A website has come under fire for charging performers up to £50 to have their shows reviewed at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
The site, the Mumble, is contacting artists appearing at this year’s festival to offer “a digitally sophisticated Skyflyer”, comprising a review and interview, for £50. Opting for just a review would cost £30.
Luke Emery, a producer at the fringe, told The Stage the Mumble made an approach to one of his acts and described the site’s actions as “exploitative”.
“I have been doing the fringe for six or seven years and have not encountered this before,” he said, adding that his biggest concern was that people from outside the UK might be persuaded to pay to have their shows reviewed for promotional purposes.
“They are going to go for people who are inexperienced, don’t know better and are desperate,” he said.
Emery added that while £30 might not seem a large sum for theatremakers keen to sell tickets at the fringe, the practice was nonetheless “unscrupulous”.
After he shared his concerns on Twitter, others responded with their experiences of the site. Some questioned how a review could be impartial if it were paid for.
One PR also said she had stopped giving tickets to the website for review purposes because of “passive aggressive” emails from the company.
However, responding to The Stage, the Mumble editor Damian Bullen said it charged the fee because its critics needed their expenses covering.
“Reviewers are actually surveyors. Their reviews perform for an artist in the same way that an artist performs for the public,” he said.
“If you’re trying to sell your house in a crowded market, you get the surveyors in. The same applies to the Edinburgh Fringe and its thousands of shows,” he added.
He also said the people “complaining about what we do have generally spent thousands on publicists to get them a review”.
“They should really be spending that money on the reviewers,” he added.
A spokeswoman for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said it did not “condone paying for reviews and would not advise participants to do this”.
In 2017, a separate website, edfringereviews.com, considered launching a similar pay-for-review scheme but the idea was not taken into practice and the site was discontinued. That site was separate from edfringereview.com, which has never charged for reviews.