I wrote a piece on this theme for my food blog after my first Fringe visit 3 years ago. As it’s coming up to Fringe time of year (Happy 70th!) I think most of these lessons apply to any small business. Yes, you can learn from the performing arts sector even if you’re in something completely different
My lessons came from overhearing an actor on the phone, talking about his show. He wasn’t being very positive, maybe had been hoping for an overnight success.
Well, haven’t we all?
Here’s what I culled from his call, that I think can apply to any business.
Word of mouth hasn’t taken off
I think it’s fair to say that it’s hard to make things go viral. Unless you’re a Kardashian. Or have your kids barge in on you on a serious live TV interview.
It takes work, showing up where your target customers are, with things they want to hear. It’s why I think why is the most important question to ask before you post anything. That way you’ll be posting stuff that fits your target.
You have a target, right?
85% of tickets have sold
Now, compared to some shows I went to, that would have seemed like a pretty good result. But maybe his target was 90%.
In the end, your target should be stretching but realistic. Maybe he was hoping for a sell out, that instant overnight success. I’m not sure how many of those happen at Edinburgh. I think most people are more of the 5 years in the making overnight success type. The sell out driven by hard graft in advance.
In other words, they did the graft to make their own luck.
It’s really tiring
Hmm, I’m not sure you can expect to go to the Fringe and it not be. Yes, your show may only be 45 minutes long, but there’s the pitching to people to get your story out there, meeting people, setting your show up, clearing up. And it’s a 45 minute show every day, for nearly 4 weeks. Maybe with a couple of days off.
You’re not there on holiday.
When you’re Tim Vine, then you can enjoy a more relaxed life. Till then, you sweat it.
An agent is coming tomorrow
That’s the one you know about. Maybe there’s an agent in today, and so you better bring your A game today, not just tomorrow. Not just when you think there’s someone looking.
Because today’s might have really held the key, even it it wasn’t obvious at first. Maybe it’s not a buyer from a big chain that you need. Perhaps you’d be better off with a great independent that has exactly the right kind of customers for your brand.
If you’re not ready to grab opportunity at every opportunity, then you may just be sat there a long time waiting for that big break.
It’s all down to the work we put in
This was probably the most encouraging thing I heard the actor say. Nothing gets you ahead like hard work, particularly smart, focused, hard work. They do say the harder you work, the luckier you get. I really believe that’s true.
I have a great show
Sadly, he didn’t say that, not on the phone. He did when he pitched the show to us on the Royal Mile. It was a pitch, it didn’t stand up to billing for us. I don’t think the actor is a household name today. To be fair, I don’t even remember his name, or the name of the show.
By contrast, I’d seek out shows from Circa and Rhythmic Circus any time at all, from just one experience. Again, it’s a lesson for all of us to learn. That that first experience can be make or break, to get a customer who does your word of mouth for you. And maybe that’s why the word of mouth hadn’t taken off.
The show wasn’t really that good.
Maybe he’s back this year. He thought about what he could learn from the experience. He could have had a long hard look at this show, worked at it, refined it. Perhaps he’s taken on board feedback, positive and negative, and built something better.
Or maybe he’s just sat back at his day job, telling everyone about unfair life is, that no one recognised his talent. I suppose at least he had a go, put himself out there. Maybe he could have done all the things I’ve outlined and still be back at that day job.
But the last lesson is the one to get sorted first: make it good.
How did you make what you do really good? What lesson did you learn that made you think differently about what you were doing?