Edinburgh Fringe website to charge £50 for reviews

The Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Photo: Jan Kranendonk/Shutterstock
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A new website has set out details of a pay-for-review scheme for productions on the Edinburgh Fringe.

However, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society has warned participants to be “wary” of such schemes. The American Theatre Critics Association has previously said a similar scheme “undermined” the credibility of critics.

The site, edfringereviews.com, wants to charge companies £50 for a “professionally written” review of their production that it will then publish within 48 hours of seeing the show.

In a statement, the site defended the pay-for-review aspect of the scheme, saying that charging for reviews is not new.

It said: “Chortle, the main comedy website, and others make a point of saying that if you advertise on their website you guarantee a review. Ours is just more subtle and we will heavily promote (to the best of our abilities) each show.”

According to its rate card, Chortle guarantees that a critic will be sent to review every show that spends more than £250 on advertising.

The edfringereviews.com spokesman said that it had been set up partly in response to uninterested or opinionated student reviewers that focus on aspects of a comic’s appearance rather than talking about the show.

It said: “What we hope to do is employ and pay reviewers who have proved to us through a written interview that they have the ability to write a review within the format that we will provide. This will be a professional format that will allow the reviewer to love or hate the show but will be respectful.”

Although the website is now live and has been contacting acts to purchase a review, the spokesman described the current activity as a “fishing trip”.

A spokesman for the site added: “Currently I am just seeing if there is an interest for what I am offering. I will not be going ahead with the idea or taking any money off anyone unless I get 30 people.”

The Fringe Society told The Stage that it accredits more than 1,000 journalists from international and UK media outlets every year, providing them with all the information required to ensure the best possible coverage for fringe participants and the fringe as a whole.

A spokesman said: “Our advice to participants would be to be wary of pay-to-review services and instead focus marketing effort and budget on attracting independent media reviewers and audiences for peer-to-peer review.”

The model is similar to that started by US theatre review site Bitter Lemons in 2015 for fringe theatre in Los Angeles. The scheme is not currently live and most references to it on the site have been removed.

Bitter Lemons attracted controversy at the Hollywood Fringe Festival and led the American Theatre Critics Association to comment: “This pay-for-play arrangement creates a clear appearance of a conflict of interest. That appearance, even if spurious, undermines the crucial credibility of not only Bitter Lemons’ critics, but all critics.”