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The cost of a free festival

Published on Sept 2nd, 2017 | by Free Standup NYC

Article by: Andrew Ian Bayroff

Listen to me on the "Passed Podcast" talking about "The cost of comedy"

Going to a free show, even with a drink minimum, is a great experience. You get a night’s worth of entertainment, meet new people, and possibly find a new favorite comic. Awesome. Now, what the audience usually never really puts thought into—which is perfectly normal—is the time the producers spent finding the venue, booking the comics, designing the promotions, social media, emails, re confirming comics and venue, and hope all of their efforts produce cheeks in the seats.


Festivals are a different monster. Free ones are definitely no exception.


The Free Standup Festival began to take shape through a conversation with Joe Gerics, a local New York comic and producer at the time. Joe wanted to create a festival showcasing the free shows listed on a site I curate,, throughout NYC, Brooklyn, and Queens. That 10 minute back and forth took place in 2013 in the basement of Karma Hookah Lounge.


The Free Standup Festival is now in it’s 4th year, and since its inception in 2013, it has grown from 15 shows solely in NYC, to 16 shows in NYC, 8 additional shows in various US cities, and abroad. We’re now international. Which sounds awesome, right? As the festival ballooned in size and scope, so did the time and financial costs.


As I started planning the 2017 FSF in January, my first task was making sure the staple shows from years past were on board: Gandhi, is that you?, Hot Soup, Frantic, and others. Most of these shows were booked immediately without any delays, which, as anyone who has planned a large event knows, is rare. Now, in between booking the remaining shows in NYC, I had the bright idea to not only open up the festival to other cities in the US, and eventually across the pond, but also cap the 2017 festival at Liberty Hall at Ace Hotel New York. Oh, and also accepting submissions for guest spots on various shows.


In total, the 2017 FSF has 24 shows spanning NYC, Los Angeles, DC, Houston, Chicago, London, and Dublin. Here is a breakdown of the cost for both time and financially since starting Festival prep in January:


Financial cost includes

  • web hosting

  • t-shirt orders

  • show room rental

  • banners

All cost for the festival is just under $1000.


Time cost includes but not limited to

  • contacting 21 shows and their producers

  • booking 3 individual shows for the festival

  • coordinating with clubs

  • design of Festival website

  • design of Festival t-shirt

  • design of all social media artwork

  • reviewing online submissions

  • in-person meetings

  • reconfirming all comics, shows, and venues

  • prep work prior to the show starting

  • ongoing

    • site and artwork updates

    • posting on social media

    • emailing

    • phone calls


Here is a rough estimate of average time cost:

6 hours per week x 32 weeks = 192 hours


I show you these numbers—both money and time—to offer a glimpse into what it takes to produce a festival. Mind you though, that nearly 80% of the shows are produced by other comics or clubs; some shows have been running for more than 6 years while others less than a year. The point is, all that time and money spent when most of the shows are already in place, imagine running a festival when everything is created from the ground up?


Like most if not all self-produced shows in NYC, The Free Standup Festival has no sponsors, no online donation sites, no interns, no PR or marketing department, not even a Keurig machine. Like all other producers, we do it for fame, national recognition, and the riches that come with it.  


Today, Joe has since married, Mazel Tov, and moved to Connecticut where he continues stand up comedy. Since Joe moved, I have brought on another wildly successful comic/producer into the festival, Jared Wilder. Jared runs the iconic Laugh & A Draft in NYC for more than 4 years which is currently at The People's Improv Theater. You can read more about both gentlemen on the festival site,

"...we do it for fame, national recognition, and the riches that comes with it."



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