So you want to do an Edinburgh Fringe Magic Show? Are you sure? Are you really sure? Well, I hope this helps….
Only a few years ago there were only a handful of magicians performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Now there are usually well over 70 magic shows that you can see.
I’ve performed in Edinburgh, at the fringe, 5 times. In 2009 with Kevin Quantum (then Kevin McMahon) with our show, Magic To Get Girls By (a magical experiment to see if magic made you more attractive). I then went with my own magic shows in 2012, 2013 and 2014. This was all before I started performing virtual magic shows online. I came back to Edinburgh back in 2023 with my wife, who is also a magician, in our first show as a double act Married At First Sleight.
During those years I learnt a few things about producing and performing a magic show in Edinburgh. So, if you have ever thought about doing it, this should be helpful for you. It will either encourage or put you off. Either way, helpful. I’ve also included links to things like printing flyers, advertising outside, poster design etc. These can all take a lot of time if you’ve never done it before.
My first tip would be visit the Edinburgh Fringe as a punter and watch some shows. Watch some magic shows and and some other things too. Comedians, a play, a musical maybe? Many magicians put on a show there without really knowing what it is, what the vibe is or anything about it. Just go up for a few days and soak in the atmosphere. If that puts you off, great. You’ve probably saved yourself a ton of cash.
Which brings me to my first bit of advice. DO NOT, and I repeat, NO NOT take a magic show to Edinburgh because you think it’s going to make you lots of money. If you are working already as a magician, you will almost certainly make more money performing elsewhere. There are very few magicians who make money in Edinburgh and even less who make good money. The costs to take up a magic show are so huge. It’s not impossible, but it’s also very hard. If money is your motive, I would think very carefully about whether this is the best option for you.
Some magicians do make money, but they are often at the top of their game and it has taken several years of losing money to get to that point.
Edinburgh Fringe Magic Show Venues
If you do decide to take a magic show to Edinburgh, first of all you will need a venue. You might think you need a show first. This isn’t true. Most magicians and comedians book in Edinburgh Fringe as a deadline to get their show ready.
Once you’ve booked a venue and you know it’s happening, you know exactly when your new show has to be ready by. You will have to give a name of the show when applying to venues so it would be nice to have a rough idea of what you would like, but it certainly doesn’t have to be finished and polished.
There are lots of different venues with different models. The most obvious is the paid venues. These take a split of your ticket sales (usually 30% or 40%). With these venues, you also have to guarantee a certain amount of sales so you have to pay that guarantee in advance. If you don’t sell enough tickets, you won’t get any money back at the end.
The big venues are Pleasance, Gilded Balloon, Assembly and Underbelly. They start taking applications around 9 months before usually so have a look at their websites and see when applications are open. You’ll have to submit the name of your show, what it’s about and maybe provide some other credits so they can see if you are right for their venue. They are not easy to get into if you are relatively unknown with no track record.
As well as the above mentioned Big 4 (as they have come to be known), there are lots of other venues scattered around the city. Venues such as Spaces and Just The Tonic (as well as tons of others) all use the paid model and it might be worth applying to one of those if you are new to Edinburgh Fringe and without lots of experience.
Another model is the Free Fringe. This is where people come in for free and if they like your show, drop money in to your bucket on the way out. These are often slightly easier to get and you don’t have to pay anything up front. There are loads of advantages (and disadvantages) to the Free Fringe.
Advantages of Free Fringe – nothing to pay upfront, no split with the venue, you get cash after every show, can be easier to convince people to take a punt on your show as it’s free.
Disadvantages of Free Fringe – you never know how many people will be coming to see you, you have to stand with a bucket and ask for cash at the end of your show, often the venues are not good quality (with the exception of a couple like the Voodoo Rooms), usually nowhere to store props.
You’ll have to go in the official Fringe programme, but your venue should be able to help with this.
Edinburgh Fringe Magic Show Accommodation
Another thing you will have to do is find accommodation for the month. In recent years, the price of accommodation in Edinburgh has gone through the roof. For most people, you will have to share with other performers or stay out of town. Good accommodation in the centre of Edinburgh is so expensive it prices a lot of people out unfortunately. However, if you team up with a few other performers it can be a fun way to spend the month and make it more affordable.
There are so many styles of shows and ways to create a magic show for Edinburgh, so I won’t give advice on that. There are no rules. Edinburgh is a space for pretty much everything and anything. You can have a straight magic show, a mind reading show, comedy magic or one with a story or anything in between. One thing Edinburgh does encourage is for you to be original. My only advice would be to avoid putting on a show if all you have is a standard Bandana/Banana routine. At least have something original to showcase.
Edinburgh Fringe Magic Show Marketing
Marketing your Edinburgh Fringe Magic Show will be tricky. You need an angle to stand out from all the other magic shows and you will need a budget to advertise your show. You’ll need a photo shoot to get some shots for the poster and someone to design it. Unless you are brilliant at this, it’s normally worth hiring a pro. The quality of posters in Edinburgh is very high so anything less that great, will look bad. Also, consider that the photo needs to be seen when it’s pretty small in the Fringe programme so it might be worth having a few versions. I get mine designed by The Flier Brigade who always does an excellent job.
Anything from posters, fliers, adverts online and in the fringe brochure should all be considered to advertise your Edinburgh Fringe magic show. Everything has to be paid for. You know those big posters you see all over Edinburgh? Well, they ain’t cheap. To book those posters you’ll need to head over to Out Of Hand. You can hand out flyers for the show to people in the street yourself or try to hire some flyerers to advertise your show for you. This isn’t easy but if you have look on Facebook you can find a few groups where people who would like to flyer advertise their services.
It might also be worthwhile sending out a press release to all the papers and publications who write reviews. This might end up getting you some editorial and might persuade someone to come and review your show. Send a one page synopsis of the show and some great photos they can use.
Overall, if you do decide to take your magic show to the Edinburgh Fringe, can I just say, congratulations. It’s incredibly difficult but can be incredibly rewarding. Not financially (for most people) but you’ll end up a better performer than when you started and have an incredible experience. Many magicians think about doing a show there but never do. So just the fact that you have done it should be congratulated.