I did free ticketing at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 and it has pros and cons. The pros are large groups will be more likely to come as they know they’ll all get a seat. It also means before the show you have a good idea how much flyering you need to do. I half ticketed my solo show in a 60 seater room in 2011 and quite a few times the tickets went and most of the people that booked them came. I did worry about people not showing up if they tried to book a ticket and saw the show was sold out, but that never seems to be a problem as I was full most days.
It made me think that perhaps I should have made all of the seats ticketed. However policing it is where it becomes a problem. You need one person to keep the audience at bay while you reserve the seats. Here’s a typical scenario.
25 seats booked and 35 “free for alls”. You need to put reserves on the ticketed seats. Clear the room out from the previous show. This can be difficult when the show before not only overruns but they chat to their friends and spend ages putting their equipment away. I once had a go at the acts before me because they once took so long I pointed out that my show should have started and I had a queue going out of the building.
Then you need to ask for all the ticketed people to come through first. Getting them to sit in the reserved bits are a waste of time. They just won’t. You count how many are in, let in the correct amount to fill the remaining seats, keeping seats for the ticket holders that haven’t arrived yet. About two minutes before the show starts, you give away the remaining seats.
When Nik did Huggers he “sold out” every show on the bus before he got to Edinburgh. A regular argument he had was this.
Parent, “I’ve come to see the show”
Nik, “have you got a ticket?”
Nik, “Sorry it’s full.”
Parent, “How can it be full, it’s free.”
Nik, “Yes but we have a ticketing system and all the tickets have gone.”
Parent, “But it can’t be full, it’s free.”
Nik, “This show is very popular so we do tickets to make sure people get seats.”
Parent, “But it’s free, you should let me in.”
Etc etc etc…
Ticketing is great but when it’s successful it’s a pain in the backside. Bob Slayers pay for a ticket and then get anything left for free (but leave a donation) idea is the best. Because if someone has a ticket but doesn’t show up you keep the money. When someone books a free ticket but doesn’t show up it can be a massive headache.
When I did my solo show ticketed, it was more hassle than it was worthy, because you really don’t want to be dealing with admin just before you perform for a solid hour. Especially as I had no help. However perhaps I wouldn’t have had as many people in if I hadn’t ticketed. It was also the fourth year I’d done the fringe and always had people in the shows that had seen me before and nearly ALL of those booked tickets. And when people heard about the show word of mouth they were also the ones that booked the tickets. So most of the time I had a room full of people that knew roughly what they were going to see.
Mike Belgrave will be performing Mike Belgrave’s Krazy Komedy Show 4 Kidz at the Free Sisters 3.45pm 31st July – 16th Aug. It will not be ticketed.