July 20, 2022

Edinburgh Fringe - Stu Goldsmith

Edinburgh Fringe - Stu Goldsmith

The Edinburgh Fringe is the perfect example of where Art and Commerce mix, it's a reflection of real life from the idealists who just want to make things better to those who see it as a great opportunity to make a few quid (usually everyone apart from the performers themselves).

Our guest on this episode is Stu Goldsmith, host of the Comedian's Comedian podcast.  Stu has been going to the Fringe for the last 28 years, even when it was cancelled during the pandemic!

I talk to Stu about his experiences at the Fringe, putting a work in progress together and the challenges of putting bums on seats when there are thousands of other acts in the same city.

Stu is at Tringe comedy Festival on July 22nd and at Edinburgh Fringe 4th-11th August you can find Stu on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok and his Comedian's Comedian website and Stu Goldsmith public speaking site





Stu Goldsmith Fringe Transcription


Dan Barnett  00:00

Hello, and welcome to Making creativity pay, the podcast where we talk to those in the creative industries about how they market and promote their work. My name is Dan Barnett and this episode's guest is Stuart Goldsmith. Stu has hosted the fantastic comedian's comedian podcast, which I discussed with him in more detail in episode one.  This episode we discussed the Edinburgh Fringe, the huge influence it has in the comedy world and the financial aspects performing the promoting the show. I started by asking Stu about his experience with the fringe. So this isn't your first rodeo as it were, you've been to the fringe before. How many times have you been up there?


Stu Goldsmith  00:32

I think 28, 28 Yeah, I went there when I was 16. I don't think I went when I was 17. But maybe I did. And then I haven't missed one since. And I'm 45. Soon I will be 45 during this year's festival. "So you do some maths", as they say, in America, I think that lots of comics go to the fringe and think I hate this. This is mad and chaotic and uncontrollable. And I want to get out of here as soon as possible and you know, bounce on TV and never have to do it. And then there are some people who clearly love going every time and I'm one of them. I sort of approached it and my view to the Edinburgh Fringe was always how can I make sure I can come here every year for the rest of my life. I just absolutely love it. Now within that, you know, it's possible to overdo something, really.

And there is a danger what it makes me think of it because it's like college. It's like college. It's like you're all you're like you're sleeping a massive dorm. I mean, you don't, but some of you do. But it's it's just so exciting to feel normal to feel that being a comedian is the norm up there, and you're in a big community. And that's really, really important to me. But like unit, you need to make sure that you don't become the ence officer that hung on too long. I mean, so I do it is it is tainted slightly with me, it is often tainted with this sort of knowledge that there is a much bigger, wider world out there. And I don't know if it's the right thing to do to keep going back and doing the same thing every year, I try and you know, I'm doing I'm offering a different product. And I'm seeing lots of stuff and finding it inspiring. But I think there is a danger that you become a little bit too used to it. And, you know, you gradually become an old man or an old person within it. That you know, I'd much rather do that and then do something else every August. So maybe I'm just kind of splitting hairs. But yes, I've been going a lot. I really enjoy it. I always get something out of it. And these days, I don't even burst into tears halfway through anymore.


Dan Barnett  02:37

Because yeah, I kind of imagined it's kind of the best of times, and the worst of times being there. You know, it's three weeks overall, there must be a huge buzz in the city. Like you said, you know, lots of friends, lots of people need people to see all that kind of stuff. But I saw someone's tweet, it was an old tweet from 2020. When it was cancelled. He said, Well, instead of the festival, why don't you come come around and watch me stick 4k on a bonfire? You know, and it has the same effect. You know, it seems like it's a huge opportunity. But it's also a huge opportunity to kind of bankrupt yourself. Has it become more commercial?


Stu Goldsmith  03:10

Oh, I mean, unquestionably Yes. But then so is everything. Everything has become more commercial. You know, I always I always liken it to student unions. I don't know if you went to university and you had a student union building, which was sort of like a pub run pretty much by students and a bunch of old sofas there that you'd taken from the tip and what have you. And it was the it was the union building. And now what a student union is, is flat screen TVs on the wall with adverts that you can't turn off that a precious selling you drinks commercials, you know, if every union has its own Starbucks in it now, you know, the world has become more commercial. Certainly the Edinburgh Festival has. 

And one of the lovely things about last year, which was a very spot, I mean, I kept going I went up the last two years when it was on, but tiny and when it wasn't on because I just wanted to be in the city and walk around. I'm normally here now you know. So I went there for a few days. And then I was there for a week or so last year. And last year, it was magnificent because there were so few shows and fewer audience members, but way fewer shows than, like, there was maybe 10% of the shows and 30% of the audience's so all the shows were full. The audience weren't battered and exhausted from having been fired to death. So everyone was in a good mood. And it was we had this sort of simultaneous mean a friend had a simultaneous revelation of going, Oh, this is this is the better medicine. It was like the 90s This is brilliant. And then very quickly, we went, Oh, it'll never be this good. Again, barring God forbid another pandemic. It will never be this good again this year. And I thought then, Oh, yeah. 2022 is going to be a shit fight.  And it absolutely will. Because so many people are there with cooked up shows ready to go everyone's chomping at the bit. We've all missed it. The majority have missed it for two years. And so it's going to be like all of the forces that normally act on it. That last year didn't act on it. There was no review as to to speak of them in our wards. There was no press there was just getting people in and doing a show, which is the whole point, I think. I mean, obviously there there is also kind of like, huge career possibilities there for a small chosen few chosen I use the word advisedly. But But last year, none of those things were there.

