How My Troupe Made the Money It Did at Capital Fringe


That's how much revenue my sketch-comedy group, Orbit Chef, needed to scrape from the Washington-area masses to break even with Apocalypse Picnic at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. That number used to be $2,500, but that was before an opening week panic attack drove us to splurge on an ad in Express. Bye-bye, $117. Then our prop wagon was hit with a $100 parking ticket as we loaded into our performance venue. And then further panics led us to buy another ad ($99) after the first one may or may not have goosed our opening night house to near-full capacity. We'd do a marketing study to find out for sure, but the fact is, we simply can't afford it.

Although those extras add up to only $316 in additional expenses, you'll notice that our revenue target grew by more than $500. That's because our cut of the gate amounts to just 60 percent of sales. Fringe gets the rest. And before I consider whether or not this is a good deal, let me throw out an obvious point: For each full-priced, $17 ticket, the artist receives slightly more than 10 bucks in revenue. So when we pulled a budget number from the part of our brains that wanted to sound both cost-conscious and serious—$1,500, to include the $825 bundle of application, participation, and insurance fees required to be in the festival—we figured that we'd need to sell 150 tickets to break even. That meant we'd have to fill slightly less than half of the chairs in our 70-seat venue for each of our five shows.

But this back-of-the-napkin shorthand omitted a basic consideration: a great chunk of any show's sales will come from discounted tickets. Fringe has a bunch of bulk-ticketing options, from the “Foh-ty Pack” four-pack to the dreaded, no-revenue VIP Pass, all of which depress the price of a production's average ticket sale. Throw in producers' comps—which can account for up to 10 percent of all tickets—and press seats and your average ticket can drop to as little as 10 bucks a pop. And with four singletons headed to Fringe, that leaves a mere six bucks going back to the production.

After seeing the trends on opening night—and with our average price close to that $10 Mendoza line—our sales target by necessity jumped from 150 tickets to 250 in order to reach our $2,500 revenue goal. Now we had to play to 70 percent-capacity houses if we expected to break even, and we couldn't expect our friends to push us into the black. We had to earn a gentleman's C, not the F that we thought would get us by. Gulp.

There is, thankfully, a savior in all of this. She is The Walk Up. The customer who, like so many in our last-minute society, thinks nothing of paying full price for something that's supposed to be good. If the bulk-ticket buyer is a true Fringe theater fan—one who finds value in both volume pricing and the joy of discovery—The Walk Up is his antithesis. She's not entirely committed to the enterprise. Maybe she's still scarred by a Fringey clunker from yesteryear or down on the dodgy A/C that is a Fringe-venue hallmark. But whatever the reason, she's interested only in sure things and, for that, she will buy a $17 ticket, a button, and whatever else it takes to say that she was there. She's the type of person you can't help wanting to take home to Mom.

Apocalypse Picnic opened on July 19th to an audience of 65, five short of capacity, including 22 walk ups and 11 other full-price patrons. Total revenue was $803 and we started thinking crazy thoughts: Maybe, if this kept up, we could pay our actors! Date two—a 12:30 p.m. Saturday slot spit from the Fringe Random Schedule Generator—revealed the fallacy of extrapolation, as we brought in only half as much cash as opening night. Apparently, the fumes from positive mentions in the Huffington Post and ScoutMob entertainment blogs, and the enticing power of our buoyant preview in DC Metro Theater Arts, had already begun to wear off. Word of mouth, up and down reviews, and the strange, unpredictable influence of social media, perhaps, were starting to hold sway.

But the next day, after many hours talking up the show at Fort Fringe (very unobtrusively, I must add), we made a comeback. That night, we played to a 59-person house, followed by houses of 61 and 70 over our last two performances. All told, 289 people saw our show and half ponied up for full-price seats, driving our final average ticket price to almost $13. Our total revenue came in at $3,702 ($2,598 from full-price and artists’ tickets plus $1,104 in “accounted revenue” from discount passes), which after the Fringe bounty means $2,221.20 will accrue to the Orbit Chef account. After expenses of $1,809—which includes $668 spent on costumes, props, and rehearsal space in addition to those lunatic Express ads and the parking ticket—I expect that we’ll clear around $400.

