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Topic: First Busking Experience - Observations and Feedback
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Aug 8, 2006 07:40PM)
Hi all,

I wanted to post here in order to tell you about my very first opfficial busking performance this past Saturday and to also post my own observations, learning experiences and situations. I also want to take this opportunity to post some questions I now have that came up in the act of actually doing the busking show and also hopefully ask you for your help and suggestions as I prepare to headback up to the same festival to busk this coming weekend.

My wife and I have been performing and specializing in Festival shows for some time now for the past 5 to 6 years. We have had a wondersuccess with them and line up festivals and fairs every weekend from April till October. However, this year we got the opportunity to try busking as one of our festivals went from a set fee for strolling magic to a lower set fee but allowing performers to busk.

Instead of seeing this as a bad thing or scary thing, I saw it as a great opportunity for me to really learn the craft, research it, study it, ask questions and prepare and then actually learn even more from the act of doing.

The fair:
The fair is the largest Music festival on the east coast of USA. It runs almost a week and a half and is filled with music and stages and food and craft vendors all over the place. We buskers then work the grounds and provide additional fun and entertainment for the patrons.

The fair has never had buskers or busking before, so keep in mind that this is the first year for the busking style of performances. The fair worked hard to get the word out that the performers this year will be busking and that it is ok and encouraged to tip us during performances or trickles.

- When I got there I meat up with another busker (juggler) who had already claimed a great pitch. it was actually my spot I was at last year when the festival was a non busking style event. We hit it off well and we decided to work together and not against each other.

- I wanted to work main Street mainly because that is where the busses dropped people off, there was plenty of space for crwds to build and a lot of traffic walking by. since he was also on Main Street, I decided to move down the strete a bit from him. We then agree that he would do one 20 min show and then he would try and get people down towards me and I would do my 20 minute show. This way we would not be working at the same time or working against each other.

- The bottom line is that we worked about 4 hours from 1-5pm and we made about $45 US Dollars in that time frame. I was kind of disspaointed in this as I thought I would do better but you must start somwhere. In the 4 hours we probably did about 4 20 min shows and one trickle style show.

- I had no problems drawing a crowd with ease and my method worked better then I had thought
- I also had no problems keeping the crowd as we averaged crowds of around 100 people for the 20 minute shows
- The people were engages, laughed, clapped and had fun with the show and showed their fun through their interaction with us. We did not feel that they did not enjoy the shows we did.

Problems that I saw happening:
- I saw that as the sun was out and shining infront of my pitch, people tended to go to the sides out of the sun and into the shade. This surprised me as I had not thought about that when deciding on my pitch. I had to work a little harder to get the nice horseshoe crowd shape I was after.

- Although I had nice crowds and used my hatlines and kept the crowd interacting and enjoying themselves, I found it odd that the money we were getting in after each show was not that great and averaged around just 10 bucks. Mostly the money was single dollar bills. This is fine with me but I just had a problem wondering why if I engaged them, they had fun and interacted well, they stayed for the entire show, that I did not get as much of a response in the way of more money in the hat. That threw me for a big loop.

- I did about 4 effects in the show including my finale and each effect seemed to build well into the next and engaged the audience in a lto of ways. I can tell you what I performed if that would be helpful for folks to give feedback and ideas on how I can improve and what I can do this weekend to do better and grow.

- I wonder if having another busker up the road from me and other buskers on the grounds on other streets hurt me in any way or form? I would not think the other buskers would but I wonder if the juggler that was working up the road from me was helping me or hurting me. Do not get me wrong. the guy was fantastic and was very kind and friendly. He went out of his way to help me and to work with each other and not hurting each other. he would do a show and end, then I would do my ballyhoo and start my show a little a while after his ended.

- I am not sure why I did not get more money in the hat after my performances when I felt I had a nice size crowd of easily 100 people each show. Can anyone give me some insites as to why thismay have happened and what I can do to address this? I can elaborate and answer any questions you have in order to help me this wek prepare to do better.

- Does ones finale being performed have to be startling and have that huge "WOW" factor in order to really work and get folks wanting to give? My finale was fun and engaging and comical but maybe not as much of a "wow" factor as it could be. Can this have an impact?