So it was like the mechanical of comedy festival. But for a month, you know, it was like there's there's, there's just the stakes are different. It was like a festival in New Zealand. The state what was at stake was fundamentally different. And it was brilliant. And we all went, This is amazing. Oh, shit, it'll never it will never be like this again. This is like, I feel sorry for anyone that missed it in 2021. Because it was, you know, it wasn't. It wasn't manna from heaven. But there was a tone to it. That was like, Oh, you, you do your show. People see the show. And that's good. And that was it. That was the whole thing.  So this year, we will be, you know, accommodation has skyrocketed. The cost of accommodation is two or three times what it was, I'm sure that everybody in the same way all the food vans at Glastonbury Festival this year, the basic meal was a tenner up from six quid or seven quid. Everyone's making up for two years of no trade. So I'm sure it'll be the same with Edinburgh. It's the same with the with the accommodation. I don't know if ticket prices have got higher. I hope not mine aren't. But I'm sure that people doing the postering and the billboards and the PR, all of the all of the costs that that are associated with Edinburgh, from the point of view of a performer, I'm sure they're all much more expensive.


Dan Barnett  06:36

And in terms of kind of what people tend to want to get out of the festival is probably different levels of performer and different requirements. But I mean, it seems like it's almost your right to show you preview, the show, you perform the show. And an awful lot of that is to kind of try and get in front of maybe a couple of dozen people. You know that the whole artifice, but the kind of the whole premise for some people is, is enough to try and get in front of the right people. I don't know if if there's, if there's a lot of that up there.


Stu Goldsmith  07:10

Oh, yeah, I would say so. But you know,


Dan Barnett  07:14

is that maybe an overly cynical?


Stu Goldsmith  07:16

It's, well, no, not at all. No, God, no, there are people out there who are deeply cynical. But my point is, there are also people out there who aren't cynical at all. So it is like the world. It's like a microcosm of the whole world. It's a microcosm of the of the free market of a cultural marketplace, in that some people are up there very deliberately going, I want this, I need exactly this, I need to be seen by this person in this person. And they have the backing to do it. And if they have worked hard and got lucky and have had great advice and have a good sense of themselves and the Zeitgeist and what they offer and their position within it, you know, and are really funny, then, then those people can succeed. If you look at the sort of the journey that someone like Rose Matafeo, brilliant, like couldn't be nicer, fantastic comic had scripts in a back pocket ready to go and went up there with a show "horndog" that got nominated at least in maybe one I can't remember who won what, but kind of made this enormous first year impact at Edinburgh.  And then when they had them when she had the meetings, she presumably that went Yes, here's the script, there's the movie pitch, there's the treatment, there's the thing, and made it all happen and is now just absolutely skyrocketed.

So everyone wants a version of that, you know, the famous example at the Montreal Comedy Festival from years and years ago was Tim Allen, who turned up with a five minute set where he went, this thing needs more power, rah rah rah rah rah rah, and it caught fire. And he left there with the with the tool with the home improvement season, and you just go there we go. There's 20 seasons of A, whatever it was, everyone wants that. Some people want it as part of a game plan where they know the likelihood and they've had great advice and they understand the landscape and they're timing things carefully. And they understand the likelihood or not of getting it and what the next move will be. And some people have none of that and just have stars in their eyes going well, I'm gonna be like Rose Matafeo and have their hearts broken and print maybe once in a blue moon, it works and they are. So it's just like the world I think it's a cynical or not as you make it and buy into it and everything else. They certainly there is enormous money at stake. And I know that the world of comedy is full of nice people who love comedy, and less nice people who recognise that whenever people want or need something, there's something to be exploited there.  And so just as is the world you know, is the problem is with comedy. If you're one of the nice people you think that everyone else did to begin with, you think that everyone else is like, we're all in the same boat. We're all trying to make people laugh, and you got to know some people are trying to become millionaires and some millionaires are trying to become 100 millionaires, you know, so there's, there's a lot of there's a lot of opportunity there.

For people who are sort of flaring with need if you a friend of mine sent to me Not not unsanitary, but sort of with their tongue in their cheek, we were talking about trying to get someone along, get an open mic to do a gag, you could use an open mic in that spot. And he said, Well, I'll get you an open mic, give me a phone, I'll get you 20 open mics in five minutes. Because there are so there is so much surplus of people who are desperate, desperate to work for free in order to establish themselves in their after their name and what have you. If you know that, that can be exploited to sell them a course, sell them a thing enrol them in a in, I don't mean exploit it necessarily badly. Like, it's just if you looked at the the sort of the capitalist equation of it gets selling a course to want to be comedians is a is a good thing to do. But it also, you can probably do it in a nice way or in a ruthlessly efficient way, once you know that, oh, these people, people will jump through whatever hoops to get close to a chance of their dream. So Edinburgh is like a real kind of focal point for that part of the equation.


