Festival fringe production and the long tail

In the past 15 years, there has been a worldwide proliferation of arts festivals, including so-called “fringe” festivals, which encouraged more experimental and avant-garde productions. While fringe festival productions had the potential to generate significant income for producers, their aims were primarily related to artistic innovation and it is well known that putting on a fringe show is highly unlikely to provide financial gain for most producers. This is what is referred to in statistics and marketing as a “long tail” distribution, in which a minority of producers in a particular market earn the vast majority of industry income. However, for individual producers of live theatre, such a distribution represents high risks and potentially large financial losses. This article uses producer data from two different fringe festivals in South Africa to explore determinants of ticket sales and box-office income. Included in the analysis is a consideration of the impact of genre and pricing strategies on the probability (Logit model) of shows being in the top 10%, 30% and 50% of best-selling and earning productions. Results support the long tail hypothesis.

Working paper 576
1 January 2016
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