Last week, I attended a workshop organised by Melbourne Fringe exclusively designed for participants of the 2016 Melbourne Fringe season. The workshop was called ‘Tour Ready,’ inviting artists to consider and prepare for the possibility of touring their production/exhibition following their Fringe experience. Guest speakers included Justin Murphy from Regional Arts Victoria, Marisa Cesario from Gasworks Arts Park and independent artists Emma Hall and Cameron Stewart from the award-winning production WE MAY HAVE TO CHOOSE.
Each speaker gave heaps of useful information to artists who are interested in preparing themselves for touring opportunities. Additionally, they offered their own support to artists throughout the preparation process.
Most intriguing was a simple comment stated by Emma Hall from WE MAY HAVE TO CHOOSE. Reflecting on her experience throughout the development and execution of WE MAY HAVE TO CHOOSE, Emma expressed her overwhelming elation over the fact that her show received so much media attention and award recognition. Before her first production run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Hall began a simple marketing campaign that involved emails to people she knew through the network of knowing others. ‘I sent emails to people I didn’t even know, told them a little about the show’s concept and crossed my fingers,’ she recalls. From those simple emails, she booked one media personnel to attend a performance. However, that one performance conveniently was to be an outstanding performance! And then everyone started hearing about Emma and her show.
She continued her reflection by stating, ‘I couldn’t control the marketing machine that was happening because I was so focused on the creative machine but things were still happening.’
I approached Emma at the end of the workshop evening thanking her for an honest reflection of her experience, and particularly thanked her for mentioning the ‘marketing machine.’ I ensured her that from hearing her tale, she had done executed a great marketing campaign, and that’s why it worked. She began her process by understanding her participation within the festival – that she had to build an audience from scratch. So she set a simple goal: to attract people she knew to her show and invite them to invite others. She also asked for help from those she knew, asking whom else might be interested to attend. Additionally, she followed up by sending email invitations to the individuals suggested by people she knew. All that simple but persistent effort paid off!
Sometimes, though not always, marketing can be that simple.
The point is: yes, marketing is a complex machine. Certainly one that can either function smoothly OR seem like a fight to the very end. Regardless, putting any kind of effort and energy into the machine is much better than putting no energy at all.
My advise to any artist, participating in a festival like Melbourne Fringe or producing an individual production, is while you may not control the outcome of the marketing machine, you CAN control your chances by putting forth the energy into the machine. Start by setting a goal by asking why are you producing this show through this platform? Some possible answers could be to build an audience, to maintain an audience, to stretch my creativity or to gain experience/exposure. However you answer, let the answer guide your marketing efforts. Throughout any marketing efforts, be honest, be humble and most importantly keep things simple. Remember: the more energy directed towards a goal, the better chance your efforts will see results.