Dan Barnett  10:58

Absolutely. You know, it's like anything, where it's, it's something that people love. And there's money involved. There's always that, yeah, that that kind of thing that someone who doesn't necessarily love it wants to kind of make money on it.


Stu Goldsmith  11:11

Exactly, exactly. And just to talk about the money, I approached it from the position, like I don't like to be in debt. So I didn't go and spend all the money in Edinburgh until I've made all the money to spend because I thought I don't want to be in debt. But I was in a very privileged position I was I had a day job if you like when I became a comic that require very few hours of my time is a very specialised job. So I was able to spend a lot of time taking risks and you know, becoming a comic in a way that the idea that now I sort of go, oh, yeah, if you don't have a sort of special skill you can make money from or rich parents or replacing London or, you know, there's all sorts of things just as in life, there's all sorts of things that will give you an enormous advantage.  And a lot of them if you don't, if you don't have your head on square about them, you'll think they were all your hard work without recognising the privilege. I mean, I read a fascinating article today by a guy called Conrad Koch, who's a puppeteer in South Africa, who talks about the, you know, we work in a festival, like all human life is here, and it goes, No, it isn't. There are billions of people, literally billions of people on the planet who are being exploited and enslaved and oppressed, and none of them are at the Edinburgh Festival.

So you do need to sort of you need to recognise that the whole thing exists in a sort of mad bubble of privilege within which there are, there are many levels of privilege, you know, we all know it's exactly it's very hard for working class, people with no financial security, to break into the comedy industry, it's really hard in a way that people are only just kind of realising, but even they live in Britain often, which is inherently privileged, even if you are poverty stricken in Britain, you're not living in a shanty town in Cape Town, for example, I don't know why I'm saying all this, simply, that there are multiple levels of privilege and multiple things acting on it. And I think I was very lucky in that I was both privileged and was blissfully ignorant at that at the time. And also was lucky.  And I think probably talented in some respects, that were useful for an Edinburgh sort of experience. So I had the money going into it, expecting to lose the money and being okay with that in the pursuit of the dream. So those are, you know, three privileges straight off the top, I had the money, I had the privilege of a good mindset about it, where I thought, I'm going to go in there and lose this money, because it's for a good reason. I'll get something out of it. And I had the opportunity to do that a few times and go, Oh, actually, I don't know if this is a good thing. I don't know if this is of benefit. I'm happy to say that since then, I have made all the money back by dint of having a comedy career that has enabled me to take on all sorts of work all over the place. And whether whether I have made the money back, I don't know. Because I don't know whether I'd have had the same career without Edinburgh. I suspect not.


Dan Barnett  14:07

I guess that's the thing. It's the freedom to fail. Is the big is the big privilege.


Stu Goldsmith  14:12

Exactly right and I know that's it. That's it. I had the I had the freedom to fail and then I didn't fail. So yeah, fantastic. That's, that's a result. I always have to caveat this by saying like neither rich nor famous. You mean, so I could have had a much more successful time at Edinburgh. I remember my first ever Edinburgh. No, no, my first ever at all. My first my debut show. I had no agent, but the appearance of having an agent due to complicated series of mistakes which I made. And it was one of those situations where if I take it, it's like Raiders of the Lost Ark. If I'd have taken no action, things were much better. But I tried to finagle a relationship with an agent out of a friend of a friend and then they became my kind of comedy agent to try me out. But to try out getting into being a comedy agent, but they didn't and they sort of forgot about me but it looked like I had an agent. 

So I had this incredible barnstorming First Year and no one had my back and no one was getting in touch saying, hey, you need me to have your back. So that was hugely problematic in ways that I only became aware of five years later, like, oh, I squandered. I had an incredible show that year, I got fantastic reviews. And I completely squandered that opportunity, because I didn't have the right advice from people. Because my mentality is always like, throw yourself into it worked really hard. Years later, go, Oh, I did that wrong. I've worked really hard in the wrong direction.


Dan Barnett  15:30

Yeah, it must be hard. I'd imagine especially for, you know, a solo artist, that comedian that you want to do everything yourself, but obviously you in, in hindsight, you can't do everything yourself. But you want that control. And I'd imagine imagine being a comedian is a bit of a control freak. I know that's a bit of a cliche


Stu Goldsmith  15:49

Some of us are some of us are maybe I think what you need is first contact, I'm obsessed with this idea at the moment, you need that kind of Star Trek idea of someone who knows how it works, pops down and visits you and says, Oh, by the way, this thing you're struggling with, don't worry, it works like this. I've done this, and I know all about it. And some people get that if you are sufficiently talented or interesting that you get a relationship with a strong agent or manager early doors, they in their team can say, hey, don't worry about that. Ignore that I know, everyone's freaking out about that. Forget about it, trust me, I'll assault you. And they sought you and you learn the stuff.

