I had meant to reply to this earlier, but a machine crash killed my answer and I didn't start again.
Levies on performers are in my opinion very dangerous. They're the first step to becoming what we've set out to replace. Do them once, and it becomes much easier to do them a second time. In almost no time at all, they've become a membership fee, participation fee, listings fee or whatever you want to call it. And then we become something different to what we are.
The Laughing Horse already do this. They charge their acts for programme listings -- except, of course, their slightly more famous ones. I don't know their costings, but I know ours, and in my view they are recouping much more from their programme listing charges than it actually costs to print. And not treating every show equally, which I think is also wrong.
We won't do this.
It would be the thin end of a very thick wedge.
And it would turn everybody from being members, having to do their bit in order to make the whole thing work, into customers, demanding a return for their service fees. At the Free Fringe, you pay in a currency other than money. It's called commitment.
Sometimes it's easier to pay money than to give commitment. But commitment is the currency we need. You can't buy it. You can buy competent professional organisers to do what our members do, but they're way beyond our budget, and even if we could afford then they wouldn't do it with soul. We have soul.
We could cover the cost of the programme for £2 per performance (per performance, not per show; we couldn't cover much for £2 per show). We could cover all the costs of the Free Fringe for a levy of £3 per performance, except that it would cost something to collect and monitor that levy. If every show bought a £10 annual membership to the Free Fringe Ltd (we can do this now we're a non-profit company, but so far we haven't) that would cover about half the annual expenses apart from the programme print. All these things are possible. But all these things would change the nature of the Free Fringe, and I would hate that.
All the members who do such excellent work, on the programme, the database, various aspects of the organisation, the venue liaison and all the other jobs, do so out of love for what we can achieve together. Money can't buy that. The money that we can afford couldn't even buy a pale imitation of it.
Advertising sales are the key to making the programme work. If we had a programme as big as the Fringe Programme, we'd have to charge to be in that. But right now we don't need that. We just need people to sell advertising. I've done my share.
Benefits? Oh, yes, we like them. But they're unreliable. There are several types. The big Bloomsbury benefits -- the one with Sean Lock and others sold the Bloomsbury out, the one with Stewart Lee and others did well, but didn't sell all the possible tickets. The sort of big name acts we need for these benefits are very heavily booked and quite difficult to get hold of; I know them, but I don't necessarily have their numbers. The smaller local benefits, of which we'd need to have several to equal one Bloomsbury show, depend on there being a regular audience at the clubs at which they're held. And those clubs need their income for their own survival, so the opportunity isn't always there.
Yes, we have to raise funds to survive. But if we become mostly about fundraising, then again we've lost ourselves.
Liverpool's Catholic cathedral is a fine and interesting building (as indeed, at the other end of Hope Street, is the Protestant one). But go inside, and read the stories of the fundraisers held by the poor to raise pennies from the equally poor, to erect this costly building within a very rich organisation, and wonder what constitutes money well spent and money not well spent. I don't know the answer. But I think the Free Fringe is a cathedral of the spirit, a monument to co-operation and partnership within a game so often marred by wild egotism. Better that each of us lays a course of bricks to build it, than we pay money to bricklayers who are not of our faith. This is probably a ridiculous metaphor, but it's late and I'm old.
By all means, dear members, discuss our future and our funding in this thread.
PS Somewhere within Liverpool (RC) Cathedral, the story is told about how badly it leaked, and the appropriate authorities considered pulling it down and starting again. And the pennies of the poor, given at all those fundraising events, would have been wasted. And they'd have been asked for yet more.