Festival Models – First Come First Serve / Lottery!

There are several ways that festivals (both fringe festivals and other NYC festivals) determine the line-up of artists / shows for their festival. Over the next weeks we’ll be exploring some of these methods as a part of the blank canvas project.



Today we’ll talk about the most popular method for our neighbors to the North (Canada), which is also shared by several of the oldest fringe festivals in this country, too! It’s the First Come, First Served method – where artists apply and the first applications received (be they hand delivered or arriving via mail or digitally) are the shows that will be a part of the festival.

Often, though, after several years of this method – it becomes too chaotic to manage. So then many festivals turn to the Lottery model – where applications are accepted for a certain period of time, and then participants are chosen from that applicant pool via a drawing. Some festivals make an evening of the drawing – with artists and audience member able to observe and get excited about the line up.

This method obviously has many advantages and disadvantages. It allows the festival producers to control the SIZE of the festival (as opposed to the Open Access / BYOV method). But does it limit the marketing assistance that can be provided, when the festival team knows nothing about the show? What effect does the randomness have on diversity? We’ll ask some fellow fringe festivals to learn more – and discuss at our Convening on April 12th. Join us there – and let us know your thoughts below!



Hypothesis – When it’s hotter we sell fewer tickets. . .

Hypothesis – When it’s hotter we sell fewer tickets. . .

So when it IS hotter, do we sell fewer tickets? Here’s what Christian found:



  • Our 5 hottest years on record : 2016, 2015, 2005, 2002 & 2001
  • Our 5 smallest festival audiences : 2016, 2015, 2003, 2002 & 2001
  • The data illustrates that of the 5 extremes, 4 of them directly correlate (2001,2002, 2015 & 2016)
  • 2003 does show a relationship between temperature and ticket sales while 2005 seems to be an anomaly:
    • We can identify that 2003’s sales are generally following an upward trend (that stems from 2001 to 2006)
    • Additionally as we see the effects of El Niño decrease from 2002 to 2003, ticket sales did rise by around 6,000, this could be attributed to other factors (like overall sales rising over a 5 year period) but a relationship could also be observed
    • 2005 seems to be the key anomaly, it does not appear as an El Niño year by the National Weather Center but it’s our hottest year on record at 90 degrees. However while ticket sales remained healthy, it should be noted that there was a dip from the year prior and the one after, while the temperature also shifted, therefore a relationship can be observed as illustrated in the graph above
  • No high selling year (2004, 2006, 2009, 2010 & 2011) has an average temperature above 85 degrees

While year to year relatively small rises and falls in temperature do not appear to actively affect our ticket sales, as illustrated from 2009 to 2011, there is an observable relationship between ticket sales and temperatures in the high extremes. One can conclude that while lower temperatures do not positively affect our ticket sales, that higher temperatures do negatively affect our overall sales. It appears that once we hit a festival average of above 85 degrees we not only face a decrease in ticket sales but also have issues with venues being able to keep air conditioning units functioning. With the exception of 2005, we can also assert that forecasts of El Niño Peak years will have a negative impact on our sales. While it is impossible to predict the weather with enough advance to properly alter our festival dates year by year an argument can be made, as illustrated in the graph from 2004 to 2006 and moreso from 2014 to 2016, that our audience is on average much more hesitant to purchase tickets when the average festival temperature rises over 85 degrees.


Hypothesis – It’s getting hotter. . .

Hypothesis – It’s getting hotter. . .

Or so I thought. Even when I made Christian remove the peak El Nino and La Nina years – it’s really just not the case. Hrmph. But the last two years HAVE been pretty hot. . .



Our 5 hottest years on record (above 85 degrees): 2016, 2015, 2005, 2002 & 2001
Our 5 lowest temperature years (below 78 degrees): 2011, 2000, 1999, 1998 & 1997 (to be clear – it’s a darned good thing it was cooler outside in the first three years of the festival, since we didn’t have a lot of air conditioned spaces)
The data illustrates that of these extremes the earliest four years of the festival were in fact the coolest, while the last two years have been among the warmest
The hottest year on record was 2005
The warmest 5 year period was from 2001 to 2005
El Niño peak, with the exception of 2005, correlates with our hottest years on record (2002, 2015 & 2016) while La Niña peak correlates with the coolest years (2000 & 2011.)