Now it might be that you see that happen, that process happened to a close friend, and you go, Hey, close friend, can you tell me everything they say and then I get a bit of the information. Or it may be that you not only don't see it happen to someone else, you don't know that it's a thing, and you think everyone is in the same boat and everyone isn't in the same boat. And some people have been visited by aliens and shown how it all secretly works, you know, to a greater or lesser extent, and not all of the aliens are correct. And some of them are mad or corrupt, whatever you you know, but but at least there is sometimes a moment for some very promising acts early doors when someone said and of course let's not forget the ACT bring different things to it.  You know, you've spoken to acts on this podcast I know who have marketing backgrounds well if you come to comedy with a marketing background, you create your own contact with the alien world, you know, you know how a lot of it works already, or a parenting comedy or a friend in comedy or whatever it is, you bring your stuff to it. And then the aliens meet you or not. And if they don't, you can be going for 20 years driving up and down motorways doing work that in retrospect, you can sort of look back at it and go Well, a lot of that was pointless, because I was putting enormous effort in in the wrong direction.


Dan Barnett  17:32

Your show is for eight days. I mean, was that just kind of mixing family and festival. And you know, that was the kind of balance?


Stu Goldsmith  17:40

Yes, my family have not had my family have not had a proper summer holiday since they my children became kind of sentient. We didn't do that for the last couple of years. So we decided to have a proper holiday. And so there's a couple of things. There's sort of like, yeah, familial stuff, family related negotiations and stuff and what have you. I'd also spent the last two years going, You know what, man, I don't even need the circuit every time my wife would listen. So it became a lot harder for me to say, I'm going to Edinburgh now. And this is an important part of my career, because she would quite justifiably say, you just been telling us you don't need the circuit anymore. So more full pandemic air askew, was like add me comedy, duty comedy. But I've just talked about it.


Dan Barnett  18:23

With the fringe. I mean, did you start out earlier this year to say, I'm going to do a week? And then I need to write the show? Or did you have something you already had to say or bit of both?


Stu Goldsmith  18:40

It's an interesting one this year. I didn't know if I could write another show. Because I hadn't done any writing over the pandemic, I'd spent all my time on other projects, other kind of comedy adjacent projects, some of which I think I spoke to you about last time. And, and as a result, like, you know, some people wrote a book in lockdown. Some people wrote jokes every day and came out of it with two hours of new stuff. And I created a sort of suite of online products and things and worked on a couple of different business ideas and did that. So I didn't know if I could write another show. So I thought, I don't know if I can commit to a month of doing a show. I think that commitment would mean that I had to do it. But I don't know what I want next from my career.  I don't know if Edinburgh is suitable for achieving whatever I want next with my career. So why don't I do a week of work in progress? And someone mentioned, I think my manager went mentioned, why don't you do why don't you just do a week where you just do work in progress. And I went, Oh, yeah, that will Yeah. So the relief, I felt like yeah, good that that could get me back into the writing process. And I could remember I feel very untethered as a person. And so I felt like oh, maybe I'll never be able to write another show. But that's, that'll get me there.

And now of course, it's we're recording this in early July and I'm thinking god I've got I should be doing a month. I've got The Show and all stuff I'm desperate to say. And I should have backed myself to do the month. But of course, then the family stuff comes into it as well. So yeah, we'll see. So I mean, there is an argument. Now I've got a pretty good show. And there is a strong argument, which I'm quite attracted to, for resting that now pressing pause on that. And spending the next month desperately writing a brand new show to do at Edinburgh for a week. Like that would be a fun, different type of challenge. What I don't have is enough new material gigs in the diary and previews and stuff to do that.  So I don't know, what's the most sensible thing to do now, give it my best shot at writing next, because the other thing is if I keep working on the show, I'm working on which let's face it is the result of all my, my current fascinations preoccupations, it's all stuff I care about. So really, I should double down on that, take it to Edinburgh really work on it, invite a director, my director to come and see it and begin that kind of relationship and new. And then ideally, get to September next year already knowing what next year's Edinburgh show is. I mean, that'd be a nice year, that would be a good way to work on all of my other business plans and propositions and podcasts and everything else, to know that I've already got a really good show in the bag, you know, and then just worry about it in June. You know, maybe I should probably do that. I don't know what I should do. Isn't it? It's, it's art meets commerce. And I never know what the fuck to do with it.


Dan Barnett  21:20

There's there's the header for the podcast, I think. So at the start, you say right, I'll do a week. If nobody came? I'm sure they will. If nobody came, how much would you be down? So you know, you've got the cost the venue, the cost of the fringe?


