Master Yoda, on the Dark Side of the Edinburgh Fringe…

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m back home with Mrs B for a few days helping to sort out domestic things – we’ve just moved house, and it’s a lot of work for one person, especially when they’re working full time – before returning for the Open Book Management Session on Monday 12th, 1pm at Fringe Central (did I mention that it’s free? I suspect I may have…)

However, we’re all waiting for reviews, and so of course I just got diverted from the list of ‘Husband’s Jobs’ which I have been given to do. The lure of checking the internet for reviews was just too strong. I’m only human. Sorry, Mrs B.

There are lots of great websites which, along with your show listings, often have a section which allows Messrs. G. Publick & Co. to post up their own reviews. And that led me to think of the great danger this poses to those of you with a show on at the Fringe.

I have known companies in the past who – shock horror – seem to think that this gives them a wonderful, sneaky way to slip good reviews of their own shows on to these websites at a purchasing portal, posing as Messrs. G. Publick & Co.

Their thinking is that when genuine potential ticket buyers see these supposedly public reviews of their shows, it will tip them over the edge and encourage them to buy tickets for that show rather than others which perhaps do not yet have reviews, or possibly have ones that are not as good as the performing company believe their show deserves and have thus posted up.

This is desperately flawed thinking, and I’d like to strongly advise against it for two reasons.

Firstly, it messes with your data. When you come to what we at Red Table call the ‘Post-Mortem’ (which is where once the dust has settled after we have closed the show and we get the opportunity to see what we did well, so we can do more of that, and what we did badly, so we can do less of that), you’ll not be able to analyse how you really did. You’ll never know if your ultimate ticket sales were a falsely inflated result due to your rather underhanded way of encouraging ticket sales. Gathering accurate data is incredibly important, as it’s the only way you’ll be able to get better at what you do, and compromising your data stream is not worth it just for the sake of maybe getting a couple of extra ticket sales during the Festival.

Secondly, and far more importantly, you risk ruining your reputation as a company. And that’s the really bad one. At Red Table we have three core company values – to be Open, Honest and Ethical – and we believe that in the long term we will gain a far better following by making sure we live those values.

Rigging the public reviews is the first step down the Dark Path, and for those of you unfamiliar with the wisdom of Master Yoda (yes, I’m quoting Yoda here), “If once you start down the Dark Path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will.”

I’m being serious here. If your show has a review purportedly from Messrs. G. Publick & Co. which says it’s incredible when really it isn’t, people may well feel cheated. They may begin to suspect that They Have Been Deceived. Even worse, if other genuine members of the public assign a very different public review on the same site, then yours will stand out as a likely candidate for a show which has been deliberately reviewed with bias by the performing company to achieve extra ticket sales. It’s even worse than that if you post on a website which also has in-house reviewers. If they give a certain opinion of your product (and don’t forget, art or not, this is a product), and other members of the public tend to agree with the in-house reviewer, then your company might look duplicitous at best, and downright liars and manipulators at worst.

This means that in the short term, your sales could be adversely affected by the cheeky ‘public review’ that you posted, and in the long term you could well get flagged up by both reviewers and public alike as Naughty People, who deserve neither future reviews nor further business.

It’s counter-productive in both the short and the long term. It’s deceitful. And if you do it, in my opinion, it shaves a little bit off your soul.

All we really have as human beings is our integrity. It’s not something that can be bought as such, and yet people seem to give it away for free without thought as to the consequences to themselves or others, all the time.

Trust your product. If it doesn’t deliver this time, then you have a great opportunity to learn how to do things better next time. If it does, you’ll know your success was because you did things right, and can carry on with a good solid set of base skills and data analyses. And a clear conscience.

I’ll let Master Yoda sum up this post, far better than I possibly could:

“In the end, cowards are those who follow the Dark Side”.


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