The Art of the Business

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

Fringe Marketing for Dummies Pt 2 July 26, 2010

Today, we continue our series on how to market your Fringe show! As ever, feel free to share your best Fringe marketing tips in the comments below!

Publicity and PR: Deb Pickman recently offered a workshop on this topic here in Vancouver, and it was well attended. If you couldn’t make it, you can download her notes. The Fringe supplies participants with a media list. Again, the number one thing to keep in mind while crafting your pitch or your media release is to think about what your USP is.

Event Listings: Create a short PSA and send it to the local papers for their event listings, and find event listing websites to upload your listing to. The Fringe does this for “The Fringe,” so it’s possible that event listings editors will see that you are part of the fringe and not print your listing, but it’s worth a shot.

Here’s an example of a listing:

SENSATION OF MAGIC: Vitaly Beckman performs seventy minutes of jaw-dropping, mind-bending magic and illusions. August 17-21, 8 pm. Havana Theatre on 1212 Commercial Drive. $15 (advance) $20 (door), Tix at Highlife Records, 1317 Commercial Dr, Vancouver. Info/Tix: 778.228.5291,

Websites and Social Media:

You need to have a website. If you can afford it, get one professionally done, but if you can’t, I offer some tips on how to build a website in Word Press here. Deb put it so well in her notes that I’m going to quote her on this one, because I couldn’t possibly say it better: Your front-page right hand side should contain buttons for all online social media streams: FaceBook, Twitter, Blog, YouTube, Flicker. A journalist should get everything they need to tell your story without picking up the phone, by reading your website because it includes everything that’s in your press kit.

Social Media: This method of marketing is exploding–fully 500 Million people are on Facebook, and YouTube gets one million hits a day. Here are the top 5 Social Media sites, and how to use them:

Email: If you don’t already have this, get started now building an email list of people that are interested in your work. You can either use an e-newsletter program, or your own, html-formatted email. Send three emails: one about a month before the show, one a week before the show, and one after the show is opened, but before it closes (which incorporates your positive reviews). Include photos and links to make it interesting.

Facebook: if you haven’t already, create a fan page for your company. Then work your butt off to get as many fans as possible. Create an event page off of your fan page for your Fringe Show. Now, populate the page with updates every couple of days: how things are going in rehearsals, media coverage, photos, etc. Connect your page to the Fringe’s page.

Blog: Blogs are all about what goes on behind the scenes, so write about your rehearsal process, your tour, that crazy conversation you had with an audience member after the show. don’t feel like you have to depend upon writing–photos, video or audio are also fun and acceptable. A great example is Jeremy Bank’s Fringetastic blog. I’ll be doing an interview with him in a future post.

YouTube: create videos of yourself in rehearsal, of you talking about your show, etc. Post them on YouTube, then cross-post them on FB, Twitter, your blog, and email. Post them on the Fringe’s YouTube Channel.

Flickr: Get a Flickr account to post photos: not just production photos (ie: your professional ones) but also casual photos from rehearsals. Also connect your account to the Fringe Flickr account.

Twitter: If you are not yet on Twitter, quite honestly now may not be the best time to jump in. Learning how to Twitter is easy, but mastering it takes time. It is, however, a very powerful tool. The Fringe, by the way, is @VancouverFringe, and the hashtag, if you are Twittering, is #VanFringe. Anything that you twitter with that hashtag will likely be ReTweeted by the Fringe Social Media dude, Earl.

The Fringe, by the way, will also have an IPhone app this year.

Guerrilla Marketing/PR Stunts: There are great opportunities for guerrilla marketing at the Fringe. Granville Island is pretty densely populated all the time, so walking around in costume, handing out flyers, or flyering lines is pretty successful. After all, if people are there to see the Fringe, they are your target market, you’re doing them a service by telling them about your show. You can also draw/make signs on the sidewalk and road with chalk, or talk to the Fringe about doing a mini-performance in the bar.

Using other Fringes for marketing collateral: If you have been to other fringes, and have gotten star-ratings or good reviews, it’s important to use that info as much as possible on all of your marketing materials. Here in Vancouver, the way to get a much-coveted preview is to have someone from The Straight see your show in Victoria (which is right before ours) and highlight it in a Fringe preview.

Good luck! Have fun! Share any additional comments or tips below.


