Sunday 25 August 2013

A Bird In The Hand - Edinburgh Audit 2013 part 1

Top Three Socks Puppets - The List

Like it says, we're one of the Top Three Sock Puppets at the Fringe this year. Anything else you wanted to know?

A Bird In The Hand - Edinburgh audit 2013

Another Edinburgh Fringe season ends and we come away with all the things we always want - ticket sales, great reviews and happy memories. Though, it has to be said, slightly fewer of one, fewer of the other, and about the same of the third.

Money - this is where the Bird In The Hand analogy comes in. Because, if one were to look at my graph of ticket sales for the Socks show Socks In Space (their 6th brand new show) it would look like we were slipping. Sales are about the same as 2009, so beating our total for 07, 08 and 12 (Olympics fiasco year), but quite a bit below our top selling 2010 show. Are we losing it? Well, not really. (NB: The costs of performing at the Fringe 2013, for a number of shows, are covered in this good BBC article.)

Because, as I've always known, an Edinburgh show takes a lot of selling once the month has started, primarily through flyering, at which I am a renowned expert. And flyering. along with extra live appearances and online promotional stuff, is something I've done a lot less of because - a bird in the hand being worth more than two in the bush - I've been doing other work.

This month I have worked for 12 days in schools, libraries and a couple of shops, doing my Comic Art Masterclasses and my caricaturing. I spent a day each in the Dr Martens stores in Glasgow and Edinburgh drawing the faces of hundreds of kids and other customers as part of a Beano boots promotion, and my classes have taken me from Balerno high school to libraries in Granton, Muirhouse, Portobello, Currie, Colinton, Drumbrae, Kirkliston, Morningside, and Newington.  All of which are invoiced for and for which I'll get paid in the next month or so, but all of which meant I couldn't do nearly as much flyering & promotion as I've done in other years.

So the big question has to be, is the extra work worth the commensurate drop in sales? The answer is yes. Take for example the Dr Marten days, a Saturday and a Sunday. These took me out of commission for the entire daytime, leaving me just the evening to flyer in. Had I flyered in that time, could I have added as many bums on seats as to equal the amount I earned from the caricaturing? I think not. Remembering that, after deductions, I take home about half of the ticket sales from my Edinburgh shows, I would have needed to add 600 quids worth of sales, or 60 punters, to equal that day's work. (And given that I sold out completely on the day I was in Glasgow, that would be hard). By my reckoning (over the years) I've worked out that 300 flyers equals 30 bums on seats, so to equal a day at Dr Martens I'd need to distribute 600 flyers which would be hard to do in that time and not as much fun anyway.

(Quick calculation. 10 extra days flyering, which is what we couldn't do cos of classes, would have made 300 extra bums on seats for the month. This would have beaten 2009 by 200 bums, and be less than 50 bums short of our 2010 peak. Also, because of the Sitcom Trials, we played one fewer show than usual, a potential loss of another 100 punters. So we've done as well as and better than ever before. QED.)

Plus - bird in the hand again - I don't receive my Edinburgh money until at least October, sometime later, whereas I'll get my comics work money in the next month. So, and I realise how boring and mercenary this all is, I feel I've struck a good balance there. I've done a great show, it's been seen by bigger audiences than most shows in Edinburgh, and if we failed to convert as many new Socks-fans-in-waiting as we'd like, so be it. Did I mention this year's show's been a great one?

Reviews etc - Another reason sales have dipped below 2010's peak is that the Socks have had less press. In 2008 we were in the Gilded Baloon launch show and thence on the TV news clips including the Culture Show, in 2009 we were on GMTV, and in 2010 we were on the Culture Show in our own right as well as The One Show. We've had interviews in The Scotsman and elsewhere in previous years, last year getting a photo in the listings, and lots of good reviews early on in the season. This year we've ended up with a fantastic full page 4 star review in the Daily Record with two days of festival to go, along with two or three other 4 stars and a 5 star. Another good haul, but perhaps quieter than previously.

Add to this that we didn't take an ad in the programme, and we've made no new YouTube videos. So to have had half a dozen sellouts, be averaging houses 60% full the rest of the time, and achieve the figures above is nothing short of incredible.

Then of course there was The Sitcom Trials. And technical issues, and other shows we've seen. Of which, more anon. Come on, there are flyers still to distribute and seats to fill with bums - and the final weekend has only just begun. Edinburgh, this is your last chance! (For the next 11 months, leastways).

"Space age comedy to knock your socks off" ★★★★ 4 stars The Daily Record
 "Astronomical fun" ★★★★ 4 stars Broadway Baby
"A must see show yet again" ★★★★★ 5 stars York Mix
"Some of the finest-written and performed (comedy) on the Fringe" ★★★★ 4 stars Edinburgh Spotlight
"The unparalleled pinnacle of comedy puppetry" ★★★★★ 5 stars Venue (Bath preview)
"Brilliant night of entertainment" ★★★★ 4 stars The Fiction Stroker (Manchester preview)
"Will have you literally laughing your socks off' ★★★★ 4 stars The Public Reviews (Warwick Arts preview)
"Gloriously anarchic act" ★★★★ 4 stars Latest 7 (Brighton preview)
"My face hurt from smiling" ★★★★ 4 stars Broadway Baby (Brighton preview)

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