more than you make. Even “successful” shows with high ticket sales can slip into dept. A 2015 Actors & Performers article states, “… You should not expect to make money. Instead, you should focus on how to limit your loss.”
How to create a Fringe budget that works:
Why Fringe? Why now?
It is time to determine why you are making this trip. Before you start your budget, list clear, realistic goals. A plan will help you avoid paying for a service you could have done without. And remember, Fringe takes a lot of time, effort and planning—time you could spend touring and making money. So … why fringe?
-To get your feet wet. If you want to cross the festival off your bucket list, grow leaps and bounds artistically or to learn a few things, keep your budget lean and well allocated. The EdFringe guide estimates that a “free” show costs £4,664 with administration, marketing and production costs. Sure, audience donations and your merchandise sales might offset that amount a bit, but probably not much.
-For exposure. The festival is media frenzy. But with thousands of shows, vying for press attention is like waving your hand at a rock concert and expecting the band to notice you. If you set your sights on a rave review from The Scotsman, budget for a publicity professional. Look for a sharp, creative person who comes well referred and proposes a strategy more outside the box than the standard press release and Royal Mile flyers. Make sure he or she has previous Fringe experience.
-For the future life of the project. Are you hoping to generate interest from major venues and programmers or take your show on tour? Start to plan and save early on. If you have a substantial following, consider a crowdfunding campaign—it will not only raise funds, it can be a marketing tool to rev up interest.
Fringe is not only the world’s largest arts festival; it is possibly the world’s most competitive. Although it’s tempting, throwing money around doesn’t necessarily lead to a good outcome. Add up all of your travel, production and marketing costs. Then increase that amount by 25%. You will always need more than you think.
Obvious and not-so-obvious costs
Obvious costs include production, venue, accommodations, meals, wages, travel, publicity and registration fees. But there are some costs often left off of the Fringe performer’s budget. Do not forget commission fees, value-added tax, insurance or licensing fees.
Yes, you might need to take the edge off and yes, you will meet a whole new pack of friends who want to rove the city. To stay within bounds and budget, treat your time at Fringe like a job. Give your body and your wallet a rest. Try to find accommodations with a kitchen so you can make your own meals. It might cost a bit more, but the savings will be worth it. Create a per diem budget for dining out that also allows time for letting loose.