While it is generally scientifically accepted that the Earth’s temperatures are rising, and while the last two years on record have been among the hottest in our festival history, this data does not generally support the idea that our festival itself is experiencing a consistent rise in temperature. While the earliest years were our coolest years and our last two years were among the warmest, the graph illustrates a shift in temperatures over the years in cycles generally tied to weather changes like El Niño. It can be argued that the peaks and rises in temperature are getting slightly higher overall but it should be noted that both the record high (2005) and the record low (2000) were in the earlier part of our history. So we are led to conclude that while scientifically the earth is getting warmer and that while our first four years are cooler and our last two years are hotter, the major peaks in temperature in our eleven to sixteen festival days over a twenty year period appear to be cyclical, for example hotter years like 2015-2016 were preceded by moderate years 2011-2014; hotter years like 2009-2010 were preceded by moderate years 2006-2008, and hotter years like 2001-2002 were preceded by cooler years 1997-2000.

Here’s the graph with the El Niño and La Niña peak years removed.



US & World Fringe Festivals – Open Access / BYOV Fees

Most Open Access / BYOV festivals charge participation fees – like any other programming model festival. Some also participate in box office income. On this post we’ll list some Open Access festivals in the U.S. and their participation fees, as well as what the NYC Equivalent fee would be, per cost of living. We’ll also track some international festivals in the same way – first converting the fee to US Dollars, and then using the same cost of living adjustment (based on www.numbeo.com). We’ll update this post as we learn more!

*The only BYOV option offered at Minnesota Fringe is Site Specific.

Festival Models – Open Access / Edinburgh / BYOV!

There are several ways that festivals (both fringe festivals and other NYC festivals) determine the line-up of artists / shows for their festival. Over the next weeks we’ll be exploring some of these methods as a part of the blank canvas project.

First up is what we’ll call the Open Access method, which is what the original fringe festival – Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in Scotland – uses. In fact, it is for this reason that the Open Access method is sometimes called the Edinburgh model. Here in the United States we sometimes refer to this model as BYOV (Bring Your Own Venue).

But whatever you call it, the Open Access model means that any artist can be a part of the festival – they merely need to register (and generally pay a registration fee) and then find and hire / rent a venue in which to do their show. This method obviously has many advantages and disadvantages – and can lead to enormous and wonderful festivals. How would this work in NYC? Keep reading – and join us at a convening to discuss this topic – or CLICK HERE for all posts tagged Open Access



Thursday Thanks – Our Volunteers

Thursday Thanks – Our Volunteers

Mardi, a long time volunteer, writes to thank US (and encloses a very generous donation). So finally, here’s a time to say. . . thank YOU, Mardi.



Friday Founder Flashback – Vitamin C

Friday Founder Flashback – Vitamin C

In 1997, during the first festival, I was sitting at my desk. . . which was in the front window of The Piano Store on Ludlow Street. Everyone else was either answering phones, selling tickets, or just running around putting out fires. Sometimes literally. We were all exhausted, hot, malnourished, sleep deprived, anxious and frankly – wondering if we’d survive.

It was at this point that Stefan, one of our founding tech directors, ran through the front door of FringeCENTRAL. And without uttering a word, he plunked down a bottle of Vitamin C on my desk. We made eye contact, and smiled, and then he left as quickly as he’d come. We didn’t exchange a single word.

Here he was, taking care of everyone else – and yet he’d imparted a really important bit of Stefan wisdom in a very Stefan way in that moment: It’d be impossible to take care of our artists if we didn’t first take care of ourselves. I still have the bottle of Vitamin C. . . . .



World Fringe Festivals – February

We’re pleased to feature fellow members of the World Fringe Alliance as a part of the blog. We’ll discuss more about how, when, where, and why they take place so that we can take note as we build the FringeNYC of the future. Have you visited or participated in this festival? Please comment below!


Adelaide Fringe – Adelaide, Australia
Adelaide Fringe was born 56 years ago and is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest open access arts festival! It completely takes over Adelaide for 31 days and nights each year. In 2017 the festival is from 17 February – 19 March and if you ask anyone who’s ever been lucky enough to experience the Fringe, they’ll tell you themselves that it’s the best time of year to be in Adelaide.

US Fringe Festivals – February & March

We’re pleased to feature fellow members of the US Association of Fringe Festivals as a part of the blog. We’ll discuss more about how, when, where, and why they take place so that we can take note as we build the FringeNYC of the future. Have you visited or participated in these festivals? Please comment below!

FRIGID New York – New York, NY
FRIGID is New York City’s own CAFF model festival, produced by our friends at Horse Trade. FRIGID is 2 Theaters, 3 Weeks, 12 Days, and 30 independent theater companies with over 150 performances.

Rogue Festival – Fresno, CA
Rogue Festival is one of California’s biggest arts events and will celebrate it’s sixteenth anniversary this year. At Rogue, no show is longer than 1 hour, intermissions between shows are only a half-hour, and most Rogue shows cost $10 or less! In 2015 over its ten day run, the festival issued over 9,400 tickets to 294 performances of 68 shows.