- Should I approach the audience with the hat after my performances or should I stand center and have them walk towards me? Does this make a difference?

- Does it matter that a busker was close to me working the same street but up farther from me? He was not working at the same time I was and we were working together. Could this have had any impact?

- I had and used my hatlines and probably used about 2-3 of them in the course of the show. I did not use one in my intro but used a nice one after my comedy moutcoil routine with the kid by giving the kid a dollar from my own hat and saying he now makes a living the way I do. I also used a nice one that was a bit longer right during the ending finale and before the finale of the last routine. Do I need more, less anything anyone can suggest I try this time around?

- Is there anything I can try or anything anyone suggests I try to prepare and change for this wekeend's busking event? I really wnat to learn from those of you who have done this more than I and would love any feedback and help I can get to improve myself.

I will take any ideas, criticism and even answer any questions anyone has of me if it can help me be better and go out there and try some new stuff to do even better this weekend.

I must say I had a blast busking for the first time and it felt great doing it. It was nervous at first but I settled into my character and had really a lot of fun with the crowds. I certainly am not giving up at all but want each day at this festival to be better then the next. This is where your help comes in. thanks in advance.

Message: Posted by: kOnO (Aug 8, 2006 10:58PM)

Congratulations on BUSKING!
I am new to the busking world also. Started only last year. My crowds are usually only about 15 30 people but maybe I can help.

Did the Juggler make more money then you? Did you work for the same crowd that he did? Is it possible that the crowd thought you were working with the juggler and they figured that they gave to him that was enough.
Did you work the crowd as soon as they got off the BUS before they got into the festival mood? Maybe you should distance yourself away from the other buskers and more into the festival.

It sounds like you are pitching correctly. Letting them know you are there for the money throughout the show. From that they should understand that you are not there for free.

Question to ask yourself is are you entertaining? Do the folks think that your show was worth a buck or is it worth more to them?

Remember in your hat lines that if you ask for a buck you will only get $1s, ask for $10 & $20s then you will get $1s, $5s, $10s and hopefully $20s.

Maybe some folks with more experience will respond but hope this helps some

Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Aug 9, 2006 07:46PM)
Hi Kono,

Thank you so much for writing back to me. It does mean a lot to me as I get ready for busking this weekend. It is indeed lots of work and I really tried my best to properly prepare for it. I think I did well for my first time out although I would love to do much better.

My goal is simply to try and make a list of things I can try this weekend so that I can see if it makes a difference to me and the hat amounts I bring in. if you can help me with this list of things I can attempt to try this week that would be a huge help to me.

I agree that the more I get out there and do, the better I will become as I will learn more each time out. I did feel as the day progressed, I got more relaxed and had more fun with my audience. I could see the change overcome me.

Now my finale that I do is a comical but shocking Finger chopper routine. it uses The Impossible penetration and an adult from the audience and a kid. It is played for a lot of laughs and their is risk as it appears as if I may by chance have no idea what I am doing. It gets a good response and has always been one of my favorite routines. now I am not sure if this is a perfect finale or not but it is what I used for the shows I just did.

I would LOVE to be farther away from the juggler busker but I am not sure what other spots can work for me. I may have to get there real early and scope out the entire festival area to see if there are good spots that may work better. The problems that arise with this festival is that:

- it is large
- there are so many music stages around playing music so you have to battle the noise factor when establishing a pitch
- There are other buskers around so you want to be away from them
- I would want tomake sure I have an area with enough room to amass an audience
- good high traffic area.

This brings up a good point for me. What are your things or list when you were looking for the perfect pitch area for your busking show? What did you look out for?

I think I will just try letting them come to me with the tips into my hat as opposed to me coming to them too soon. perhaps this may work better for me and I will give it a shot for sure.

I now do about 4 -5 effects in the 20 min show inclusing my warm up. Maybe I can try this week to do a set that is made up of shorter effects. What effects do you find play the best in busking? I have a list of what I use but would love to hear others thoughts and comments on this.

How many hat lines do you currently use? When did you deliver them? Do you feel you get a much better response by using a hat line that educates and really spells it out for them?

