Free comedy gigs: free for all?

With free clubs gaining popularity, are they putting other clubs out of business or introducing a new audience to live stand-up? We feed back some opinions

The best things in life are free, so they say. But then, ‘they’ also say you get what you pay for. A few years ago, the free comedy circuit was just a handful of open mic nights. Now, there are slickly run shows featuring line-ups of very good quality, where donations are often encouraged at the end of the gig.

Some industry members are worried about the impact of free shows on entry-charging clubs. We asked a variety of promoters, comedians and regular comedy-goers for their opinions. Click on the questions below for their answers.

Questions

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© Nathan James Page

And have you seen an act at a free gig and then paid to see them at another club or to see their solo show?

Craig Beadle ‘I rarely see free comedy as I want to support stand-up and am happy to pay to do so.’

Tasha Dhanraj ‘Lots of times. If someone is good enough at any gig then that will make me want to see them again.’

Dale Platt ‘Yes. I think that acts appreciate that free nights will give them a good platform to showcase themselves, and this has worked in their favour. The same goes for venues, like The Invisible Dot, who put on free shows alongside their paid ones. People can turn up for the free show, see that it’s a nice venue to see comedy, and be more likely to come back and pay to see another show.’

Charlotte Lowey ‘Yes, many times. The reverse is also true too: having paid to see an act in the past and then finding out their new show is free. It’s not necessarily a sign of their reputation any more, with so many acts choosing to do free shows. People are definitely more open to exploring new and unfamiliar acts at free and cheap shows, so I think it helps new acts get an audience in who then may be willing to pay for tickets later.’

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