It is often tipping it down in Edinburgh which means that the fliers advertising shows, patiently handed out by committed artists and friends – but discarded after the show’s been rejected or attended – turn to mush in the gutters.
The question of paper litter created by the festival emerges even more keenly this year, as many of us have found our sensibilities ever more “greened”. But we all want our show to have as good a chance as anyone else’s, and at the moment, potential audience wander the streets armed with paper brochures, newspaper critiques and the flyers they have picked up or been given. With paper. How can we achieve the same level of marketing impact without the paper? The answer may be to go digital.
The rise of social networking sites (MySpace, Facebook, Bebo) means that paper can be reduced by setting up a group or page on these sites for your show. The Liverpool Biennial, on in Liverpool now, at the same time as the Festival, have invited their Facebook members to an exclusive launch this Friday – the artist will be there, as will a picnic. If you can turn up with the password from the Facebook group, you’re in! MySpace for some time have been hosting “black curtain” events, where bands or artists get to perform only for their MySpace fans, in locations only revealed to the group. So using the exclusivity of the social networking websites’ groups (your own, or posting exclusive opportunities through groups where your potential audiences are members) may develop audience numbers. All that demands however that the audiences knows you or the name of your show to begin with!
What about those festival goers who’ve never heard of you? How can you tell them about your show as they wander the streets making their choices, without giving them a piece of paper? You could use a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone, to send messages to people with Bluetooth enabled on their phones. An SMS sized message could inform them of venue, time, a bit abut the show, and maybe even offer a special ticket price or another exclusive opportunity.
Some groups have been using SMS to organize themselves when they are up in Edinburgh. Arts Council England East’s “East to Edinburgh” scheme brings about 25 shows to Edinburgh annually. The organizers of this keep in touch with the disparate group using bulk text services, which they send out to the performers’ mobile phones from a laptop (bulk-buying text allowances in advance massively reduces cost per text). The organizers are able to tell the group about last minute opportunities; share tips and tricks for a better festival experience; or pull together an audience quickly if they suddenly hear a show from their group is about to be seen by an important critic.