Friday, October 2, 2009

5 Ways to Make a Fringe Fan a Fringe Fanatic

I’ve participated in enough Fringe Toddler events (fringes that are between one and three years old) to know that hanging up a shingle that reads “Open For Fringe,” doesn’t mean a whole lot in terms of audience turn out. Even when a city has an extremely established performing artists support infra-structure, it doesn’t mean much when it comes to the fringe. The demographics are just different.

Below I list 5 ways fringes can take responsibility and boost their contacts into cash, turning the audience members in their seats into long time fringe fans.

1) At first year fringes, audience members tend to see their friends shows exclusively. They aren’t yet educated enough to know that other shows are going on. When fringe performers hand these types of audience members their postcards, advertising their own show, it’s like handing someone a strange reptile with a virus.

REMEDY: It’s a fringes responsibility to educate the audience before each show with a little Fringe 101 talk. This should also be reprinted in a fringe program. See my entry "Fringe 101" on what to include and what not to include.

2) In all the cities that get high reviews from fringe performers there is a sense of community. People like to belong to something. In these cities, fringe goers aren’t just fans, they tend to be fringe fanatics. How can you turn a ticket buyer into a fringe fanatic?

REMEDY: Create a way for fringe goers to participate.

~ Get acquainted with Minnesota’s button system that makes fringe goers feel that there are a part of a unique and secret club. Wear the button, get discounts in the community, feel like a cool kid and when you pass other button wearers in the street it makes for a great conversation starter.

~ Get acquainted with the San Fran Fringe’s on-line audience review system. Updated constantly, audience members can read about how fringe go-ers felt about different shows. It makes audience members feel involved. These aren't ego stroking reviews, these are down and dirty hoest reviews meant to help fringers get the most bang for their buck.

3) About ten years ago the post office started doing what Mc Donalds had been doing for years. Selling the add-on. Their “Do you want fries with that?” became “Would you like stamps, delivery confirmation, etc, etc. etc.?” Add-ons can increase business by nearly 25% - even more if you’re working with a specific demographic.

REMEDY: Although it shouldn’t be this way, cross pollination at the fringe is done completely by accident. A performer will announce at the end of his/her show other shows going on in the fringe. It’s called a “Shout Out!” If event organizers were smarter they’d push shout outs more (when appropriate with the show itself). It’s a great advertisement for more ticket sales. It's a guarantee that ticket sales will rise in one fringe season.

4) The Boulder Fringe has a killer nightly event that features fringe performers, a host and a very entertaining show. Montreal has the same thing. Again this is giving the public access to participate in the artistic process, to rub shoulders with artists and it’s a good dose of fringe education.

REMEDY: At the very least a fringe should provide a free showcase for local performers a month before the event and another one for out of town performers right before the event. This can work wonders in spreading the fringe word to potential ticket buyers. Want to bump it up a notch? Then do the nightly thing.

5) The fringe itself is a golden product. A product with a lot of potential as far as bringing in revenue. The increase in fringes in the past three years shows that communities are hungry for the fringe. (To give you an example, The National Storytelling Conference now runs a fringe and they don’t even have a clue of what a fringe is) Yet, for most fringes, that product can be very incestuous. Usually run by artists rather than business people, most of these artists don’t realize that there are boundless opportunities for education and marketing that just don’t begin and end when the fringe begins and ends. As a result that golden product collects a lot of dust

REMEDY: Smart fringe organizers would do well to get emotional support and creative brainstorming ideas from their artist friends and leave the business to the experts. Go on Facbook and find some of your old pals that majored in business, bring ‘em onto your team. The Capital Fringe has done a great job at working outside the box, doing things like running artist business workshops throughout the year. Things like this ultimately help in spreading your fringe word and turn fringe fans into fringe fanatics.


Amy said...

"When fringe performers hand these types of audience members their postcards, advertising their own show, it’s like handing someone a strange reptile with a virus."

LMAO!!! This is SO TRUE! It can happen not only at a new Fringe, where the general public hasn't yet become acquainted with "Fringe energy", but also at Fringes that haven't worked to do their own publicity and self-defining in a WIDE radius around their site. Case in point, Calgary, two summers ago. The Calgary Fringe moved to a new neighborhood -- a 'hood that had had VERY mixed feelings about whether they wanted to be the site of a theatre festival -- and trying to flyer in that area was a good way to understand what leprosy feels like. People would look away to avoid eye contact. Mothers whispered to their children, "Don't talk to the lady, honey, she's homeless." I couldn't have gotten rid of my flyers if they were dipped in gold leaf.

Your article is great, Slash! Totally on target!!

debbydoll said...

The news about our festival had been out in the public for ONE year. It is/was the first time, so, we thought we would have to educate the general public about the fringe.

As we got closer we tried to do some promotion as some of the performers did their individual appearances in Libraries, clubs, bars, etc..

In June we had a meeting for performers to get information, PRESS & the public to learn more about Experience Long Island. We videoed it. It is on youtube, so that anyone who missed the LIVE meeting could still get the information.

We set up a separate website just for the festival & created an email box specifically to get correspondence. I think not being able to use the word, messed with the promotion.....

A month or so before the festival we put the post cards in EVERY library on Long Island. They were distributed to 60 libraries in Suffolk County & 58 in Nassau County.

We also did direct mail to 2500 individuals, had them out in display dispensers in the Tilles Center itself, gave packets of postcards to each performer to distribute to their own mailing lists & contacts.

We also received a good amount of PRESS in the way of articles before the festival. Also some Verizon Fios 1 spots.

In our geographic location, people are very used to festivals, events, fundraisers, they are not impressed, for they do NOT understand. Cutting through the norm to something different will be a long journey, I fear......

I don't think many actually grasped what we were trying to do.

Not sure about doing it again.....