Is there too much of a nice guy? I tried to have my character be funny, comical and a bit have an edge to him. It is , however, more played for a lot of laughter and response from the audiences. Can my character and how I look and act to my audience make a difference? If so, what can work the best? I felt I was getting good reactions the entire show as they really were reacting and interacting as they watched.

I am thinking the education angle may be what I need to try as well this week. These folks are not used to buskers at the festival. I may have to use a hat line that educates and spells it out. Any help with this in regards to what I can say or do to help in the education?

Do you think a more up front and direct hat line towards the end would work better? I was using something like:

"ladies and gents, I want to puase before finishing the finale of the show to tell you that we are street performers. We come here to the festival to entertain you. We do not get paid to be here but get paid simply through your own generosity. So if during the show we made you forget about the bills you have to pay then we would appreciate 1 or 2 dollars in our hat after the show. if we for one minute made you forget about the troubles of the worlds or put a smile on your face, we hope we have done our job and would appreciate 1 or 2 dollars in our hat. And remember, the more you give the better we live."

I tried that and it worked ok but nothing major of a difference in regards to getting them to cough up more money afterwards. any thoughts or ideas?

I am certainly having fun but just want to use this weekend to try out new stuff and new ideas to attempt to do even better.

Thanks so much for your help. I really want to create a list that I can use for things to try this weekend. your help is much appreciated.

Message: Posted by: JamesinLA (Aug 9, 2006 08:17PM)
Glad to see you took my cue about the "education angle." One thing you may think about trying. Most people don't know about this, but Gazzo has a service that he offers. If you send Gazzo a video, he will give you personal feedback on your act and be available for phone consultations. You can contact Gazzo through his website. Good luck and have fun.

Message: Posted by: kOnO (Aug 10, 2006 01:53AM)

Number 1 on my list is to make eye contact with the people when you ask for the money. You need to make eye contact throughout the show but when you ask for the money you need to look them right in the eye!
Make them your friend, make them like you, and make them want to give you money.

I think JamesinLA has a great point about the education angle specially since this is the 1st year the people have to pay for the entertainment at this festival.

Good Luck this weekend

Message: Posted by: malini (Aug 10, 2006 03:55AM)
Ask for more money. If you ask for $1 or $2, that's what you'll end up getting. Make some jokes about it as well.
Message: Posted by: mattsharpe (Aug 10, 2006 09:22AM)
"ladies and gents, I want to puase before finishing the finale of the show to tell you that we are street performers. We come here to the festival to entertain you. We do not get paid to be here but get paid simply through your own generosity. So if during the show we made you forget about the bills you have to pay then we would appreciate 1 or 2 dollars in our hat after the show. if we for one minute made you forget about the troubles of the worlds or put a smile on your face, we hope we have done our job and would appreciate 1 or 2 dollars in our hat. And remember, the more you give the better we live."

The only thing wrong with that is the amount of money. You don't want to say "1 or 2 dollars", because generally you'll get one less than what you ask. If you ask for 20s you'll get 10s, ask for 10s you'll get 5s, 5s you'll get 1s, 1s you'll get pocket change. What I would recomend other than that. Would be to say, "Now I know I a lot of people here are wondering what would be an appropriate donation, generally the tips from my show are usually around $5, which is a great donation. I do get a few 10s, which is amazing. And once in a while I get a $20." That's just the basic idea, I've heard many other buskers from around the world use this approach and it works for them. You can change around the wording to fit yourself, just give them examples of 5, 10, and 20, and explain how much more greatful you are for each amount.

Good luck.
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Aug 10, 2006 05:45PM)
Thanks guys for chiming in here as I greatly appreciate it. Sorry I did not get to you all sooner but with work and my shows, this is the first chance I had. I do appreciate your thoughts and want to elaborate a bit on them to see if you can help me some more.

Thanks James. I think you are so right in regards to the fact that I do feel I need to educate people at this festival about buskers and what they need to do as an audience. Because this is the first year as a busking style festival, people are not used to us doing what we do. I will try and educate the crowd more this weekend.

Let me ask if anyone has any ideas on how I can educate the audience even further then I already am through my finale hat line? Is there other ways I should be doing to educate them even more early on?

