4:05 The Bitterly Autobiographical Songbook by Luke Burrage

4:05 The Bitterly Autobiographical Songbook by Luke Burrage

Postby lukeburrage » 29 Sep 2014, 15:30

I performed a solo musical comedy show called the Bitterly Autobiographical Songbook at the Capital Bar and Club.

First the venue, then my show.

1. The venue.

I agree with what Struan, the venue captain, said about the venue in his report: http://freefringeforum.org/viewtopic.php?f=213&t=2528

I'd like to add that moving the furniture on Friday and Saturday evenings didn't always have a clear plan or goal. Twice we Fringe performers moved a lot of furniture to where it was the previous night only for me to be told (once all the other performers had left) that it wasn't right, and that more moving had to be done. Then it was down to me and the bar staff to move the rest of it.

This could have been avoided if one of the bar staff had given better direction on where to move which piece of furniture. We sorted this for the last few furniture moving sessions... next year it should be worked out at the start.

Also, I'd like to add to Struan's comments about some of the Free Fringe performers not helping out with things like this in the venue. I was lucky that my apartment was very central, as I could be at the venue in just 5 minutes. I usually got to the venue before any of the shows began, and made sure the sound system was set up correctly, the venue was tidy, and other jobs as needed. I didn't mind this. But I was also unlucky that when a big job needed doing, I was often the only Free Fringe performer there aside from Struan (and the only one when he was ill on the second weekend), and we/I often moved a lot of furniture alone, and with only one or two others arriving late to help.

One Free Fringe performer, Matt, multiple times would turn up early, find the venue closed, then leave for a coffee. Then he'd come back when all the work was finish, and say "But it was closed when I got here!" While the rest of us who turned up when it was closed would simply wait until it was open and get to work.

I think better communication among some of the group shows would have helped this. For example, the organizing emails going to every single performer, not just the group leader. It took a long time for the message to spread to everyone that volunteering to sort out the venue wasn't optional.

Aside from that issue, I had no problems with the venue. It's a decent space in a good location. I think I benefitted from doing a musical comedy show, as the sound system and setup worked well for me. For standup comedy, the seating space is a bit long and thin. We had to try lots of different seating arrangements and audience herding tactics to make sure it filled up from the front. I guess this happens in most venues, but seemed more pronounced in the Capital Bar.

Also maybe a way to direct people to the downstairs toilets rather than those with the door beside the stage... it led to many people walking through the stage to get to the toilets during the shows. Not that there is actually a stage!

A black backdrop would have been handy. Finally, I think the venue would be improved immeasurably with a single spotlight. There isn't a lot of control over the LED lighting embedded in the ceiling. For a musical show like mine it wasn't much of an issue, but for standup a slightly darker audience and front lighting is better than green lights blasting forwards over the head of the performer.

2. My show.

My show was a success in terms of audience numbers and financially, which was a relief, as this was my first ever Fringe. Many times my show was full, standing room only. This is good, to a point, but due to the raised dance floor surrounded by railings, the sight lines can be very restricted. It's good to be full, but on three weekends (not the first) people didn't stick around at the back, behind the tall stools and tables, and I'd like to think that was because they couldn't see, not that I was doing a bad job.

This is with no promotion beyond flyering and word of mouth. If I return to the Free Fringe next year or the year after, and I did more promotion (posters, being listed on any website or in any printed guide, asking for reviews, etc) I think I'd need/like a slightly bigger venue, maybe one with other musical comedy shows, like the Beat (Movement) or Cabaret Voltaire.

I wrote an email to a friend who is thinking about doing a Fringe Show next year, so thought I'd post all that information here. It's probably more than most people share, but I'm a spreadsheet junky who keeps track of everything:


This was an experiment for me, as I'm not looking to book more gigs, build a fan base, get an agent, get reviews, win awards or anything. Maybe in two years time I'll do it again and aim for that kind of stuff. Another main reason to be here was to see as much other musical comedy as I could, to see what the state of the art is there.

So I did no promotion except handing out flyers for a few hours each day, and appearing in other shows. When asking people in the show it seems like 75% of them came due to flyering, and the rest coming from personal recommendations or seeing me in another show. Like I said, I didn't seek reviews or have my show listed anywhere except the free fringe guide and website.

I didn't pay the 300 quid fee to be in the official program due to being booked into my venue after the print deadline for the program. It seemed steep to not even take advantage of the box office function (not needed for a free show) and, now that I did so well without, I don't think I'd bother in the future if I do a free show like I did this year.

The numbers break down like this:

22 shows
Average total attendance per show: 36
Average people who stayed to the end of the show: 33
Lowest attendance: 10 (mid first-week)
Highest Attendance: 120ish (hard to count in a packed room)
Average hat: £58.41
Average time spent flyering per day: 2.08 hours
Total money in hat: £1285 plus some euros.

To encourage higher tips, anyone who put at least £5 in the hat was offered a CD. Not everyone took one, but in total I "sold" 124.
Average of 5.5 CDs per show.
Highest was 17 in one show, on the day I had 120 in.

Flight to Edinburgh: 74
Train out: 36
Taxis: 10
Rent: 600 (I heard of rents much higher than this, but a few people got similar or lower for bedrooms further from the city centre. I stayed at a friend's place right in the heart of the city and got a good deal)
Flyer design 60
10,000 flyers (all I would have needed): 136
5,000 extra flyers (that I ordered by mistake): 70
Postage of more CDs from Berlin: 13
Free Fringe voluntary contribution (£3 per scheduled show for 23 scheduled shows): 69
Paying some people to flyer for me on the busy days (at 10 per hour per person): 70
Video shoot of my show: 40
Plectrums and guitar strings: about 20

Total costs: roughly £1200


On the Free Fringe facebook page I offered to take pictures of other Free Fringe shows. Turns out the Fringe takes a lot more work and effort than I had spare get round to the photography project.

I think that's everything. If anyone wants more info, email me luke@juggler.net

Thanks again to all the Free Fringe volunteers and organizers. See you again next year or the year after!
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Joined: September 2014

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