Goodbye Melbourne, G’day Excel Spreadsheet

I’m 19,000ft in the air enjoying the delights of a Qantas domestic flight with 5 very homosexual attendants – my time in Melbourne has come to an end.

I’m sad to leave, I really enjoyed my time there and so I leave with a heavy heart and a head full of possibilities. I’ve had strong interest in both Sydney and Melbourne about coming back and developing Australia as a touring territory with the exciting potential to make work here too – mission accomplished.

Yesterday Daniel and I sat down over a iced coffee to number crunch the possibility of bringing Camp and The Worst of Scottee to Perth, Adelaide and Sydney but a sad truth emerged – the numbers don’t quite add up.

The fringe model here is even more difficult than Edinburgh. Not only do the house expect a guarantee, a door split (usually 60/40 or 70/30 if you come with kudos) you also need to front the cost of marketing, advertising and registration and to top it all the fringe take a percentage of your ticket price too.

This was $3 of every ticket at Adelaide Fringe in 2013 with the costumer paying a $3 transaction fee. Since 2014 the promoter is expected to hide this cost, meaning a whopping $6 of your ticket price goes directly to the fringe.

I have many problems with this – not only is this deceptive to the audience but it means ticket prices are even higher in a culture that already has $30 tickets as the norm, thus making the arts for the blue collar elite.

The nature of Aussie fringe means the artist is likely to not be paid and front the bill should the show make a loss… without the artist there is no fringe.

What do you get for your $6 a ticket? Well not much because there are 900 other shows to look after - of course you are in the programme, on their website and they’ll tweet about you  when they can.

So why do artists here put up with it? Most programming in Australia happens under a festival, season or fringe banner. Apparently it’s difficult to reach audiences outside of these models but I don’t buy that – it just takes more effort. We’re just starting to see this culture emerge in the UK with everyone and their dog producing miro-festivals or thematic seasons - this is informing the work that’s being made.

Luckily I am a bit more established than some fringe artists and can be a bit shrewd with festival programmers.

However, to make Camp work here I need to bring 3 UK artists over. I need to find some funding to cover the flights - I’m determined to make that happen.

I think you need to have a three-tiered approach to making the figures add up here…

1.   Sponsorship / Subsidy – anything you can get from funding to hotel or flight sponsorship, it will help lower costs (I met some amazing people at Ruth’s long table event at Big Huey’s Diner – a Melbournite meet up and networking event designed to enable such things to happen)

2.   Back of House – get work workshopping, teaching, consulting etc. during the day to keep the pennies coming in. Sell merch – most variety shows here live off merch money

3.   Realistic Forecasting – don’t assume your show will sell out. Your budget should reflect a 20% capacity and breaking even is a success

On a more personal level this leg of the journey has reconnected me with someone I haven’t seen in 8 years, Booby Tuesday. Booby is my drag mother – behind every drag queen is a brilliant woman. She taught me how to paint my face, how to thread a sewing machine and how normative is subversive.

I’ve got to put my seatbelt on now because the gays are giving me evils.
Next stop… the city in question - Adelaide. 

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