Pittsburgh Fringe Festival – Pittsburgh, PA
In 2017, Pittsburgh Fringe Festival will celebrate its fourth anniversary! This year it will be held in the North Side of Pittsburgh and the festival begins on March 31st.


US Fringe Festivals – Ticket Price Ticker

As fellow USAFF (US Association of Fringe Festival) member festivals happen in 2017, we’re going to take a look at what their ticket prices are – and how they compare to ticket prices for FringeNYC over the years. We’ll update this post throughout the year.

Keep in mind that if ticket prices vary, we’ll use the median full-priced general admission price for this chart. Also keep in mind that some festivals (particularly the CAFF model festivals) sometimes require a patron to purchase a ticket AND a button or wristband. We’re not taking this into account at all. It’s difficult to nail down what the “apples to apples” of a button / wristband would be (because you only need to purchase ONE button or wristband for your entire festival-going experience; one button or wristband admits you to all of the shows for which you’ve purchased a ticket). This chart also has nothing to do with how / whether ticket income is split with the artist vs what the participation fee is for the festival vs what festival provides as far as the venue, staff, services, etc. Those things will be covered in other posts. This is purely a comparison of ticket prices of fellow fringe festivals, and what the equivalent ticket price would be in New York City (based on the cost of living comparison here.)


USAFF Festival City and State Ticket Price NYC Equivalent
Asheville Fringe Arts Festival  Asheville, NC  $13  $29.58
Maui Fringe Festival  Maui, HI  $10  $12.20
Tucson Fringe Festival  Tucson, AZ  $10 (+ $3 button)  $24.00
O’ahu Fringe  O’ahu, HI  $10  $12.20
FRIGID New York  New York, NY  $18  $18.00
Rogue Festival  Fresno, CA  $10 (+ $3 wristband)  $21.08
Pittsburgh Fringe Festival  Pittsburgh, PA  $15  $34.20
Shenandoah Fringe  Staunton, VA  $10 (+ $5 button)  $23.97

US Fringe Festivals – January

We’re pleased to feature fellow members of the US Association of Fringe Festivals as a part of the blog. We’ll discuss more about how, when, where, and why they take place so that we can take note as we build the FringeNYC of the future. Have you visited or participated in these festivals? Please comment below!

Asheville Fringe Arts Festival – Asheville, NC
An annual performing arts, multiple venue festival that provides artists with opportunities to explore the edges of their work, to collaborate across genres and to bring new and innovative performances to culturally adventurous audiences. Founded in 2002, AFAF has been keeping Asheville interesting for over a decade.

Maui Fringe Festival – Maui, HI
A three-day marathon of performing arts brought to life by local playwrights, writers, actors and directors as well as visiting ones, these little plays with big ideas give audiences a taste of creativity that doesn’t normally have an outlet.

Tucson Fringe Festival – Tucson, AZ
The Tucson Fringe Festival is an unjuried, uncensored performing arts festival that features 4 Venues, 3 Days, and 21 Shows!

O’ahu Fringe – O’ahu, HI
O’ahu Fringe celebrated its fifth year with 28 performances, 4 venues, and 4 days of fringey fun!


Deja NEWS – January

When we started to conceive how a fringe festival might work in New York, it was the mid 1990’s. And since most of us were in our mid to late twenties, we’d spent the majority of our lives with the National Endowment of the Arts under threat. So we made the decision early on that we’d create a festival that ran almost entirely on earned income (as opposed to donated money) and used secured income (money in the bank, rather than counting on ticket sales) that first year. There were a couple of reasons for this:



1) We were pretty convinced that nobody was going to buy a ticket (and that we’d all see each others’ shows, have a great time, and then go back to our dayjobs in September and not be financially devastated). We went into the first festival wit $74,000 in the bank – and the budget for the first festival was $74,000.

2) Because of the state of arts funding in the country, we were convinced that it was unlikely that funding would be available in that first year, much less in future years. If we had waited until we had funding before we did the first festival, we’d STILL be waiting for the “First Annual” FringeNYC to happen.

Now, as we begin this blank canvas project in order to determine how to structure the budget and funding for FringeNYC in 2018 and beyond, it’s Deja News – with the possibility that the National Endowment for the Arts may be eliminated. The Clyde Fitch Report called it quite early. . .

We’re fortunate that we’ve operated primarily on earned income in our first twenty years:

So what do you think – should the future FringeNYC operate on earned income, as well? If we’d need to raise ticket prices and/or participation fees in order to make that happen, is that the smartest way to go?


World Fringe Festivals – January

We’re pleased to feature fellow members of the World Fringe Alliance as a part of the blog. We’ll discuss more about how, when, where, and why they take place so that we can take note as we build the FringeNYC of the future. Have you visited or participated in this festival? Please comment below!