(After a brief and depressing number-crunching interlude, I see that our profit breaks down to about 50 cents per person hour contributed by our 12-member cast and crew. Workers in remote Chinese factories make more, but then again, I suppose the utility of cheap consumer goods is beyond reproach. Sketch comedy is an altogether different proposition.)

Still, as Fringe goes anyway, that is the sweet smell of success. But is it worth it? From a purely financial perspective, an established artist with dedicated fans might do better going out on her own. That way, she can get a venue of her choosing, set her own ticket price point (and push discounts and promotions as necessary), and avoid the scattershot showtimes (see ya Wednesday at 5:45!) that can transform the festival into an obstacle course cluttered with hoops set ablaze. And this says nothing about the teeny load-in and tech rehearsal windows allotted to participants or the always suspect air conditioning that can add unintended drama to any Fringe performance.

These inconveniences—on top of the strict Festival rules and its unceasing button fascism, which can inflate the price of a theater entry to $24—can drive a producer mad. Yet somehow, almost inevitably after a fortnight-plus, they become endearing. Because Fringe, at its unjuried core, isn't really about making a buck (though bucks may be made) or boosting the bottom-line of this or that company. More than anything, it's about the debutantes: the new artist hoping to get noticed, the experienced hand trying out new things, and the strange swirl of elements, concepts, and themes that can only unite on a Fringe stage.

Fringe does something just short of miraculous: It welcomes shows into the festival on the strength of a 20-word description, if even that. “Post-apocalyptic sketch comedy blah blah blah blah blah.” If only the rest of life worked this way. Fringe takes its 40 percent, sure, but it does so in defense of the unexplored artist in all of us. It trumpets the right of everyone to have an audience and a chance to illuminate the pains and pleasures that lie locked in the human heart. All of that, and you don't have to deal with annoying theater negotiations and ticketing and such. Art, or something quite like it, is paramount. For me, that's compensation enough.

The article originally miscalculated a couple of numbers. Math's been fixed, promise!

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  • Ron The Don

    Mr Brack, you need to have your payment issues discussed with the organizers themselves. I understand artists want to be compensated for their work. I also understand that people don't like delays in payments. However, I also know artist can't assume anything before signing the dotted line on anything. This is one of those issues that need to resolved with the powers that be.

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  • Joe Brack

    This is bullshit. Half the folk commenting here didn't participate, HELL they didn't even SEE a show this Fring. My point is this; I poured my heart and self into a show that sold out 62% of it's shows. Where's my 70% of those ticket sales?

  • David Kessler

    Ah, Gee, cut it out with the kudos for me. I do want to respond to an early post about bulk buyers dissuading folks from seeing shows. I try to share my enthusiasm for shows and generally keep my mouth shut about performances I'm not wild about. My function is to be a booster and to get more butts into seats. I have nothing but the greatest admiration and respect for all involved in Fringe: volunteers, artists, producers, and especially Julianne who has got to be the hardest working person in this burg.

  • Karin

    I agree with Doug: three cheers for David Kessler!

  • Michael Dove

    Transparency IS available. Look up Fringe on

    As a non-profit, this is all publicly-available knowledge. Their finances with breakdowns since 2008 are on this site and accessible to all. They aren't hiding anything (as, legally, they cannot).

    Of course one is allowed to raise complaint with any level of involvement, but it's important to inform yourself going in.

    For the record, I have not done this work and have not produced a show in Fringe since 2008 (and even it was a "find your own venue" production. But there is transparency and any public claims can be checked against these government documents.

  • John

    @Kevin I'm actually neither agreeing nor disagreeing with anyone's particular view on the matter of how the financial pie is divvied up. My initial comment was merely that those who responded with "if you don't like it, then leave" were offering a shortsighted and problematic response.

    @Karen I'm not certain why my level of involvement in the Capital Fringe Festival is relevant to the discussion, but suffice it to say, that for a variety of reasons I care a great deal about the arts community in the DC area.

  • Karen

    @Doug That's not what I meant. It is, legitimately, interesting to me how passionate people who don't produce in Fringe feel about this, in the larger theater community.

    I don't remember dishonesty about the pay - perhaps I missed a part of the story.

    And of course we can all weigh in. I did. We can agree to disagree. I maintain that it's one thing to complain. It's another to decide to find solutions that we, as artists, can be satisfied with. Fringe isn't going to be that for everyone - I totally get that.