Stu Goldsmith  21:37

haven't even thought about it? I mean? That's a really good question. I don't think I'd be down that much. Because it's only a week, I've not bought any billboards, I've not paid for any PR, I've not paid big. I mean, I might spend a bit of money on an online sort of thing. I am in a much bigger room than I want to be. But I really want it to be in this particular venue. So I wanted to be in like a 50 seater. And I think I mean, 150 that will that will annoy me that's not that's much more on my mind than if no one turns up. If only 50 people turn up and the room is a third full each day, that will still be an achievement to get those 50 people in every day. But with especially with that much marketing spend. But it will also be a real shame, because I'll be performing to an empty s rooms. So I wish I got a much smaller room to be honest. So so there's that in terms of the in terms of what I'll be down. I mean, the accommodations cost me two grand for a week. That's painful. The travel will be a couple of 100 quid I guess the money I don't earn because I'm not anywhere else. There's that to factor in if you want to be really masochistic. But I think the year it's not massive, it's not massive this year. It's a low risk year for me. I think the most I've ever spent is probably gonna say like seven grand I think I think I spent seven a few years years ago.


Dan Barnett  23:05

Yeah. So in terms of the venue's, do you have a hire fee, effectively, you know, per day, is that how it works? Or are they kind of happy to get people in and they make money off? Drinks?


Stu Goldsmith  23:17

No, I think it's a percentage, I think it's almost always a sort of percentage split. Okay, so you know, they'll take I can't honestly can't remember, like, this is one of the reasons that I am happy to pay the management the cut they take is because they can deal with this. They know what's a good deal. Sometimes, you know, it's muddied by the fact that sometimes shows a Pay What You Want some venues or pay what you want, I have in the past done the free fringe, I really enjoy doing the free fringe. But it kind of has its own limitations. So yeah, so I do the honest answer is I pay someone so I don't need to know about that effectively, you know, makes a lot of sense.

Yeah. I don't want to bother with any of this. Like I'm really trying to do that thing in like there's two principles, which I'm trying to add here. One is based on a blog by someone that was in a band, a blog post basically just says it's the title, a brief explanation, but you don't need the explanation. The title is fuck yes or no. And I'm trying to live to that principle. If something comes in, I either go fuck yeah. And if I don't feel fuck yeah about it, I go, No. The problem is, it's passing and separating the moments when a kind of Yes, I suppose could be a fuck yet where it not for some emotional hurdles in the way or my lack of confidence. I can do a particular thing. You know, so often, sometimes I've had great results from things but I thought that no, made myself do them. And then they've ended up with really good results. But also, the other principle is to delegate everything I'm not excellent at and that's a lot of things. So I really try and delegate as much as I possibly can


Dan Barnett  24:45

talk about the price and I had a quick look on the fringe website. So you've got tickets at five pounds 6.50, 7.50 Some days a two for one, and you've also got pay what you want. So in terms of those prices, were they in terms of the paid tickets were they the kind of level you thought that's kind of good enough to kind of be.


Stu Goldsmith  25:05

I'm pretty sure my management said, Do you want to go at this point at this point? And I said, No, let's do a bit lower than that. Because it is a work in progress. And it's more important to me to have a full room and to make money from this year.


Dan Barnett  25:16

Yeah. And I mean, to be brutally honest, there's always that it's better to have 150 people paying a fiver than, you know, 50 people paying eight quid, you know, so there's, you know, both for your ego in terms of having the full house and financially.


Stu Goldsmith  25:31

Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure. So yeah, so that's sort of how I feel about it at the time. I mean, I think I've, I had some pretty incredible years on the free fringe where there were no overheads, and I'm good at asking people for money, I can look them in the eye and be proud. And people go, Yeah, you do deserve some money. So I had three years, that were really, really excellent. And it's interesting, because much like the way street performing was a former career of mine, street performing made it impossible for me to have a boss, because it's the I was so used to being my own boss, that the idea of anyone telling me what to do just pictures became reasonable. I mean, a similar sort of way, the, those great years on the free fringe have slightly ruined me for Edinburgh, because it's just, it is inconceivable, really, of how I could ever make that much money again, in a proper venue, you know, in a proper venue, paying a split paying agents, fees, paying, you know, PR all that kind of stuff.  You there's just you just couldn't get back up to the heights of a completely new when I did the free friends, it was effectively like doing a street show you no money down, you keep all the profits, you know, so I'm now seeing Edinburgh much more. And I remember this happening not to engage talking about money. But I remember seeing Edinburgh change, in my mind from being this is the Olympics, this is the place where I bring the finished product product to being well, this, I mean, you know, is someone of my age and fighting weight going to get discovered at Edinburgh, that's not really going to happen anymore. So really, Edinburgh has less to do with me bringing the finished product and more to do with me warming up a show in order to then take it on tour.

