Should comedians pay for reviews? By Adam Rowe

By Adam Rowe

Earlier this week, there was widespread outrage amongst the comedy industry as Chortle’s Steve Bennett announced that he would guarantee to review any comic’s Edinburgh show providing they spent £250 or more on advertising their show on the Chortle website.

Although I understand the disillusion this has brought out in a lot of people, I think it’s refreshingly honest. Yes, Steve Bennett stands to make a lot of money if people take up his offer – but so what? They’ll potentially be getting more for their £250 than they would be by spending thousands of pounds on PR.

A lot of amazing comics go to Edinburgh every year, put a lot of effort into the show, spend an awful lot of money and get absolutely nothing for it, other than some nice gigs when they’re up there. Paying £250 to get a review (AND £250 worth of advertising) on arguably the most influential website in the industry is an absolute bargain in the grand scheme of things.

A good chortle review can lead to more ticket sales, more reviews and interest from bookers and agents up at the festival, who (rightly or wrongly) hold a lot of the power in making someone go from respected club comic, to household name.

Last year, I was lucky enough to have been asked to host The Big Value Showcase. We had a lot of agents, bookers and promoters attend our shows almost everyday, because Big Value has a reputation of launching the careers of some fantastic comics (Jason Manford, Seann Walsh, Paul McCaffrey, Romesh Ranganthan and many more). I’m almost certain that I got more work by doing that show than I would have by spending thousands doing my debut solo show.

That’s why I decided to leave Edinburgh this year and focus on a different project.

Instead of spending a lot of money and hoping my chosen PR or street team can get all the agencies and reviewers at The Fringe to come and see the show of yet another comedian they’ve heard either very little or nothing about; I’m going to use the small but fantastic following I have in Liverpool to (hopefully) sell out The Unity Theatre and produce my own comedy special. I’ll have it professionally recorded from three angles, edited and re-edited until it’s perfect. Once that’s done, it’ll be made available for online download and I’ll sell it on DVDs after my regular comedy club gigs around the country. In the long run, I should make a profit on the £1500 it’s going to cost me to produce this.

The main motivation behind me doing this is that I can send it to every single booker, promoter and agent in the country for free. They’ll be able to watch it without leaving their office or home. They won’t have to take the word of one of the thousands of emails they receive from comics and PR companies using the same superlatives to desperately try and get them to go and see their show and not a different one.

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