back to article Fringe box office FAIL pushes sales down 10%

Ticket sales at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe were down ten per cent this year, in part because of the technical failure of its box office system. Organisers at the arts fest admitted 2008 has been a very difficult year for the festival. The Fringe launched its new Liquid Box Office electronic system in June, but it failed to …


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  1. Sam


    Fringe director Jon Morgan claimed it had been a “fantastic year”


    And three hundred and sixthly, who appointed the jerkoffs who got it wrong?

    Oooh..would one of them go by the name of "morgan"?

  2. Andrew Fenton

    To be fair....

    It has rained pretty much all August here, and that always hurts ticket sales.

    Doubt the Olympics made much difference though.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    So there is justice in the software world!

    "Last week Pivotal Integration, which supplied the system, went into administration".

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aye @Andrew Fenton

    The dreich weather cannae've helped.

    I'm just glad that unlike last year I didn't end up attending a 'comedy' show where I represented 50% of the audience.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Olympic celebration

    The peoples of the sovereign nation of Scotland are busy celebrating their tremendous haul of 4 gold medals at the Olympics.

  6. Hayden Cohen

    Bargain Price for tickets...

    Only Joking. Having been to the Edinburgh festival for the past 10 years, I have seen many years of bad weather and sporting events, for the attendance to keep on rising. Let's face it. If you're going to Edinburgh you expect bad weather. There is a simple reason why ticket sales have fallen. The expenses have spiralled out of control. Hotel rooms starting at £90 per night, Tickets themselves on average £10 a ticket, innovation has been stifled as less and less people can afford to go or justify their hard earned cash on the festival.

    Less greed will ensure that the festival continues strongly otherwise this amazing artsfest may die a great death.

  7. Andy Worth

    Re:Aye @Andrew Fenton

    That doesn't bode well for audience participation. Well, at least the comedian didn't have to worry about being booed off by too many people.....

  8. martin burns

    @AnonCoward: attending comedy shows

    Neither did I. But that's because I live here, and therefore don't attend the English Comedy Festival On Tour, that uses Edinburgh as a temporary stage set. I had enough of "Patronise the Locals with Observances of being a Tourist in Edinburgh in August" a long time back.

    I'm all for the Festival Fringe shrinking drastically and returning to its much less commercialised roots. The only losers would be the big London promoters, as there'd still be more than enough demand to fill the city's B&Bs and hotels, just as there is through the rest of the summer. And just as there was this year despite the drop in ticket sales.

    Mine's the one with "Bugger Off: I do *not* want your bloody leaflet" on the back.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @martin burns

    Aye, one of these years I'll get that T-shirt printed, the one that says "Fuck off I live here" on the front and back.

    I work just off George St, having to weave through the peeps thrusting flyers outside the Assembly Rooms at lunchtime really get trying after a week. It is nice to have the city back!

  10. Callum
    Paris Hilton

    This Website belongs to Lionel Ritchie

    At no point did the ticket system let us down... even though we arrived at a couple of shows late with no pre-booked tickets. Was it just the website 'n phones that weren't working?

    It is as expensive as you want to make it - there was a massive Free Fringe this year and hotel rooms can be found for less than GBP 90 if you don't mind sitting on a bus into edinburgh. Me and other half spent quite a bit but then had an excellent suite at an upmarket modern city centre hotel and went "show crazy" seeing a mixture of big names and no names.

    **for those that didn't go - half of Edinburgh is covered in stickers claiming that "This belongs to Lionel Ritchie" - an event where the promotion for the show was far more ingenius than the show itself!

    *** Paris cos we didn't stay at her dads hotel.

  11. martin burns



    Funnily enough, when I was much younger in the city, mates and I were planning a show with that exact title, detailing at length how we hated the entire shebang.

    We canned it when we realised that the immigrant Fringe-ites would consider it post-modern irony.

    All I'm saying is, don't get me started: I have the material for an *extended* rant.

  12. Mike Byrne

    Show cost

    I agree, the cost of the shows are partly to blame.

