Edinburgh Fringe 2010: Jumping the gun? Underbelly venue launches tickets three months early
Tim Clark5 March 2010
One of the leading venues at the Edinburgh Fringe has begun selling tickets almost five months before the festival is set to open and three months before the majority of tickets go on sale.
The Underbelly, one of the big four comedy venues at the Edinburgh Fringe, has launched tickets for three of its top selling acts three months before the traditional ticket launch in a move which could change the way the festival is promoted.
From today fans of John Bishop, Jim Jeffries and Danny Bhoy can book tickets on the Underbelly website for their fringe runs.
According to one industry critic the move by the Underbelly positions the venue, and possibly the Fringe, in the same fold as other festivals with more access to tickets at an early stage.
A spokesman for the Underbelly said: “People like John Bishop, Jim Jeffries and Danny Bhoy are big names and there is a huge uptake in comedy tickets throughout the year by comedy fans in the UK.
"By buying their tickets early and having a long lead in we hope to give people who buy tickets now the chance to be able to plan and afford to go to more shows when they come to Edinburgh in August.”
Traditionally only around 1-2 per cent of Edinburgh Fringe shows are sold before the launch in June.
Speaking to Such Small Portions, Edinburgh Fringe head of external affairs Neil Mackinnon said: “Tickets to the fringe don’t belong to us, they belong to the venues and the shows. Only 1 – 2 per cent of Fringe tickets are sold before June, and very few venues sell tickets early.
“Most tickets that are sold before June usually form part of a particular comedians UK wide tour, a very small proportion of the 1.8 million tickets that are sold over the course of the Fringe are sold early.”
The move by the Underbelly into one of Edinburgh’s biggest venues, the 1,000 seat McEwan Hall in Bristo Square alongside the adanced ticket sales initiative could bring the Fringe in line with many other popular UK festivals such as Reading Festival which pioneered the
move for advanced ticket sales by allowing pre-sale tickets up to a year in advance.
However the early sales have garnered criticism. Director of The Stand comedy club told The Scotsman: "They are immediately sucking perhaps 70,000 people out of the available audience to go to all the other venues.
"If people keep doing that, we are going to end up with fewer shows, fewer performers, less diversity, less experimentation and more big commercial events that take up the lion's share."
An Underbelly spokesman added: “We are still 100 per cent supportive of the fringe and not out growing the fringe, but maybe we have to realize that patterns have changed in recent years and tickets can legitimately go on sale earlier.
"However maybe it’s time to look at new ways of attracting new audiences.”
Tickets for Jim Jeffries, John Bishop and Danny Bhoy, who are appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe betweem August 4th and 30th are available on the Underbelly website.
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