  • Doug Wilder

    And why are we attacking David Kessler? Thank you for supporting the performing arts David!

  • Doug Wilder

    I will back John and everything he said, I would say. Do we not get to be a part of a discussion and have valid ideas because we haven't shared your experience at Pinky Swear?

    I have produced in the Fringe, I have performed in the fringe, the system is flawed, it needs change.

    You are welcome to make as much money off my back as you want when I say that you can, but you don't get to turn around and be dishonest to the community about what I got paid.

  • Karen

    @John Interesting that you feel so passionately about it when you haven't been in the position of the money split or production experience.

  • Kevin

    @John Not sure why this is so difficult, or why you're insisting that we're not agreeing. We do: all I'm saying is that voicing a complaint isn't the same as having a constructive discussion about the perceived problems. The former is a waste of time, the latter leads to change.

    I think the big problem is that, as the Festival evolves, more and more producers think that means that they should get more back. But what hasn't changed for Fringe is its mission:

    "Capital Fringe Festival is the only major unjuried, self-producing, open-access Festival in the Washington, DC area and occurs in July each year. The Fringe Festival provides all artists, whether new or established, a venue to express and develop their talents and artistic visions in total freedom."

    The Fringe, as it currently operates, doesn't exist to provide a profit to each production. It primarily exists to give an opportunity for smaller theatres, experimental productions, new scripts and individuals without a bankroll the opportunity to perform. Can the focus of Fringe change? Sure. But I'm not convinced it should.

  • John

    @Karen, I have not produced at the festival, no. I have attended it on several occasions, though, yes.

  • Karen

    @john curious - do you produce in/patronize the festival?

  • John

    @Karen, I would have to respectfully disagree. Clearly the size, scope, and importance of government outweighs the same for an arts festival. However, I believe that the basic premise is the same. Theoretically, the individual runs our government. We (the corporations) vote (pay for) our representatives in all levels of government. It is supposed to be a participatory process where the individual's voice is heard.

    Similarly, the Capital Fringe Festival is a participatory event. Without individuals attending, producing, and administrating, there would be no festival at all. It is my belief that if a person has invested resources in that event, it is their right to speak out on how it functions.

    Lastly, and more directly to the point, the Capital Fringe Festival is a 501c3 nonprofit org. It technically belongs to the public at large. So the public at large should have a voice in its function.

  • Kevin

    @John Why try to make this political? It's very simple: if you're not happy with how the VOLUNTEER Fringe Festival works, then you have three options:

    1) Suck it up and enter anyway.
    2) Don't enter, but try and produce on your own.
    3) Start your own festival.

    This year, theatre companies have done all three of the above.

    Like Karen, I'm as liberal as they come, but come on. This is a non-profit volunteer festival, not foreign policy. As mentioned above, I'm all for a conversation about Fringe. But a conversation isn't "we're getting ripped off!" That's just a complaint.

  • Ann Norton

    Fascinating, totally fascinating. Pop quiz - What is general liability insurance and when/why do you need it? What is Workman's Comp? If you don't know, then don't even think about producing.

  • Karen

    @John I'm as bleeding heart lefty as they come. Not participating in a voluntary event that you decide to do - with all the information up front - is not the same as being unhappy with your government.

  • Michael Glenn

    Yeah, I know Doug. News to me too. Guess I read as 40s from the house. Great...

  • Michael Glenn

    If you'll read a little more closely, you'll see that I'm not actually attacking her income. I think she's absolutely within her rights to receive whatever salary she can draw. What I'm attacking is the brothers-in-arms, "We're all in this together" mentality. It's BS. Ms. Brienza's, and Fringe's, goals are vastly different from the individual artist's.

    If you'll also notice, I never said *I* make $60K, I said my wife and I do. She's the steady money. She's got a high stress building maintenance job with more responsibilities than she should, and she doesn't make close to $60 by herself. I play pretend for just above minimum wage, and I'm union.

    Yes, we have debt, of all different kinds. Yes, we've had significant advantages that've kept us above water. I don't think anyone can sustain a career in the arts without advantages and help.