And similarly, that's also been reflect changes reflected in my sort of financial approach to it, which is, I mean, I've got some very, very successful friends in comedy who go, or the first year you go to Edinburgh and you make an enormous profit. And at the same time, you don't make them the tax loss that you're used to be, you know very much first world problems. But you so they go, Well, the sensible thing to do now would would be to get a hotel every night and just stay in a hotel. Because then I can write it all off against tax, they pay higher rates. So they go like I'm effectively getting a 40% discount on it. And it's much easier and it kind of brings down my liability. So I'm not quite in that camp yet. But I'm just getting a sense of the mindset shift that would be required to go. Oh, yeah, okay. Like, even if you don't make loads of money from Edinburgh, if you're doing all right, the rest of the year at your various things, then Edinburgh is less than opera to like in the early part of your career. It's a huge tax loss, that means you don't pay much tax that Yeah. And then it becomes a breakeven and then it becomes a profit, but with caveats, you know, so.


Dan Barnett  28:07

So in terms of the pay what you want, I mean, like you said, you've got a background in kind of putting it the best way, of asking for money.


Stu Goldsmith  28:15



Dan Barnett  28:17

Okay, that's a good way of putting it? Do you find that kind of more of a cashless economy? Does that make a difference?


Stu Goldsmith  28:24

That remains to be seen? I'm sure it will. I can't give you any actual like, yes, you know, I'm sure that is reflected across all street performing. I see lots of very futuristic buskers now who have three eyes that'll you know, pay Wave Devices on a board for 510 and 20 pounds, and you tap which one you want. Yeah, I mean, if I get to the stage of if I was doing this festival, if I was doing the free fringe. Now, I would do that. If I was in a big venue at the free fringe, I'd have a board with 510 and 20. And people could tap as they went out. It's too faffy. At the moment, the technology is the technology by which I mean, what's available. And the way we as comics use it hasn't I don't think quite caught up with the fact that there's going to be a lot less cash this year at Edinburgh. I'm not too bothered about it, because I think most people will have bought tickets. And some people will have cash in their pockets. I'll have an IZettle I couldn't make it attached to the the venue Wi Fi last time. So it didn't work. But I ended up using one of their card machines or something. So it's a bit fafi. But it's not a huge problem. I think if I was at the liquid rooms, doing a 200 seater, I'd be thinking, Oh Christ, I've really got to put some work into this. And some people are doing that. And we'll do that.


Dan Barnett  29:36

So in terms of marketing, what are the kinds of things you're looking to do? I mean, obviously, you've got an established base, you've got a podcast, you've got a mailing list. So you've probably got a lot of advantages that, you know, newer acts don't have. I mean, are you using that an awful lot or are you looking to do some of the more traditional stuff as well?


Stu Goldsmith  29:57

Between you and me, Dan? I think And that I, my interest in the subject of how to mobilise a fan base, and all that kind of stuff, and how to how to leverage a mailing list and that stuff, my interest in those things outweighs the volume of people that I have access to. Yeah. So I've sometimes talk to my more famous friends and go, you have got to do this, because I've heard about this thing you could do, but my fan base is too small to really do it with in any sensible way, you only what I certainly don't have 100,000 followers on anything.

And I think having 100,000 followers on our platform or something, or like 100,000, weekly downloads, weekly downloads would be like, That's the next kind of goal really. Because once you've got that, I think you can really experiment with stuff. But if you use the sort of 2% rule, which I do, which is that if you've got 100 people and you say, hey, buy a ticket to this, which is near your house, 2% of them will do it, like people, people don't do things to mean the first time you will ask God, only 2% of my listeners follows what have you will actually take an action I've requested. And then there's, you know, there's how will you ask and how meaningful is to them and all those other things. But broadly, I don't imagine more than 2% of people do anything. If you've got 100,000 followers, that's maybe 2000 people. But if you've got 1000 followers is only 20 people, and some of them were your mates and you don't really know. So So I do leverage those things. I am interested in using those things.  But the way I see my podcast listenership and comedy fan base, which is often the overlap between those things, are that I'm I'm as being as efficient as I possibly can, with a comparatively big number of people small but perfectly formed. Well, yes, exactly. Like I love that. So if you go to, if you go to link tree slash Stewart Goldsmith, there's five things on a link tree and one of them socials. And if you hit the socials one, it goes to another link tree that has all the socials on it. So that's good. But it's not like that first link tree is getting 1000 hits a day, whereby I'd be able to I'd be really excited to tweak and move stuff around and go, Oh, look, if we, if we put the time there it flows in this direction. I've


Dan Barnett  32:05

seen you talk about tik tok as well. How's that going?


Stu Goldsmith  32:08

Oh, God knows, I started tik tok, my second video went viral, I went from zero to nine and a half 1000 followers over one week. And it stayed that way for the last two months. Like, you know, it's one thing I would say actually is really interesting doing Tiktok. And Instagram reels at the same time, if you do two platforms at once, with the same content, you get much more interesting metrics. And it's much better for your mental health. Because if some something goes really high on one, and nowhere on the other, you don't feel like a success or a failure. You go Oh, right. It's just, it's just different platforms, the algorithm is unknowable, we can all chase it. But then I don't want to be a little monkey jumping on the end of a string, trying to work out what the algorithm wants today, as they continually change the algorithm to keep all the monkeys jumping on strings like that is not in my personality, I don't want that I don't like it. And I can look at someone who's very good at working out what the algorithm wants and providing excellent content, someone like Nigel Ng, for example.