    Several times I said "why would I pay seventeen quid to see ..." and sometimes I favoured the waffles from the pleasance over going to see a show.

    Incidentally, the waffles from the pleasance were awesome.

  13. Justin
    IT Angle

    What software would YOU use to run the Fringe?

    There must be some freeware or Open Sauce available for doing this kind of thing. Maybe that's what Pivotal did - or maybe it's where they went wrong.

  14. martin burns
    IT Angle

    OSS Central Reservation Systems


    Interestingly, there don't seem to be any major OSS CRSs out there.

    Surely it can't be *that* hard - a wee bit of complexity around reserved seating perhaps - but otherwise it's N venues with X performances of Y shows on Z dates, each with inventory of A seats. Not *that* complex a product catalogue, particularly if you can import a CSV. Hook it up to a commerce engine, host it somewhere with a bit of scalability[1], and your ma's bro should be called Rab.

    [1] If you trust it, Google's App Engine's Django implementation might just be the fella.

  15. Amos

    I went to less

    The box office mess plus the reviews mess (inability to search by review, many reviews not showing...) meant I didn't go to as much. Simple. Weather?! Why would rain stop me going to an indoors event? Actually it would make me more likely to. Besides its the same weather as always: Edinburgh+aug=rain. We all know that.

    The dominant venues should axe the fringe box office and do it themselves.

  16. Richard Porter

    Bad weather

    Obviously the wrong kind of sun ;)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    System complexity, alternative, weather, Olympics etc

    @ martin burns

    You heavily underestimate the complexity of such a system - the fringe is a whole scale larger than any other event and the ticketing system needs to cater for huge numbers of variables - shows can be on different times on different days or even several times in the same day, with multiple price bands. The tickets must also be sold through multiple systems - fringe website, phone, fringe office, venue, venue's website. While someone is booking online you need to ensure that the tickets in a basket are not sold to someone else. The number of queries means you cannot have one central database. Also you need to cater for communication breakdowns, so individual systems can still sell their own allocations even when they cannot communicate with the centre or with each other. It is a hugely complicated system. The reason the fringe office chose the wrong system was because they were too ambitious and chose the system with the largest promised feature set, without taking adequate consideration of deliverability of that feature set. The Liquid system had never sold a single ticket before being selected to sell tickets for the largest arts event in the world. Had they chosen a proven system, there would have almost certainly not have been this fiasco.

    @ Amos

    The dominant venues do have their own ticketing system, called Via, and it was this system that was installed in the fringe office and a number of the other large venus that had been intending to use Liquid in just a few days before the fringe started at the end of July and which allowed the fringe to go ahead. If the big four venues had not decided some time ago to invest in their own choice of box office system and have this ready for 2008 and not to rely on the fringe office, then the fiasco might have been a complete meltdown.

    Once the independent enquiry has published it's findings, let's hope that they find the Fringe management had better reasons for recommending the Liquid to the board than the following factors that might have crept into the decision-making process:

    1. The Fringe Office tender documents and other statements made by their management indicated that they were looking for features in the box office system that could link it to the other festivals in Edinburgh - an extremely ambitious project when may of the festivals have different ticket systems of their own - even though the fringe venues had all told the Fringe Office that they did not want such features in the fringe box office system.

    2. Pivotal Integration's Liquid software was in large part written by a person who has been working for several years as the Fringe Office's box office manager.

    3. The Fringe management was reluctant to choose a system that had been developed partly in conjunction with, and was already in active use by, the major venues because the Fringe management wanted full control of the development of the box office system.

    If these factors had been taken into account, then this would smack of self-serving empire-building, rather than working in the best interests of all the fringe stakeholders - in particular the venues and the performers who actually rely on those tickets sales for their income.

    As for weather - it makes a big difference to the big outdoor bars, eg the Pleasance, Spiegal Garden and Udderbelly, but does not have much effect on ticket sales. As for the Olympics - this actually might have helped, as if you were into both, you could take one holiday and do the Fringe from 2pm to 3am every days and then watch the Olympics from 3am to 2pm - the timing were perfectly complementary!!

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