    My point was, there is real poverty and starvation, but I'm not it, and neither is she. There are Fringe artists *not* paying their student loans. There are Fringe artists barely making rent. And there are Fringe artists who've skipped meals. I do not doubt that Ms. Brienza works very very hard, but her plight is not the same, and she should stop telling people it is, especially when coupled with that figure. Telling people how hard you have it while simultaneously telling them how much you make almost never works unless the number is staggeringly low. $60K is a nice paycheck!

  • Karen

    Oh, one more thing - $60k is not net. Taxes, as we all know, decrease take home pay.

  • John

    I have to agree with a previous comment about the idea that the "if you don't like it, don't participate" platform is faulty to a tee. It sounds strikingly like the right wing political commentary during the Bush Administration when anyone would criticize the President or the government. "If you don't like it then leave," seemed to ring from sea to shining sea. I would say that if there is a fundamental problem with the structure of a system, it is the right of those involved in any capacity (including audiences, artists, producers, administrators, etc.) to voice their opinion and, ideally, offer constructive criticism.

  • Kevin

    @Joe I don't understand that comment. I said "artists should be paid for their work." So why are you asking me "what's wrong with wanting to be paid for your work?"

    @Solomon If there's catty rhetoric going on, I don't see it. We're all just having a discussion. No one's pointing fingers or shaking fists at each other. Regardless, this wasn't (I didn't think, at least) a discussion about whether artists in general should be paid, but whether or not Fringe shows should turn a profit. As I said to Joe, actors should be paid. So should stage managers, run crew, designers, house managers, etc. But it isn't Fringe's responsibility to pay those people. It's the productions. And if your Fringe show features 8 actors, a band and a roughly 3,000 stickers that you give away at the tent, may or may not make money.

    I think it's absolutely fair to criticize the Fringe festival's policies. Where does that additional 30-40% go? Why do productions that are in nicer venues have to pay as much as productions in non-air conditioned, crappier venues? Why are FYOV's allowed to run their own box offices? But having that discussion is substantially different than screaming into the ether "We're getting ripped off!"

  • Karen

    My experience/opinion:
    My company has produced 4 Fringe shows, 2 full length productions, and several single shot cabaret events. We've always been paid, promptly, the percentage we were promised. I do the math - gross ticket sales & the net of what we should be paid (estimating for bulk tickets) and I have never been dissatisfied with what came back. I'm not expecting to make money to cover my next production. I'm looking to break even, and we have twice.

    Part of it is managing the budget - and your expectations - with a good estimate of what you'll be getting.

    I also pay all of my (non-company member) performers before the run is out, frequently on opening night. I don't produce shows that don't pay actors and other artists, full stop. The only exception is company members who are co-producing.

    I'm not sure why anyone would expect to receive a check within 2 days of the close of the festival. Most businesses have a 30 day net policy, some even 60 days. This is totally normal because it takes time to do the accounting.

    For me, the experience of participating in Fringe, which has a really low cost to enter, compared with renting your own space (which usually takes up 75-80% of my production budget) has been invaluable in building my company and figuring out our voice. So many small companies got the guts to scrape up $800 and make their desire to create art a reality. In my opinion, Fringe has been a really, really good thing for DC theater. The marketing, foot traffic, and sense of celebration all sell the event with a whole lot less work than I do when PS produces a non-Fringe show.

    As to salary, don't we all want to be paid for the work we put in? I made a comparable salary to JB's for a long time. Between student loans, credit cards, rent, and all the other expenses in life, I wasn't able to put aside any savings - and I've always been in a double income household. I think it is unfair to judge until you walk a mile in someone else's shoes. We all want to make a living through our art, so why do some of us condemn those who do? That's something I don't understand.

    I get tired of hearing all the complaints. If you don't like it, don't participate. If you think you can do better, either come to the existing organization with ideas or start your own festival, like the Over the Line. There's room here for all of us. I choose to focus on the positive.

  • Doug Wilder

    Michael, you're 40something?

  • Maria

    Mr. Glenn -

    Do you have student loan debt, when did you buy your house, pre or post real estate bust, did you buy it on your own or use family money for the down payment? When did you move to DC and did you have the advantage of settling here when cost of living was lower?

    60K for someone with debt and no existing assets is very different than 60K for a 40something established actor who was able to get a theatre degree before it cost 200K a year and buy a modest house before it cost half a million dollars.

