The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Fringe Marketing for Dummies July 23, 2010

Here in Vancouver, there are 86 productions in The Fringe this year. Now, you aren’t going to be competing with every single one of those at any given time, but certainly you will be competing with some. On top of that, you will be competing with whatever else is going on in Vancouver at the time: other theatre, live music, movies, the weather.

If you want your show to be a sell-out, I’m offering up some tasty tips on how to market your production and stand out from the crowd.

Get started early. You’ll need to start getting your stuff together and planning 4-6 weeks before the Fringe.

What makes you unique? The first thing you have to figure out is what it is that makes you unique–what makes you stand out above the crowd. This is called your unique selling point. Your USP should form the basis of all of your marketing: from your poster/postcard image to your press release.

Get a great image. If you have a bit of marketing money to spend, hiring a professional photographer is a good investment. Deb Pickman and I endorse Pink Monkey Studios. But whoever you are using, here are some tips to keep in mind when shooting. Your shot does not have to be a scene from the play. In fact, I think it’s better if it’s NOT a scene from the play. Go back to your unique selling point. Can you create an image that communicates that? Your image should be arresting. The ultimate goal would be to stop people in their tracks as they are walking down the street, if they see your poster on a pole. Here is a blog post that I wrote on the topic: https://artofthebiz.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/the-importance-of-a-good-publicity-photo/

This is your competition, folks. (photo of Toronto Fringe poster board courtesy of Sue Edworthy)

Marketing Materials:

Posters: 11×14, hire a graphic designer if at all possible, have them printed in colour (they should only cost you about $1/ea), make sure you include star ratings from other fringes or positive reviews. Print around 100-200. Concentrate putting them up on and around Granville Island. There are specific places for Fringe posters, like the Fringe Bar and the Info centre. If you want to put them up beyond, through the rest of the city, call Perry the Poster guy: 604. 874.6828. He charges nearly $1/per poster, but they are put up in places where they will not be taken down.

Postcards/leaflets: Most people go with a scaled-down version of their poster. There are a few places you can leave postcards, but the real value of a postcard is as a “leave-behind.” “Hey–I’m doing a Fringe show–wanna come? Here’s a postcard with all the info.”

Industry Images is currently offering discounts on printing for The Fringe.

Part 2

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8 Responses to “Fringe Marketing for Dummies”

  1. Sue Says:

    Don’t know if the Vancouver Fringe has a “Fringe Tent” similar to the one on Toronto – the hub of the festival so to speak. If you do, that’s where your competition is fiercest for postering and for leaflets. A couple suggestions from a marketer and Fringe Board member who saw 50+ shows this Fringe:

    make your leaflet stand out. There are on average over a dozen leaflets lying around on every table people are sitting at. Yours needs to stand out. My favourite flyer this year combined good marketing for the show with good marketing for the Fringe, suggesting you buy a pass for the event, not just a ticket for the show. To take it even a step further – the flyer was an actual beer MAT. Brilliant stuff. A definite take home. What were the rest? Recycling.

    The best flyers also included where I could find out more about the show – website, Facebook page etc.

    Once the reviews are in and you’ve got a hit, you need to run some stickers with your five stars and your brilliant pull quotes and go back and put them on your posters. Do a second round of putting up posters if need be.

    Final suggestion. Don’t just toss some flyers on the table and walk away from me. You just SPAMmed me. Stop for a second, engage me – I’m clearly interested in Fringe and theatre so I’d love to hear about your show. Tell me what it’s about, tell me how it’s going for you. Connect personally and odds are good I’ll try to come see it.

    That is all from me. For the moment, anyway.

  2. Sue Says:

    Oh – another clever bit – the Toronto Fringe happened during a heat wave. Performers promoting their shows to the folks in line for other shows got very creative – ‘selling’ water or popsicles in exchange for you listening to their spiel and taking a flyer.

  3. Great tips! Thanks, Sue!

  4. Ryan Mooney Says:

    Hey Rebecca,

    Great tips. After doing Fringe shows for the past two, we’re not this year, but if I could add one.

    Go see other people’s shows and interact with other performers at the Fringe Bar and wherever you can. We had shout outs for other shows in our program, and also did it at the end of performances when we could. Also, get to know the people at your venue. You’re sharing a venue, and so it’s a lot easier to convince people to “stick around for the next show,” if you’ve seen it. As a Fringe Performer (or director, stage manager, etc.) you have a free pass to all the shows if there’s room, so hop to it.

  5. James Foy Says:

    When you’re out flyering it’s really important to have a gimmick. A few years ago we had a woman in a wedding dress marry people standing in line ups, and we handed out out flyers as wedding invitations. That worked really well.

    Stand out. And when someone asks you what your show is about try not to start with “well ok it’s about two guys living in an apartment…” or something like that. Have a few snappy responses ready that make your show sound like the bee’s knees.

  6. Thanks for your awesome tips, everyone! More to come on Monday….

  7. Brian M. Carroll Says:

    I have a rule at Fringes (Winnipeg, Ottawa, Wakefield): I don’t accept a flyer until you tell me:

    WHY do I WANT to see YOUR show?

    (Please respond to all 4 capitalized words.) Shape your answer (and your Universal Selling Point) around that question and I’ll take your flyer. (And I’ll try to fit you in as one of the 75-80 Fringe shows that I see each year).

    Otherwise I’ll let you squirm until you give me a satisfactory answer.

    That said, why doesn’t your flyer or poster answer that question in the first place?

  8. GS Says:

    It’s been my experience that the more obnoxious the pitch, the more people come. No matter how bad their show is. And a lot of them are really bad.


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