For many artists the opportunity to generate touring invitations is a major reason to attend the Fringe.
Performing at the Fringe provides a platform to gather press attention and to get your work seen by potential bookers.
Is your show suitable for touring?
- Is your show of a high enough quality to garner invitations from promoters? Be realistic about its likelihood of standing out from the many other shows being performed during the Fringe.
- Has this show or previous work by the same artist/s been the subject of favourable reviews, great audience word of mouth, awards, enthusiastic feedback from other artists?
- Do you have supporters in the arts world who think highly of your work: promoters who regularly book you, venues who offer developmental support?
- Technical constraints are the norm when performing at the Fringe but have you ensured that the work will be presented in a way which will show off its qualities as best as possible?
- Are there areas of the UK/world where your work would be particularly suitable or effective? Are there any locations in particular that you would like to target?
If you are hoping to tour with your show, consider ways to design your show to be tourable without huge additional expense.
Some things to consider:
- Is it or can it be made portable, perhaps by being broken down into smaller constituent pieces?
- What are its minimal requirements in terms of lighting and sound?
- Can set, props or any specialised lighting or sound equipment be sourced locally by the inviting promoter?
- What size van (if travelling by land) and what size flight boxes or packing crates (if travelling by sea or air) will your set, props and equipment require?
- Is your cast committed and contracted to touring, should the invitations arise?
- If you lose a member of the cast to other work, what sort of time and cost would be needed for re-rehearsal? Be aware that international bookings can take place anywhere between six months to two years in advance so make sure the work you are selling is available.
- Does everyone in your company have up-to-date passports and are any members likely to have problems with immigration to other countries, for example because of an earlier overstayed visa or criminal conviction?
- Will any visas or work permits be required by the company?
- Do you have the administrative support necessary? Remember, pulling together a tour is a time-consuming affair.
Are there any additional elements that would make a difference to the desirability of the show? For example, is the company good at giving workshops? If so, what ages and skill levels could you serve?
Here are some other ideas to consider:
- Many performance programmes are connected to universities; could your company deliver workshops to the student body?
- What could workshops cover?
- Performance skills – does the show includes unusual elements?
- Making or adapting skills does the show include interesting set or props, puppets or found objects used in interesting ways?
- If the show is technically complex (not ideal for a touring situation) then could lighting and sound technicians offer workshops or master classes?
- Can the company offer post-show discussions or Q&A?
- Does the theme of the show lend itself to broader debate and could company members sit on a panel to discuss that theme? Particularly overseas, a good wraparound programme may be the element that makes a company seem like good value for money.
- Is your show adaptable for relaxed, signed or captioned performances and could these be offered?
Assuming invitations are forthcoming, four things will dictate the kind of tour you end up making:
- The venues and audiences your show is suitable for
- Who you know
- Who you get to know
Some practicalities to consider:
What size and type of space does your show suit best: rural and community halls? Schools? Small, middle or large-scale venues? Outdoor or unusual spaces? Be realistic about where you can perform but be prepared to be flexible if you can.
Are there any elements of the show that will limit the audience: nudity, swear words, sexual or political themes? If you are planning an international tour, other additional elements may impact on where you can tour, particularly language or cultural constraints. If your show contains very dense or colloquial text, consider if and how it might be made more accessible: subtitling, plot synopses, amendments to text or accent etc.
Who to target
- Review your existing connections and networks for suitable promoter matches
- Target existing supporters of your work - invite them to see your performances in Edinburgh and then, where appropriate, to suggest and introduce to you suitable contacts of theirs.
- Work with the Artist Development Officer and with your own networks to identify who else is in Edinburgh that you should be approaching and encouraging to see your work.
Remember, the Fringe Society's Artist Development team can help you plan a tour or assess your show's viability. Email [email protected] to talk it through with them.
You may want to create a technical tour pack that you can send out to venues which will detail all of your technical requirements. This differs from an information pack as it details more specific information that will be required ahead of a get in, whereas an information pack will help you in selling the show to interested industry members and allow them to learn more about you and your company. It may be worth letting them know that a technical tour pack is available on request. The technical tour pack may include:
- A stage plan, including lighting rig(s) and sound desk.
- Technical aspects you will be bringing.
- Technical aspects the venue will need to provide or assist with.
- Your stage management set up.
- Any marketing materials you are bringing.
Make sure your website has up to date ‘Industry Section’ which also houses all of the above information so this can be accessed by interested promoters at any time. Make sure any printed material you’re handing out has your website address on it.
Setting a touring budget
It is important to understand the real costs of your show being on tour. Once you have calculated these and fixed upon a fee that you wish to charge, or a box office income that you need to reach, you can then negotiate with confidence.
When calculating your basic fee, the main things to consider are:
- salaries of cast and crew
- running costs of your production (refreshment of props, cleaning costumes etc)
- marketing costs (including digital content and promotional packs with which to pitch to programmers)
- travel and accommodation costs
- a proportion of both the original production costs and your ongoing overheads.