    Your family makes the same as Julianne but has the benefit of existing assets, a tax break from owning your home and at your income bracket being married, and a union protecting your interests and providing affordable retirement and health insurance premiums (google tells me you are Equity).

    I wouldn't claim that Julianne is living in the penthouse because she makes the same amount as you do without any of the existing advantages I just listed and if you are going to personally attack her income by comparing it to your own you should be intellectually honest about the systemic advantages you benefited from to get where you are.

  • D

    Write a really condescending comment, then say "everyone is being condescending".


  • Michael Glenn

    As someone who has only existed on the patron side of Fringe, I take umbrage with only one statement in this thread, and am otherwise content to let you all debate.

    Someone making $60K/year is not, or rather should not, be living "paycheck to paycheck". My wife and I *combined* make around that, work in the arts, own a modest home, have a child, and money in savings. We're boring people, and we work like dogs. Though the savings is smaller than I'd like right now, we do not live "paycheck to paycheck".

    I know people who have though. I used to be one, back when I was making a whole digit less than five figures. I know some people now who are. Many of them are doing Fringe.

    I don't know Ms. Brienza. I think it is admirable and enviable that she makes the amount she claims. I have no reason to believe that she does not work fervently to earn it, DC Fringe seems hella successful! Get what you can, be proud of your earnings! If people will pay it, you can charge it. It's the American Way!

    But don't claim to be in the trench from a penthouse view.

  • Solomon

    Wow... we are totally being catty for no real reason.
    I think if you read all of the comments... most of us are saying the same thing (of course, while veiled in mild insults and condescension).

    It's a great thing that this has garnered such spirited conversation (albeit, between the same very few people). It's a great thing to consider the business implications of Fringe. It's a great thing want to get as much for your actors as possible.

    I think if everyone was slightly less defensive (Fringe included) we might actually have a conversation. But -- this is DC, we don't listen to the other side so well.

    And as far as volunteering. It is PRIVILEGE to volunteer for the great artists I'm able to work with. The luxury of being a well paid and gainfully employed stage manager who has earned his stripes IS being able to volunteer. I make my donation in TIME. When you can easily make over $1000 a week, it is nice to give that up to provide a service to people who could not afford it. That's what fucking fringe is about! Providing opportunities that might have not existed to those that might not have had the access to it.

    I applaud Fringe and encourage them to improve a little bit every day and every summer it DOES get better.

    -end of line-

  • Doug Wilder

    I seriously doubt that anyone who makes a living in this business, Joe and I included, believes that theater is about the money, so let's throw out that utterly pedantic argument and focus on the issue that is real.

    A 100/0 split is what most Fringe festivals are founded on. I'm not saying that the cap fringe should be founded on the same principals, I'm not saying that the money Julianne makes is not well deserved. But I don't want to give up between 50 and 60% of the income (don't forget that WE have to pay $2 for every credit card used and we don't have a say in the online ticketing system) I've earned for a show that I produced, created, cast, rehearsed, directed, stage managed, costumed, designed, and created the marketing materials for, just so I can do it in a festival that provides me no decision in where I'll perform, how many seats it will have, what times that will happen, how long I'll get to tech, what kind of lighting I can use, whether I can seat people five minutes late, and who my front of house will be, and then hand them $800 for the privilege. That's not fair.

    I don't think it's fair to say you have a festival, market it as though it's all about the artists, overinflate through use of syntax how much they actually earn from your festival, and put them in unfair and unsafe conditions. That's not right.

    So I'm sorry if you feel it's wrong of us to speak out at what we feel are injustices in the system, I'm sorry you really enjoy volunteer stage managing, I'm sorry if fringe is your only oppurtunity to create art. The system is flawed, and we would like to raise awareness about it. Does that seem like a bad thing to you?

    What if this awareness causes a donor to spring from the ground and support fringe so all artists can get paid for the festival? Wouldn't that be worth it? It will never happen if we don't speak up.

  • Solomon

    People. People.
    yes, People.
    We're all making.. .points... here.

    But lets turn the rhetoric down a notch.
    Before you say something mean -- i think actors should be paid FIRST and i think they should be paid more.

    So...robbed? No... charging 15 for a movie ticket and then 7 more bucks for it to be poorly shot in 3D with bad lighting -- that's robbery. Losing money on art. Um, that's how that works. A 70/30 split was pretty damn good, a 60/40 split is reasonable, a 100/0 split is insane and they should have never said that.

