Why are you fringing?
It's a good question that I don't think enough performers ask themselves.
If you're like me, you tend to like the bohemian lifestyle, hobnobbing with other solo performers, making money doing what you love, the freedom of traveling from city to city, having an audience for your shows, discussing theater with fringe fanatics. To me the fringe reminds me a lot of what the circus days of old once may have been like.
But underneath the emotional reasons of why I fringe is a practical business answer. I fringe because I'm looking to expand my platform as a writer and performer. For this reason, I choose specific cities to fringe, where I am looking to expand my market and broaden my demographic. I have a business plan for each of my three solo shows, and although they don't all reach out to the same group, they do have one thing in common, I'm looking to get a fan base for them in major sections of the world and perform them in as many venues as I can.
This year was my year to begin to reach out to the mid-west,the west coast, and the major centers on the east coast - DC and NYC. The fringe allows me to go into these major city centers inexpensively and establish a fan base. How else can I go into DC and run my show for 5 nights for a meager $400 fee? Usually, the venue rental alone is three times that per night.
The fringe is also a place where the best networking in the world takes place. In each city that I fringe, I usually end up making at least two or three contacts with other venues while I'm there so I can bring my show back later the same year and not be dependant on the fringe or the fringe audience to make it happen.
Sometimes I'll establish these contacts before I arrive and send comps to my contacts at the venues. Sometimes they come and sometimes not, but it's a great way for me to show up on their radar.