Top tips for costing and budgeting for your show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
How much does it cost to bring a show to the Edinburgh Fringe? It’s the hopefully not-a-million-dollar-question asked by every ambitious creative wishing to bring a show to the festival. Unfortunately, it’s also very much a ‘how-long-is-a-piece-of-string’ kind of question, and the answer is likely to depend on several factors like production size, venue, and where you’re travelling from.
Whatever your Fringe show plans, it’s important to budget within your means. The Edinburgh Fringe Society, who organises the festival, notes that they would like to “encourage anyone who’s interested in bringing a show and worried about the financial side to speak to [us] so we can help guide them through that… We have resources on the website like a budget calculator, that can help put some of this together.”
We spoke to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society’s Matt Lord and Alan Gordon, and Jonny Patton of the Pleasance Theatre Trust about their top tips for budgeting and costing for your show, and the hidden and unexpected costs you should be looking out for.
How much does it cost to put on a show at the Edinburgh Fringe?
The cost of bringing a show to the Edinburgh Fringe will vary from show to show and from creative to creative, however, here’s a list of typical expenses you should expect to budget for:
Your Fringe registration fees will vary depending on whether you’re doing a limited or full run and if you’re registering an online or in-person show. You’ll also want to consider ticket commission, and if you want to take advantage of EdFringe’s web advertising service.
Edinburgh Fringe Society has some venues that are essentially free for performers putting on shows within them, and there are also some venues that can cost a great deal more. It all depends on the infrastructure they’re providing.
It’s also important to check what services the venue will provide, as this will differ from venue to venue. For example, is there a box office at the venue? If not, you’ll have to factor in the extra cost of hiring someone to do that for you.
This should be one of the primary things you think about as it’s well known to be a very expensive factor of bringing a show to the Fringe. If you’re participating in the Fringe, check out EdFringe’s Edinburgh Festival accommodation listings.
Flyering is a great way to promote a show at the festival, but have you thought about how many hours a day you’ll spend doing it? If you’re busy, and flyering will end up being something else you struggle to juggle, you might want to think about hiring someone to do the flyering for you – and factor in those costs.
If you’re coming to the festival with the intention of raising your social media profile, or if you’re already quite prominent on social media and want your fans to know you’re performing, you’re likely to spend more on your marketing budget than someone who isn’t.
It all depends on your intentions for your show, so it’s important to have a think about what your goals are as this will affect what marketing plans you put in place and ultimately, how much they will cost.
You’ll need a budget for getting to and from Edinburgh, in addition to travelling around the city once you’re there. People coming from overseas should consider extra costs such as transporting their props, as well as themselves.
Most venues will request that a company has public liability insurance in place to cover them for anything that falls outside the venue’s insurance. This will also generally cover the company’s time in Edinburgh when they venture outside the venue.
Production costs and music licensing
Things can get a bit complicated when it comes to licensing, but fortunately, the Edinburgh Fringe Society are here to help:
“One of the bits of support we give to companies and venues is that we have an arrangement with PRS, where we administrate the music licensing for the festival on their behalf,” says Matt Lord. “That’s a blanket licensing arrangement, which is really beneficial because it means shows don’t need to get direct permission from any copyright holder to use a bit of music. We also handle the payment of that and the collection of all the information they need to give us.”
Read more about music licensing at the Fringe
With all your focus being on getting your show to the Fringe, it’s easy to forget about your living costs when you’re finally there. You’ll have to actually live in Edinburgh for the duration of the Fringe preparations – and everything’s slightly more expensive during the Fringe – so you’ll need to budget for this. You may want to take a look at our Edinburgh Fringe survival guide to get an idea of what to expect.
There are also likely to be hidden and surprise costs, which is why having a contingency within your budget is something you don’t want to forget. Try to factor in up to a 10% contingency to allow you to have cash to spare for any unexpected fees.
Make sure to put aside some budget for tickets to see other shows, too. “That doesn’t feel super necessary when you’re creating a tight budget,” admits Alan Gordon. “But actually, it’s a really important stage of being able to network, and see what else is out there, and be inspired by the rest of the Fringe landscape. You don’t want to get too caught up in the bubble of your own show that you don’t experience the magic out there.”
How to budget for Edinburgh Fringe
It’s safe to say that a lot of people who take a show to the Fringe for the first time are creatives who have mostly focused on the show and making it. They are not likely to have done the business side of putting on a show before.
If you don’t know how much to realistically estimate when budgeting, take a look at a case study of one that is similar to your own show. The Edinburgh Fringe Society has several case studies that help give you a rough idea of the costs a variety of different shows can accrue. In essence, someone doing a free Fringe is going to have a very different budget to a show put on in a venue for 100 people.
What is the free Fringe?
When it comes to venues, some rent out the space and offer a straight fee for you to pay, others do box office splits. Another financial model that has been growing in popularity over the last few years – and might be ideal if you have a smaller budget – is the free Fringe.
The free organisations collaborate with pubs, bars, clubs, cafes, and various businesses around Edinburgh, and organise performances into spaces within those businesses. They get the use of these spaces for free, which is beneficial to both you and the business, as the show saves money by not having to hire a venue, and the business gets an increase in footfall. For example, a bar has an audience to sell drinks to. At the end of the show, you can pass around a hat or have a QR code so the audience can donate to your show.
A big thank you to Matt, Alan and Jonny from all of us at Spotlight for sharing their advice on costing and budgeting for the Fringe!
Now you have an idea of costs you’ll need to cover, here’s our top tips on how to raise funds for your Edinburgh Fringe show!
Take a look at our website for more tips and advice relating to the Edinburgh Fringe
Photo by David Montieth-Hodge