And I can look at the incredible life he has where it's all like he's making a colossal amount of money and leveraging in all sorts of ways. And I look at him and I'm not jealous of him. Because I don't want my job to be an algorithm, diviner, an algorithm auger should have been Where you've got to get the entrails of your comedy every day and go on what is the algorithm want today, I don't want that for a job gonna say if someone was offering to be my, I do have one. And we're working out together a sort of like, oh, that works well on Instagram, that works less well.  But I'm very happy to outsource those decisions and experimented the data science behind it. And it just seems mad doesn't it to think that there's a platform everyone, it's like, you're it's like you're a person selling shoes, or selling T shirts, you don't say, you know, selling T shirts online is not about having designs for T shirts. It's about knowing how to, it's about the margins, the micro percent margins of, if I spend this much on Facebook advertising, I make this much. So it isn't a creative job. It's not a t shirt selling job. It's a maths job. And I don't want to do that with my comedy, I don't want I'm not interested in going, I want to they change the algorithm so people can't gain it. So everyone learns what the new game is, and then they change it. And everyone has to learn what the new game is. I'm bored of that. I like writing jokes and telling jokes. So some people have nailed it through luck, or judgement, or having a background in software development, or having first contact from someone who isn't a manager but who says hey, I know what the algorithm is and I'll help you. And that's great. And I'm not jealous often. You know, it's like, I do think it's really fascinating to see the current vogue for people doing I'm a person I made it you know, I'm the same person but I'm being a different person. Well, why are you doing that? What I'm doing this those little micro sketches, they obviously you can see why they work well. Well, if the Oh Josh Pugh, just so funny oh my god, just a short or Alistair Green. So they, you have a video and it's just you bland Magnolia background wall and you just do a funny idea for 30 seconds. And it's funny. Like, I really liked that. So I mean, I'm sort of like that is that is a current thing of mine, I'm quite interested in trying. And you need to do all the mindset stuff of going right.

Don't worry about the numbers, just knock out 50 of them and then see how they went. And don't worry that they will look shit. And you will undoubtedly hate the first 50 of them. When you look back at them in five years. If you haven't already deleted them all out of shame. You need to accept that and embrace it and go, do I have funny little ideas? Yes. Could I put them in some format where other people might appreciate them? Yes. Can I cope with them disappearing without trace when I spent loads of work on them? I suppose you know, but it's getting over that I suppose that's the big mindset thing. So that and then the other thing is music I really more and more. I'm singing little daft songs to my kids and thinking, I really like singing little daft songs. And I don't play an instrument. But I would love to have. I mean a loop is a bit been done. But I'd love to have a synth and just set up some synth tracks awesome backing tracks and go this is a dumb little song about a thing. I'm quite excited in that I'm more excited about that creatively than the other one. So maybe I'll do that one.


Dan Barnett  36:20

So do you see that as purely online? Or would you take that on the road? Those kinds of things?


Stu Goldsmith  36:26

Oh, I want to do it live. I don't want. It's so hard. It's so hard. If you asked me a year ago, I'd be like, I'm online baby. I'm all online. I don't want to leave the house anymore. I'm tired as fuck of the M4 and M6,  I'm tired. I don't want to do that anymore. I'm even more tired of going to Dorset, which from Bristol is only a few miles away, but there's no motorway so it always takes two hours regardless of where you're going. I don't want to do that anymore. It's boring. I hate it. Now, though, I'm like, I don't want to exist purely online if I you know, when on my staff started going viral on Instagram reels. And I had like, you know, I think it's like an 80 80% increase in followers like I I had something go mega viral recently, like 5 million views, which was brilliant, because there was like half a million likes. And no matter how unknowable the algorithm if half a million people went, Oh, that was funny. Like, you go. It was a good joke then.

So that's really helped in a way that I wish it didn't. But it has made me go. Oh, yeah. I'm funny. You don't mean like, yeah, I can I can have an online thing. And then so that had like 5 million hits. And another one had a million and other ones had 2 million other ones. I mean, these are really exciting numbers. But so in the last two weeks, we put out loads and loads more little videos and they've only had a couple of 1000 Then you go well what is it? Is it is it algorithmic are we choosing the wrong stuff is it's something as dumb as my T shirt was a really nice looking colour against the background and that's why everyone looked at it. Do we hashtag it and it turns out motorcyclists are right up themselves and they they like I mean I did see that happening. People arguing in the comments the amount of people who would argue over whether or not I was gay in the comments, okay, drove out the algorithm. You know, it's it's fascinating


Dan Barnett  38:04

in terms of going back to your your fringe. So you think you're going to be a lot more old school, you're going to do leaflets, you're going to guy with a sandwich board, those kind of things.