When your artist and your marketing department are at odds (guest post by Alfred DePew) November 23, 2009

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts,Guest post,Success — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:14 am
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I’m a writer, a writer of fiction. Fiction contains dialogue. People talk to each other in stories. We all know that. What took me some time to realize is that the conversations going on in my head about my own life were holding me back—as a writer and in my business.

About 10 years ago, I began to transition out of college teaching jobs and into my own coaching and consulting business. And all too often in the last 10 years, the Writer in me has been in conflict with the Businessman.

Many artists are in a business directly related to the art they produce. My business has nothing to do with who I am as a writer. I love my business, and I love working on this new novella. And yet these two energies still sometimes work against one another.

I went from the academic world, which promised a marginally safe living for writers and artists, into what we call the Private Sector—a kind of free fall into the market economy. Many of my first coaching clients were in my tribe: writers, painters, actors …. I loved working with them. I still do. They understand coaching principles right away. They know they’re naturally creative, resourceful, and whole. They consistently make powerful changes in their lives and work in three to six months. And they can sustain these changes. They’re some of my favorite clients.

Again and again, I hear these artists describe the conflict between the part of them that created the work and the part of them that needs to “get the work out there.”

While still teaching English at the Maine College of Art, I began running seminars for visual artists about “marketing” but which were much more about tapping the energy of what most inspired them and speaking about what they did from that place. Here’s what I noticed. In my clients and then for myself. Or I should say selves. For there are a lot of aspects to me: painter, writer, executive leadership coach, organizational change facilitator, son, brother, lover, friend. It’s easiest to think of them as roles we play in the world and to ourselves. In every marketing seminar, I heard the lament: “But I’m an ARTIST! I hate marketing.” So I began to play THERE. How to enroll the artist in the marketing department? How to recognize the creativity in marketing? How to call it something else? Sort of like putting the castor oil in chocolate milk. It kept working—but not so well.

I began to realize that these were very different functions, needing, at times, a similar kind of energy. Marketers and sales folk ARE incredibly creative. I work with sales teams all the time, and they’re inventive beyond belief, willing to take all kinds of risks.  It’s the same kind of energy we need in the studio or the rehearsal hall. But the energy is expressed in two very different roles. So I had to hold the Writer in me as distinct from the Businessman (the guy who suits up for networking events and gets on planes and talks to other guys and women in suits)—people whom the Writer part of me sometimes mocks and disdains.

You get the picture.

And that’s how we often are with ourselves. The Artist won’t condescend to speak to anyone in the Marketing Department. The Marketers dismiss the Artist as a flake. And the Accountant isn’t even allowed in the room. The inside of our heads begins to sound like a terrible episode of the Office—without any jokes at all.

So I say invite them all onto an imaginary stage and see what they have to say to one another—see how they relate to each other or choose not to. Get curious about the unconscious agreements they seem to have made with one another. Actually have them engage in dialogue—with each other, and—most important—with you. You’ve the one in charge. What kind of agreements do you want to make with these aspects of yourself now? How might they begin to work as a team? What does the Artist need from the Marketer? And vice versa? What’s at stake? Why is it important for them to work together? What can they count on from each other and from you? And how do you want to hold each other accountable?

Take some time with this. Listen. Make some notes. And most important: follow through on the agreements you make with these figures. Do what you say you’re going to do. And see what happens when the Artist part of you and the Business part of you get the chance to collaborate.

Alfred DePew is a writer, painter, and a Life Coach. His weekly column in the Vancouver Observer is called  Just Between Us (Notes of a Migrant Cultural Worker).

Relationship Matters (Alfred’s blog)

And Twitters at:@alfreddepew

For information about facilitating inner collaborations, contact Alfred at or call (604) 568-3621.

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So, how much should you be spending on marketing and publicity? November 26, 2008

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts,Finances,Success — Rebecca Coleman @ 10:35 pm
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I was just reading a really interesting post by Darren Barefoot about Victoria’s Belfry Theatre, called The Economics of a Theatre. In it, he breaks down how much money the theatre is spending, and where their revenue comes from. Now, The Belfry is doing pretty good–last year, they sold 92% of their tickets, which, in an industry where you are considered to be a success at anything over 40%, is fantastic. More than half of The Belfry’s income comes from ticket sales. Very impressive.

