Fringe Festivals have a glorious insanity about them. In Edinburgh there are literally thousands of shows, all crammed into one city in one week. In Brighton there are over 600 with a potential audience a lot smaller than the tens of thousands who flock into Edinburgh in August.
In Edinburgh there are a minority of people who live in the city year round who won’t be aware of the Festival and the Fringe taking place each August. In Brighton, there really are quite a large number of indigenous folk for whom the Brighton Fringe doesn’t exist.
So, in Brighton, don’t expect immediate familiarity when you flier in Brighton. Even during Fringe City – the regular weekend showcase, flier-fests on New Road in Brighton – you’ll find bemused people who just happen to be walking along New Road, wondering what the hell is going on.
What you will need to do is put your show on the map. For this reason: you see, the theatre audience in Brighton year round isn’t that big. The comedy and music audience is much bigger. There isn’t enough theatre audience to go round. You’ll have to reach wider. You’ll have to attract people to your show who aren’t only part of that core of theatregoing audience throughout the year. There are quite a few people who delve into theatre during May and book quite a lot of shows, a bit like in Edinburgh. But mostly, you’ll need to fill those back rows with new audience. And here are a few tips on how to do it…
1. Publicise near and around your venue. Brighton is a very residential city and many venues have local populations around them who will be happy to come if it doesn’t involve more than stepping outside their door. Ask local cafes if you can put posters around and get chatting to people in your locality. Legally, you can’t just flier wherever you want to, but there are ways of including your venue’s locality – social media, local cafes and restaurants and shops, and going out in costume. And of course, use social media – identify any local community pages and tweet with a hashtag for the locality e.g. hashtag Hove
2. Use your networks outside of the city. Brighton is a great city for a day trip and less than an hour from London, 15 mins by train from Lewes. Ensure you let people know who might come as a one off
3. Use all of the free listings magazines and web sites for features. Just google Brighton and What’s On or Listings and you will find them. Get in before their deadlines and send them good images, offers, competitions and feature material
4. Ensure your venue is doing a good publicity job on your behalf. Don’t assume it is. many smaller venues may not be doing anything at all, and a lot of pubs or cafe venues might only have listed you on their web site and nothing more. But many regularly send listings to magazines and web sites and do their own Tweeting and Facebooking. Ensure you know who is doing that and put your show on their radar. Many cafes and pubs have their own year round audience, so spend some social time in the venues and sensitively flier and let people know about your show. Consider special ticket deals for venue “regulars”.
5. Brighton is a very media-savvy city, so if your show has anything quirky or interesting in using media – multimedia, film, animations, music etc – don’t just aim your publicity at theatregoers- taps into social media sites and communities that might be drawn to see your show for its media content, not just the performance element
6. People love new writing, premieres and things experimental and different – ensure you play those thing up clearly and enthusiastically in your PR. But equally, don’t make it look gimicky and flakey
7. Use Fringe City to full advantage. Try to get a slow demo-ing part of your show, ensure you get registered to flyer and have decent flyers with maps of how to get to your venue designed onto them. If your venue is unknown, a map is crucial. If your venue is a bit out of the way, offer info about buses and trains and how how easy the venue is to get to. Don’t assume people will go anywhere without being nudged! At Fringe City, don’t just flyer – talk to people about your show, engage them with authentic, enthusiastic communication and chat.
8. Describe your show truthfully. People these days are very cynical about hype. A decent Youtube showreel can give a real flavour but it musn’t be crap and cheap. Don’t describe your show as “amazing” and “groundbreaking” unless it truly is. Find different words, use a thesaurus. Be eloquent in your PR and marketing.
9. Advertise selectively. Put ads in places which maximise the chances of the right audience seeing the ad. The main Fringe web site is seen by a lot of people, but there are also selective music listings magazines and also online web sites aimed at tourists, or aimed LGBT communities, or fans of music etc.
10. Don’t leave it late. You should be planning and organising your PR and publicity months not weeks out. That said, in Brighton a lot of people don’c commit until the last moment so Twitter and other social media can be vital – but don’t over-rely on them.
Overall, you’ll need to be smart and to attract fresh and new audience to your show. You’ll need to blend online and offline, short term and longer term. Ensure you get to know the community and the uniqueness of your venue and the cafes, shops and restaurants around it. Avoid exaggeration and “spin”, be authentic and passionate in the way you sell your show. And use Fringe City each weekend.