    As a fringe artist, i am usually standing on the side of the actors opposite of "the man". But this time, I'm not sure. Let's just say ... I have never once asked to be paid for any of my Fringe shows (that's 8 total now). As a stage manager this is a death sentence. I should be getting 20% more than the actors and for an SM to volunteer is CRAZY.

    Yet -- and isn't this the point of Fringe -- I love making art and will do it for free when I can. I've just never thought of Fringe as money making exploit.

    I -- and isn't this the point of Fringe -- want to help these platformless, venueless, moneyless artists make something that will give them a platform to show the city that they deserve a venue and can make money.

    I -- and isn't this the point of Fringe -- like to play, freely, without the specter of judgment saying "that's too risky," or "you can't say THAT," or "put his penis away!"

    But fine... you people want to make money. Good for ya. GET OUT OF THEATRE. NOW! There's no money in it.
    What's with this prissy, fluffy world view that makes you think theatre pays? Who told you that? They should be shot. OR... be stage manager...

    As a patron... it hurts to know you people do it for free.
    MAYBE if fringe had a requirement that producers must PAY actors a minimum fee, then MAYBE there would be less terrible productions, less pissed off actors (when is that ever the case, really?), MORE performances of shows people WANT to see, and less desperation and actors clawing for a part when they can't hold an objective -- or producers clawing the bottom of a barrel of actors who can't hold objectives. See it costs you the same amount to have 5 performances per week as it does to have 5 performances total -- so maybe this is where people see Fringe robbing artists. More shows, more $800 checks, more terrible nights at the hateful tent! Maybe this is what people see?

    Do I think Fringe's business model is flawed? Yes.
    Do I think DC's sense of retribution is out of whack? Yes.
    Do I think they are beyond repair? No.

    Fringe suffers from too many shows, too little tech and too little support from the organization...I understand the feeling that were constantly giving and getting nothing in return except for a diluted sense of community. but I cannot blame them. There are 5billion shows with all of your friends in them. Friends who -- sorry -- are probably not in a show right now, for a few reasons.

    But I think what the fringe festival suffers from the most is people who think running a theatre is easy, producing a play is cheap and that the organizers should not be well compensated.

    Maybe if they got rid of the full color and (frankly) ugly T shirts that are printed and designed NEW each year... maybe that would help the overhead but...

    Each width of band for the website costs money.
    Each lighting instrument costs money.
    Each roof costs money.
    Each terrible moment at the hateful tent costs money.
    Each venue manager costs money.

    It cost $17k a week (8 shows) to produce an equity production with 4 actors in a 200 seat theatre. That's $2125 PER SHOW!
    Shake your $800 fist at that.

    (unless of course you reply with "it's not an equity production" insinuating that it not as good -- which then invalidates your whole argument...)

  • Demosthenes

    I don't like how the most common response to "I have suspicions about whether or not the artists are getting ripped off?" seems to be "If you don't like it don't participate!"

    There doesn't seem to me to be anything wrong with asking these questions and demanding that an organization like Fringe be more transparent in its finances.

  • Joe Brack

    And Kevin, what's wrong with wanting to be paid for your work?

  • Doug Wilder

    I would have hosted Joe Brack's show at The Conservatory for 30% of his box, and an $800 up front fee. That show rocked.

  • Kevin

    I can't answer that question, Joe. I'm not the festival organizer. I do know that, in the last two years, 50-70% is roughly about what we got back (with supporting documentation and all) from ticket sales (The Fringe website says 50-70%). We haven't received our final check yet for 2012, so I can't speak to that.

  • Joe Brack

    No one does Fringe for the money, except maybe the festival itself, however, if the festival coordinator is saying that 70% goes back to the artists and those artists aren't getting it, where is that money?

  • Kevin

    Every artist has to decide for themselves if Fringe is worth it to them. No one is forcing anyone to be a part of Fringe. If an artist decides that money is the most important thing to them, and after putting together a budget, determines that they won't make money at Fringe...then they have to decide if they want to be a part of Fringe.

    I do believe that artists should be paid. I also know that plenty of groups that enter Fringe don't do it to make money: breaking even would be fine. They do it for the exposure, for the press, or for the experience.

