Why should comics pay to play Edinburgh?

Bob Slayer launches his alternative

This week, we launched the Alternative Fringe manifesto, taking a stand against the 'pay-to-play' that is rife at the festival.

We want to do what is right for the artist. Doing fair deals that are efficient. We want to see the Fringe change for the better.

Comedians shouldn't be worrying about how much debt they will be in come September, they should be worrying how to put on better shows and make more people laugh...

Alternative Fringe grew out of the independent ethos of the Free Festival and Free Fringe. As amazing as they both are, particularly as a catalyst for change and a place for developing acts or established acts to see a fair return for shows, they are not the full answer, and we are mixing free and paid shows.

We also really liked the now defunct Five Pound Fringe. It was addressing the issue of expensive tickets, but sadly it wasn't addressing the actual cause, which is that the pay-to play model is extremely flawed. The Five Pound Fringe system was, like Edinburgh's Big Four venues, based on the artist paying up front for the venue in which to perform, the difference being that they paid less. Of course this also meant they could earn less.

The Alternative Fringe doesn't charge artists to perform. There is no venue rent, guarantees or other hidden charges, but we take £1 from each ticket sold.

Another issue with the Five Pound Fringe was that the price was fixed. We have the possibility of a big name or two coming in to do a night at The Hive (although just me saying this has possibly put the kybosh on it) but if it does happen then we are free to do a £10, or £20 ticket price. Or we could charge £1 if we thought that was appropriate. We can charge what we think people want to pay, what the act wants to charge. And everyone involved will be treated fairly.

There is nothing inherently wrong with paid shows or even high ticket prices. What is wrong is when they have been artificially inflated due to an inefficient and bloated industry... In this current, unjust, situation, Fringe ticket prices are are high but the act still doesn't see the money. If any business guru looked at most Fringe comedians' finances, the first thing they would ask is: 'Why are you giving this mr underbelly £15,000 every year and making £1.99 back?'

I am not here to just bag out the pay-to-play venues. Other than the shit deals that they offer acts, the expensive drinks, expensive tickets and irrelevant sponsorship, I have nothing against them. Oh, and also that they haven't stood up to the Fringe Office censoring shows.

But still I go to see lots of shows in Underbelly, Assembly and the rest... Then again I do get in free, drink in the good cheap bars around town and have a great time doing shows in a venue that doesn't charge me for the privilege! This is what the Alternative Fringe is all about and I just want to share my Fringe experience with more people.

Published: 25 May 2012

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