Fringe World Festival – Perth, Australia
Fringe is a special time of year in Perth. After the summer holidays have ended, FRINGE WORLD keeps the good summer vibes going for 31 days of Perthect entertainment. The 2017 FRINGE WORLD Festival is happening from 20 January to 19 February 2017, in Perth, Western Australia during the city’s buzzing summer festival period.

A tidbit about this festival: They actually OWN their spiegeltent (The Pearl) which is in the central hub of the festival. This purchase was made possible by their biggest sponsor, Lotterywest (the lottery of Western Australia) in 2011 when the Perth Fringe was reborn.


NYC Festivals – January

As part of the Blank Canvas Project, we look forward to featuring other NYC festivals and learning more about how, when, where, and why they take place so that we can take note as we build the FringeNYC of the future. These are the performing arts festivals we know of that take place in January in NYC (along with brief descriptions from their websites). If you know of others, please comment below!

COIL – January 3rd – 17th
Performance Space 122’s Coil Festival explores the vitality of live performance in New York City through contemporary artists from diverse genres, cultures, and perspectives. Full of inquisitive and dynamic work created locally, across the US, and around the world.

EXPONENTIAL – January 4th – 31st
A multi-week festival that seeks to promote theatrical performances created in New York and presented across Brooklyn.

PROTOTYPE – January 5th – 15th
The premier festival of opera-theatre and music-theatre.

THE FIRE THIS TIME – January 16th – February 5th
Horse Trade Theater Group and The Fire This Time Festival provide a platform for talented early-career playwrights of African and African American descent to explore challenging new directions for 21st century theater.

UNDER THE RADAR – January 4th – 15th
A festival tracking new theater from around the world at The Public.



FringeTERN – A FringeNYC intern! We’ve had FringeTERNS since the early years of the festival (in addition to our wonderful volunteers) and we probably couldn’t do the festival without them. For our first twenty years, both FringeTERNS and volunteers have come in to help produce FringeNYC in August right as the workload skyrockets from April through September. The difference between a short-term volunteer and a FringeTERN is that the FringeTERN is provided an educational opportunity at FringeNYC. Neither an intern or a volunteer can do work that would otherwise be done by an employee (though at FringeNYC that isn’t difficult because we’ve always been run almost entirely by volunteers). This often means that each FringeTERN is brought on board to intern in a specific area so that over their time at FringeNYC their experience is concentrated in marketing, tech theatre, or producing / arts administration training.



Recently, in part because of these Hollywood lawsuits, the entire practice of unpaid internships has come under fire.

At FringeNYC, we feel as though interning for a large festival over the summer is not only very practical real-world experience, it also introduces our interns to many of the local and national companies and artists with whom they may work in the future. In some ways, interning at the festival serves the same purpose for our interns as does participating in the festival for our emerging artists. We also believe our internship program is in compliance with the federal laws.

But given the abuse some interns have suffered at other organizations, New York is one of the states that has put stringent internship laws into place to make sure someone who should be compensated under the minimum wage laws receives their due. These New York State internship laws for Non Profit organizations limit internships to during or between enrolled semesters (i.e. the summer) for undergraduates. For graduates, the internship cannot last longer than ten weeks (and that is only true at a bona fide training program that includes formal instruction).

We certainly don’t want to take advantage of anyone. After all, we created FringeNYC in part because we felt so many indie theatre artists were being taken advantage of with venue rental schemes, pay-for-review scenarios and other “training” opportunities happening in the mid-nineties in our community. On the other hand, we’ve had part-time employees request time off from work at FringeNYC in order to serve as an unpaid production assistant on a Broadway show (a for profit organization with a much larger budget).

CHALLENGE: Some major universities REQUIRE an internship that is longer than three months (and/or more hours than we can provide) in order for the student to receive school credit. This means these students necessarily must intern in a state other than New York and we’re missing out on some great folks. Additionally, the majority of these students are theatre majors – and they’d love to be in New York for the summer!

CHALLENGE: We have young people who have graduated already who’d like to do an internship with us as they launch their professional careers. But they also need to (of course) maintain a paid job (or two) in order to afford to live within commutable distance of NYC. This means that their time with us is limited to one or two days per week, so that they can maintain paid work. The challenge is that we aren’t able to offer recent graduates the continuity of tasks that would serve as a real world experience for them, or provide the networking and training that are so vital if they are only with us ten days in ten weeks.

So what do you think? Are theatre organizations taking advantage of young artists and administrators if we offer unpaid internships? Did you do an unpaid internship when you were starting out? What resources can FringeNYC identify that would allow us to offer paid internships? We need to come to a resolution about this as a part of our Blank Canvas Project so we build the FringeNYC of the future. We welcome comments below!