    This year was my fifth Fringe. Every year, I hope to break even. Some years we've made money. Some years, not so much. But Fringe has always been upfront about how much it costs the performer/entity and how much money the performer/entity gets back. We're all free to complain as we see fit, but no one should be able to say they got a payday that they weren't expecting.

  • Joe Brack

    I just re-read this thread, and I am sorry but 70% has not been given back to my production. We sold out 505 of our run, where's our 70% of that?

  • Joe Brack

    So, when do the artists get paid?

  • Kevin

    Every company at Fringe has a different reason for being. Some travel here to do the festival because they can. Some do the festival every year because it's the only time of year they produce a show. Others use Fringe as a venue for experimentation.

    Of our five shows, one sold out, two were above 50% capacity and two were below. Yet we're still going to make money, largely because this show was so incredibly cheap to produce.

    The biggest criticism I hear about the Festival is the outlay of payment. "Fringe takes so much!" "Stupid buttons!" "$27.50 just to see one show!" The answer to all of that, of course, is simple: if you don't like it, don't participate. Fringe offers an opportunity for theatre companies to perform. If you're going to do a show with a $7,000 budget, then you accept that you probably won't make your money back. (But if you can afford a $7,000 budget, then why are you at Fringe?)

    DC suffers from a severe shortage of affordable performance space (as Peter Marks mentioned in the WaPo this morning). Fringe offers performers space that they wouldn't otherwise have access to, at a cost that is far more affordable then renting. On top of that, all of the press, marketing and exposure one receives just from being a part of the festival...well, suddenly, when you start adding up everything you get with your Fringe fee, it doesn't seem so bad.

    Kudos to AP for making some money this time around. Artists SHOULD be paid for their work.

  • Joe Brack

    As a performer in this past festival, I will say this, performers and crew get robbed by Fringe. Fact.

  • Don

    Ah, I have remembered it backwards. The button was supposed to cover operating expenses so that ticket sales could directly go to artists. From a comment on WCP in 2008(

    Julianne said "I am sorry that all of you are so upset about the Fringe Button. The Button is a common practice in Fringe’s across North America. All the fringe festivals in Canada use them as well as Minnesota, Orlando and San Francisco…and other US Fringe’s. It is very Fringe concept – we did not create.

    We currently give 70% of our ticket revenue back to the artists that participate in our Festival. The Button is our tool to increase the percentage the artist gets each year – our goal is by 2010 is that artists in our Fringe will receive 100% of their ticket revenue."

    Seems that we're about -10% towards that two year old goal. Pity.

  • D

    Performers receive nothing from the button.

    Don't forget that artists pay $800+ just to be in the festival, so when Fringe says they give $209K back to the artists, are they including the money those same artists paid to fringe?

    At my count, 130 companies * $800+ is $104K. So is the real "Money going back to the artists" only $105K? And is the real '1.4 million' only around 700K?

    I think so.

  • Don

    Julianne's line on the button - which I believe discouraged one-off walk-ups and experimenters - has always been that it's money to performers. Are you saying that's not the case?

    I am shocked that the VIP pass nets nothing for performers. If that's true it's completely unacceptable and indefensible.

  • Julianne

    Hi Nancy - I hate to comment on this but... I do not make $75k a year. What you read in the paper was that I made $60k. In the 7 years of Fringe we have given back 1.4 million to the artists. $209k this year alone. Fringe has never been about anyone one person becoming rich here in DC or eleswhere. Not one Fringe ( we have 3 ) employee is becoming rich... Honestly we all live pay check to pay check. Hope you were able to enjoy some of the Festival.

  • Nancy

    Please - underestimate the power of bulk buyers? God forbid that you do not like a show and then, of course, your telling people NOT to see a show. And I'm glad that Derek you feel more than compensated when all is said and done. Fringe is becoming more and more of this beast that only Julianne Brienza seems to make money from. I belive I read in the Post (?) earlier this year that she makes $75,000 a year from the Fringe Festival. Now, I know her job must be hard but really?

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  • David Kessler

    Don't underestimate the power of the bulk ticket buyers. Though we seemingly pay a greatly reduced per show price, we take very seriously our obligation to spread the word to friends and strangers alike, to cajole, bully, and pressure folks to see more and more Fringe shows. Think of the reduced take of our tickets as very cost effective advertising.

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