United States Association of Fringe Festivals

Fringe selection methods

Not all U.S. Fringes use the same method to determine lineups. Each festival determines for itself which selection process works the best for its artists and audiences

First-come–first-served system

First-come–first-served is as simple as it sounds: Whoever turns in their application first gets a slot in that festival first. Usually, a Fringe begins accepting applications on a certain day and time and accepts keeps accepting them—in the order that they're received, naturally—until the festival schedule is full.

Lottery system

Fringe lotteries are much like gambling lotteries but instead of buying a ticket for a jackpot, artists turn in applications for a production slot. True to form, Fringe lotteries are held like any drawing: applications (or numbers assigned to applications) are drawn at random. Some Fringes using the lottery system will also have sub-lotteries, such as a separate lottery for production slots for children's shows.

Very often, each festival will draw all applications in the lottery beyond the number they can accommodate in the festival to determine a waiting list. If and when shows that have won production slots drop out, Fringes turn to their waiting list to fill holes in their schedules.

Jury system

Some Fringes are juried or adjudicated: shows are selected, invited or reviewed in advance by festival staff or a diverse panel of performing artists, participants, arts professionals and audience members. Most often this is done to ensure diversity among participants from a large pool of applicants.

If a Fringe operates with a jury, that doesn't mean it doesn't also use a first-come–first-served or lottery system to determine its festival lineup. Juries may only determine whether or not an artist is qualified to apply under festival rules.

Bring your own venue

Some Fringes use the original Edinburgh model, known as open access. If you want to participate, you get yourself a venue and—voilà!—you're in the Fringe. Although the actual structures and requirements vary, the basic idea is that the festival producer gives individual producers of each show an umbrella to operate under.