Credit crunch hits Fringe comics

Tougher times for 'riskier' shows

Fringe audiences are deserting lesser-known comics in favour of big names, one of the festival's biggest promoters has said.

Underbelly director Charlie Wood said cash-strapped punters were buying fewer tickets, hitting the smaller, 'riskier' shows hardest.

But he denied tickets prices were too high, saying the average price had risen three per cent since last year, below the rate of inflation.

He said: 'Our sales are actually pretty good this year, considering there is a credit crunch and we haven't had a proper box office at the Fringe.

'What we've definitely noticed though is that people seem to be less willing to take a risk on shows this year. What is perhaps happening is that people are only booking for three shows a day instead of five and are not going for the riskier shows that they would normally.

'People also seem to be waiting until the last minute to buy a lot of their tickets, and only buying for things that they think are going to sell out.'

However, Tommy Sheppard, director of The Stand comedy club, blamed high prices at the bigger venues for the fall in business.

'Prices have rocketed in recent years,' he said. 'Punters are now being routinely asked to part with more than a tenner to see someone they’ve never heard of stand up for 55 minutes.

'You can get away with this in times of plenty, but with people feeling the squeeze in their pockets fewer will want to take these risks. Venues should take urgent action to reduce costs – particularly the vast expenditure on hype and promotion.'

He said the average ticket price at his venue is £7.67, compared to £10.50 at the Pleasance.

The Fringe has also seen an explosion in the number of free comedy shows in the past two years.

Published: 14 Aug 2008

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