I like the eye contact idea and I will try that this week to make direct eye contact with people more during the entire show and especially through my hat lines I deliver. It certainly is worth trying to see if it makes a direct difference to me.

I do feel my show is fun, engaging and people really got involved in it and enjoyed what they saw. I feel they liked me and warmed up to me.

One of the problems I am having or I found the first day out is not so much about getting 5's and 10's instead of 1's. My problem was that I had a nice size crowd of 100 people or so at each 20 min show I performed. On average I only made about 10 bukcs from each of these shows. Now it was not a matter of a lot of people coming up giving me change. It really was a matter of only a few people coming up to even tip. I would say maybe 10 people out of the 100 watching came up to tip me. So THERE in lies my problem and delema.

I am trying to figure out why even though I have a nice crowd and they are enjoying the show, that I am not having more percentage of folks coming up to actually place anything into the hat. Does anyone have any suggestions, ideas as to what might be causing this anbd better yet stuff I can try to get MORE folks this weekend to actually come up to tip? I would greatly appreciate it.

I also am starting a list of things I can try and things I can do this weekend that may be worth trying to see if it makes a difference. These items on my list can be different hat lines, using more educated hatlines, finding a better pitch etc. I REALLY would LOVE for anyone here to chime in and help me with a realistic list of ideas that I can do to try this weekend to see if it works for us. I really want to use this weekend to grow and become better and I feel the only way I can do this is through actually having a list of things to try differenty.

I thank you all so much for your help in advance.

Message: Posted by: kOnO (Aug 10, 2006 06:29PM)
On 2006-08-10 10:22, mattsharpe wrote:
..."Now I know I a lot of people here are wondering what would be an appropriate donation, generally the tips from my show are usually around $5, which is a great donation. ...
Good luck.

I would not use the word "donations" it sounds like you are a charity or bum asking asking for a handout.
Let the people know that you have provided a service and deserve to be paid for it. Tell the people they don't blink an eye at paying $20 for a movie and they have to pay for the movie before they even get to see it. With your show they have had the chance to see it and now they can decide for them self what it is worth to them Be it a $20 or a $1. If they stayed for whole show they need to let you know what you are worth to them.

Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Aug 10, 2006 06:38PM)
I was possibly going to say something like this:

"Folks we are street performers. We are here at the festival every day to bring a little bit of entertainment and fun to you all. We get paid simply through your own generosity. So if after the finale you had a good time, we would hope that you would place (add money value here) into our hat. Only with what we provide can you go and actually see entertainment and then pay what you feel it was worth. That is like going to the movies and paying only if you liked what you saw...."

Now I am not sure if this is right or not or if it is too hard edged but it is an option. Another idea for a line could be....

"Now if you think $5 is a lot of money, just remember that parking a car can cost you $5. If this has been more fun then parking your car, then we hope you might be genrous with your tip into our hat"

Thoughts on this and is this educational enough to work or can it be too hard edged?

Also any thoughts on why I might not be getting more fiolks to actually tip? That is what is bugging me the most.

Message: Posted by: TheAmbitiousCard (Aug 10, 2006 07:13PM)
I think you're on the right track.
Jim Steinmeyer has a closing statement in his Snowstorm from China routine in his new phenominal book but leaves out any reference to $$$, but it does give some nice prose to get you started.
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Aug 10, 2006 07:52PM)
Thanks Frank.

I am really trying to learn and although I did OK the first time out, I did no where near what I could have or should have been able to earn. I had the big crowds, I engaged them well and had good reactions, I just could not seem to get more people to tip me and place something in the hat. that is what I am having trouble with and I want to try and come up with anything at all that I can try and attempt and do this weekend to test and see if it makes a difference.

I am open to any and all ideas as to what I can try and what I can test. these ideas can range from a different finale to different hat lines etc etc. Any ideas people have, PLEASE let me know. I so want to grow and learn and I want to use this weekend as a way to really try new stuff and test to see if I can do better then my last outing.

Thanks in advance all.

Message: Posted by: kOnO (Aug 21, 2006 11:53PM)

Any updates on how the 2nd weekend went? Any better hats?