This last is important to calculate, as tour admin can be expensive. International tours may necessitate long telephone calls and high bills.
Be aware of what you are including and, importantly, what you are omitting. If you are leaving certain elements out because their cost is dependent on where you are touring (for example travel, subsistence, freight costs, equipment hire), make sure that the person with whom you are negotiating realises that these additional charges will need to be covered. Do your best to mitigate these additional costs, for example companies willing to share rooms will substantially lower their host’s accommodation bill.
Many venues will have a digs list or at least an idea of local places where your company can stay. Some may also have a deal with local accommodation to get reduced rates so it’s worth asking and finding out.
Make sure you have allowed for some contingency and get a reality check on your final fees from someone you trust: a programmer, funder or friendly touring company who can tell you whether your fee is high or low compared to others.
For a list of resources available to help you set your budget, see the bottom of this page. For more information on budgeting and finance, including advice on fundraising, sponsorship and current opportunities see budgeting and finance.
Different venues you negotiate with may offer you different kinds of agreement. Most companies would prefer to be paid a guaranteed fee, but you may be offered a box office split or a guarantee against a box office split.
Before accepting these deals, ask about the likely box office income and your share of it: have they programmed similar work and how well has that done? How did they market similar shows and how will they be marketing yours?
What, if any, costs (credit card charges etc) will be extracted from the gross box office income before it is split between you? If you have accurately budgeted your own costs you will be able to decide how big a risk you are taking and your willingness to take it.
Sustainability while on tour
There is currently a sector-wide call for theatre makers to be conscious of the impact that touring their work has on the environment.
There is no one size that fits all when it comes to sustainable activity. Don’t be intimidated by the challenges or assume that you need to do and bring everything that a larger company might feel the need for. If you are a small company with a simple production, then you can possibly double up on roles (ie. director and production manager), be more flexible about your technical requirements and cut back on costs.
More info can be found in the Staying Green section of Putting on a Show.
Touring schools (UK)
There is not a definitive list of which schools take or don’t take productions. This is because it all depends on factors such as budget, space/facilities, focus, ethos of school and most importantly the individual teacher’s preferences as they are the ones that organise visiting productions.
How to approach schools
- Send your information to the Learning/Education departments of each local authority in the regions you want to tour the work
- This information should include teacher support packs, tech spec and costs.
- These departments can then circulate your show information throughout their schools to see if there is any uptake.
Touring schools in Scotland
- For Scotland, write a teacher’s resource pack outlining specifically how your production supports the outcomes of the Curriculum for Excellence. You should demonstrate how you can accelerate learning in line with the curriculum.
- Structure the resource pack like an interview; ask the Director about the central themes of the show, ask the playwright why he/she chose to write it, ask them both about style and ideas. Ask the cast to talk about their characters; who they are, what motivates them, their relationships etc.
- Call each of the schools you want to target directly and compile a database of drama/expressive arts faculty contacts. Teachers are incredibly busy and receive lots of enquiries, so they tend to book shows that are reputable, clearly outline the curricular benefits and are low budget. If the show is expensive then you might be better contacting the private school sector.
One of the main reasons for touring a production is to build an audience for your work outside of your home base, and as a result, to grow as a company/artist. It is important to work with your venue to get an audience; it is in both your interests to get the work seen by lots of people.
There are a number of ways to do this:
- Invite marketing and box office staff to see your show so they can sell it and talk about it with confidence.
- Write a blog and use social media to create a following for the tour and to gather your audience. Update your audience on interesting things that happen throughout the tour, post pictures and announce local press response.
- Compile a FAQ sheet for your venue’s box office that lists all the potential audience questions – Who is in it? Is it suitable for children? How long does it last? Also make sure that you give details on any unique performance elements so that staff can answer questions knowledgeably.
Venues normally require your marketing materials fairly far in advance so ensure you have them ready. It is your responsibility to produce marketing materials for your tour as required, so make sure you print enough and that they are of good quality.
Standard requests might include the following:
- Three or four high-resolution digital images for publicity (landscape and portrait, min. 300dpi)
- High-resolution digital copies of your company logo and any sponsor logos if applicable as well as show copy and images for inclusion in the venue’s brochure
- A sample mail out
- A press release
- Flyers and posters with space for over-printing. Venues may stipulate a quantity that they require but increasingly venues will print their own posters in line with their regular marketing campaigns and, if so, you may want to ensure that you have copy approval of the final design.
- Made in Scotland Onward International Touring Fund
One of the key aims of Made in Scotland is to maximise the benefit for Scottish artists on the international platform that is the Fringe. As part of this, funding is available to support any work created in Scotland which attracts interest from international promoters as a result of being showcased at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe - it is not just limited to those companies which have been part of a current or previous Made in Scotland Showcase.
Visit the Creative Scotland website for more details
Below is a list of useful websites where you can find additional information on touring networks, venue resources, legal issues, contractual responsibilities and many more relevant topics.