Stu Goldsmith  38:15

leaflets, flyers, we call them Dan. But I do like the idea of leaflets, leaflets is what your dad would call them. You're gonna get some leaflets. I funnily enough, I have. I've done all sorts of hustles over the years. And one of my favourites that I saw someone else do actually was they had, they had something like fifth or sixth or maybe a fifth storey window above kind of pie maker. And and they had a fishing line. And they had a flyer on the end with a bulldog clip, and they would dangle it that people walking past and people would be intrigued and take the flyer and that was fun to do and it looked nice. I've done all sorts. I've had like a child's tricycle with a huge sign on the back for my show prick at the time, his little girls pink tricycle, I thought that was quite funny that I would look to places in an attempt to get the equivalent of 600 quids worth of advertising just by locking your bike up. I've seen people drive cars and vans around the place with a boards on them I when I did live podcasts in 2012 I think that wasn't selling well. And so I just you know emergency bought some of that poly board with a thing saying starting in half an hour live podcast chance blah, blah, blah and just got a stood outside and then got someone to stand outside with a big stick and it doubled the sales. It's also done, you know, so yeah, this time. It's a weird one this time because my poster image which I am absolutely in love with. I would love it to be my poster image next year. I should have saved it up really.

So I sort of don't want anyone to know about the show. I want to just I want to just have 50 people a night an afternoon is 125 where I'm gonna get these people from is man there's just going to be 20 comedy nerds at each show. Story man i I just want to have a small number of people helped me get the show get really, really, really, really good. And then next year explode, spend money on billboards with a phenomenal image on them, and just kick ass and just kind of throw everything at it. I mean, I will probably the most I will do flyers, I will pay someone to hand out those flyers.  And I will probably do a little bit of online advertising spend. But again, I find that unknowable. I mean, you can go to have many fucking Facebook online webinars about how to use the thing that they still use terms I simply don't understand. And you're always fighting against the fact that all of these online platforms, they they've got all of these deliberately murky things like reach and impressions and stuff, so that it looks like your thing has been seen by 2000 people, but it doesn't mean that it means your thing has autoplay 2000 times. Yes. And actually five people have seen it, and one of them liked it and didn't click the link. So, so it just feels so mad to to pay them anything. You know, I mean, but if you do, there's definitely people that make it work, and send them my way, please.


Dan Barnett  41:08

And so for further out this I mean, you know, there's a big controversy at the moment. It's early July, with the with the fringe app, you know, people kind of feel that the fringe of taking the registration fee, and it's not quite value for money. You know, because the where there is no app, there's just a website, and it's not quite, you don't get the serendipitous people walking past at twenty past one, for example, past your show, they might say, Oh, well, you know, I could go to lunch or I could watch the show.


Stu Goldsmith  41:38

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's terrible. It's really bad. I kind of see it from both ends, I kind of get that they haven't got any money. I don't know where the money goes. I don't understand what it's like to run a big organisation. But certainly there's always been the peace between the the performers and the the organisation which we've think is there to facilitate us, but which has its own designs on what it's there for, whilst loudly proclaiming that it's there to facilitate us. The peace between those two groups has always seemed quite uneasy. And yes, I don't know, you know, it must be very difficult to organise an update and maintain an app. And if they took a decision not to do that, then it would have been good for them to tell the performers when they took the decision, but I suspect they knew that if they told the performers at the point of telling them that decision, most of the performers would say, well, in that case, I'm not gonna pay you any money. So who knows what the right thing to do there was because, you know, does the does the festival need the Edinburgh Fringe organisation? It's it's not the festival where the festival, you know, so. But if it all just devolved into fiefdoms, as we've seen with the various warring free fringe tribes, that's doesn't seem like a great solution either.

So I think increasingly, performers feel like, what should be an open access Arts Festival is sort of being what's the word colonised. Or, like if you look at the colonisation of public space, in Edinburgh, it's sort of a reflection, I think of what's going on with the fringe organisation that you go through Oh, here is say, Bristow square, which is public space, and then it gets cordoned off and stuff gets put in it, you know, furniture and bars and stuff in order to sell an incredible volume of alcohol and turn it incredible profit. And then you go oh, that's the festival in like I talked about the beginning about student unions, you know, it's all it's the space gets privatised. That's the word not colonised, well kind of colonised. But at this base becomes privatised. And that is sort of you can see that reflected in the the sort of the, the real estate of the geography, there's also a kind of mental real estate that gets privatised when it comes to the fringe, there is the idea that the fringe is whoever goes there at one end.  And then at the other end, there is no the fringe is the four big venues or four to half, five, whatever big venues and, and some free fringe organisations and some others, so that they will be able to get stackable offence, to change things so that you made less money, but people were happier, the world was a better place it would be a sack of an offence. So I get that Edinburgh exists within that wider context. And of course, that's how it works. And maybe we will look back on it in 50 years time if we're under the rubble of some sort of apocalyptic event and go, well wasn't that nice when we all had at least what we had at the time.


Dan Barnett  44:43

Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, check out our previous episodes where we talk to podcasters freelancers and writers about their experiences and making creativity pay. Thanks very much for listening