Then I started to look at their expenses. Their greatest expense is actually production costs, things like sets, lights, costumes, and, of course, actors, designers, directors and technicians. But their second biggest expense, in fact 18% of their budget, goes to marketing and publicity. Which leads to 52% of their income coming from ticket sales.

Not to compare apples and oranges, but locally, the greatest  theatrical success story in town is undoubtedly Bard on the Beach. Last season, they did 96% at the box office. Percentage of their budget that goes to Marketing and Publicity? About 10%.

Well, to be fair, you don’t have to spend loads of dough on marketing and publicity. If–and only if–you have time. If you don’t have loads of money, but you have lots of time, you can get away with not spending so much, but your investment is still there–just an investment of a different kind.

Simon Ogden just wrapped a play, The 21st Floor, produced by Lyric Stage Project over at the PAL. The numbers are still coming in, but early reports indicate they did about 80% at the box office. In terms of expenses for marketing and publicity, they paid for things like postcards, stickers, a website, paper, printing and ink. But they also used the internet to do marketing. They set up a blog, which was written by one of the characters in the show, and handed out invitations to everyone they knew and met on the bus. They used Facebook, Twitter, and invited bloggers to come and see the show and write about it. They also managed to get some preview coverage on radio, and quite a few reviews.

So, the next time you’re producing a play, unless you are lucky enough to have someone on staff that has lots of time to devote to marketing and publicity, you should budget between 10-15% of your overall budget to help get the bums in seats.

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The first post… September 27, 2008

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:50 am
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(originally published on January 31, 2008 on The Next Stage)

As actors, we spend a great deal of our time training to become masters of our art. We go to theatre school, we read all the books on acting, we train with coaches, and we apprentice. At some point a lot of us decide, often out of frustration, to produce our own work. So we pick a project, put up the show, and then are incredibly disappointed when a mere 20 people (or less) show up every night. You lose money, you lose self esteem, you lose your moxy. You get pissed off—you wonder who is out there supporting theatre, where are your friends, where did all the people go whose shows you have been supporting all these years?

In April, 2001, I had that exact experience for the first time. In February, 2006, I produced my third show. Five Women Wearing the Same Dress did 88% at the box office and turned a profit.

What made the difference? Marketing.

Theatre schools teach us the best acting techniques, but they severely lack in teaching us the business. This column, which will be written on a monthly basis, is focused on that—the business of being an artist. I will offer you tips and tricks from my own experience as a publicist for the past six years. Because quite honestly, nothing makes me happier than going to the theatre and seeing a house full of people I don’t know. It’s the best.

Why are we so resistant to putting time into the business of our work? Well, first of all it’s not sexy. Wouldn’t you much rather be using your time creatively? Sure, of course. You can create all day, but if no one sees it (or ideally, buys it), what’s the point? Secondly, plain old ordinary ignorance. What are the best ways to market yourself? How do you do it? Many artists feel overwhelmed by these questions. And you may not want to hear this, but sometimes you just gotta do it—set aside the time and make yourself sit down and do it. It may not be sexy or creative, but it is so very important.

Where do you begin? Start by asking yourself this question: what is it that makes you (or your company, or your theatre project) unique? On any given night in Vancouver, there is a myriad of choices, and you are not just competing with other theatre offerings. Films, restaurants, live music venues are all competing for your dollar. So why would someone want to come and see your show? It may be a unique staging, a script that hasn’t been produced here before, a rising star, or a hot topic. But you need something that makes you stand out. You will use this “uniqueness” as the basis of all your marketing.

Are you still stumped? No idea what makes you or your company unique? Then the place to start is with market research. This involves putting together a survey and getting it out to at least your family and friends and, ideally, complete strangers. My friend Bart Anderson, who teaches at VFS, has a survey he gives all of his acting students. It includes questions that help to pinpoint what people see you as (age, race, occupation, etc) and what they don’t. (If you want a copy of it, just email me)

If you are lucky enough to be doing a show in the near future include an online link to a survey (you can use sites like Survey Monkey for free) or a hard copy of your survey in the program. Offer to put their name into a draw for a prize if they answer your survey. You can find out tons of information this way, about what makes you unique, what your audience is like, and how to reach them. For more information on how to create surveys for theatre read this article on the Mission Paradox blog.

Until next time….

For a downloadable or streaming audio podcast of this article, click here.