Sunday, 30 August 2015

A few Mixtape @ukmixtape observations from #edfringe


The month of Mixtape in Edinburgh has reached an end and all the various aspects are returning to normal. I decided not to write about the specifics of the show whilst it was running, but I'll probably add a few posts now its all done and dusted.
  • Was it a success? Undoubtedly.
  • Did it make a profit? No, but we didn't expect it to. 'Break even' would be an exaggeration, but it's not a deep loss.
  • Was it enjoyable as an experience? Absolutely
  • Did the audience like it? Most people thoroughly enjoyed it
  • Was it hard work? Oh yes
  • Would we do something like it again? Probably...
There's plenty of learning points though, and like my day job, most of them have to be learned via experience. In my day job we'd always tell anyone new about the, say, top three things that can go wrong, but also point out that at some point in the first year or so the newbie will experience them first hand.

It's one of those immutable laws, that certain things will happen and however much you try to dodge them, they'll catch you in the end. However, the 'once bitten' adage also applies, so after whatever it is has happened, there's a new layer of experience to draw upon.

So one aspect of Mixtape was the daily marketing and advertising. This needed to be a blend of traditional flyering, critics, meet the media, stage appearances, reviews and the modern techniques of social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and on-line advertising.

Whether traditional or newer methods, there's still a learning curve. Unlike in mainstream theatre venues, there's no chance that the show will have a regular or previously cultivated audience. It's a new gig every night and with a fresh group of new generally show-savvy audience, who have somehow picked this show from 3,300 others. Being a 10.20PM start show in a venue serving drinks until 5.00AM every morning, there's some *ahem* demographics to consider as well.

Mixtape also had a large venue. One of the larger Underbelly sites and we couldn't help notice that many other shows we visited were in much smaller locations (except for, say, Camille O'Sullivan - where we had numbered seats or that show about Jimmy Savile which was a West End transfer and had a large venue).

Frequently we noticed that other peoples' venues were 30 or 40 seaters, which Mixtape would have easily sold out almost every night. But with a bigger venue there's more vagaries to contend with. Mixtape did manage sell-out, but actually a 2/3 full venue was somewhat more comfortable.

There was also a great choice of shows even in the Underbelly Cowgate. Just in the 21.00-23.00 slot there were 16 shows to choose from, as can be seen on partial billboard behind some of the cast.

We used a fairly wide range of channels to get the audience. It included:
  • The preview show - This was run a week or more before the Fringe and sold out in its own right. This also generated some good preview press.
  • A small kick-starter style fundraiser. - A good idea although the rules of the particular site created a few problems and a different approach would be used if this was considered again.
  • The programmes for the show. - Kind of mandatory, we advertised in the main Edinburgh Fringe Programme (Page 141), the Sunday Times special one covering the Big Four venues and the Underbelly's own booklet.
  • The advert boards at the venue - Various sizes and sprinkled around. Of course, everyone else does this too, so there's still a challenge to be noticed.
  • The flyers - We produced them and handed them out around Edinburgh. These took some work to produce but seem to be well-received. Its debatable whether giving them to everyone we see really worked and most of the time the hand-out is more selective.
  • The wristbands and tote bags - These were used as part of the Press pack and as small handouts to potential audience in Edinburgh. They raised awareness and created a buzz with people tweeting them as selfies and similar.
  • The use of reviewers - This was both professional and personal. A tough call when there's 3,300 shows with many well-known people to view as well as many shows funded by theatres or other groups with better access to P.R. Realistically, there's plenty of shows with 'known' writers and produced by 'known' groups which get first dibs.
  • The use of twitter - Twitter was used to further promote the show. This has included cast and the production team producing a range of messages throughout the day to raise awareness. It relies on people using #edfringe and other similar hashtag lists as part of their Edinburgh experience, but suffers from the incredibly fast turnover of tweets meaning anything about the show is only 'on top' for a few seconds.
  • The used of Facebook and Instagram - Similar to above, except there's a greater requirement for people to seek out the show information in the first place.
  • Online advertising - We found some less expensive sites where we could insert some advert blocks on rotation.
  • Radio interviews - A few radio spots, both before the Fringe started and then a couple of top-up slots during the Fringe. There was some telly as well, but we don't think any of it got screened.
The Underbelly/Fringe Office provided useful realtime booking statistics.We found that many of the bookings for a show would arrive on the same day as the show itself. An article about The Pleasance made a similar observation for their whole venue.

We always had some bookings in advance, and with the benefit of hindsight we can see that the volume of bookings created a fairly steady rolling average as the days moved along. We could predict our 'average number per day' and throughout the run watched it progress upwards towards a respectable level.

There's plenty more to say, but I think this post already runs on long enough. Expect more ;-)

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