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Topic: Listen up you lot! Advance your sidewalk show!!
Message: Posted by: Stperformer (May 20, 2011 06:37PM)
There's been a lot of talk on various sites with many of the 'resident experts' stating the virtues of the 10-15 minute sidewalk show.
3-4 tricks pass the hat, 4 shows an hour.

While I believe this kind of show is great, I also know it is NOT where you should be stopping.

Listen up lads, this is where you should be heading.
Artistically and financially you should be working towards a show twice or 3 times that long.

Once you hold them for over 20 minutes the coinage has much more potential becoming paper.
And as for how many tricks? Well it's like this....when you first hit the streets you do tricks, than after a while you realize that closure is deadly on the street for audience loss.....so you do routines. Often 3 or 4 routines.
Than after many years you start doing,,,,A SHOW. ONE SHOW. Full of tricks, routines, gags etc,,,but everything blends together into ONE SHOW. Every part transitions smoothlessly, seemlessly into the next.
And this smooth transitions, ONE SHOW, allow you to hold an audience for 30 to 45 minutes even is tough conditions.(with charm and wit also of course ).

And when this happens......your take for the day will take a HUGE HUGE HUGE leap.
And your show will be more satisfying, artistic,, and you'll start to become a true entertainer/performing artist :)))

That's what you lads should be aiming for ultimately. There's many of us out there that do this, we just don't spend anytime on internet boards so you might not hear it a lot.
Some of you might have better ideas and disagree but I offer the above as a gift of advice from my experience as street performer for a long long long time in a lot of places globaly.

Message: Posted by: Alan Wheeler (May 20, 2011 07:28PM)
Wasn't Sonny Holiday's show 8-10 minutes comprised of his coin warm up, a rope trick, a card trick (with a quickie sponge ball interlude?), and his cups and balls? Everything in his act indeed blends together into ONE SHOW, but it's a short sidewalk show and not a longer, larger full circle show.

My underlying point is that there are two issues here that could be discussed separately:

(1) having a complete, integrated, and unified show (always a goal)

(2) having a longer, larger show (almost always a goal).
Message: Posted by: joe yang (May 21, 2011 07:16AM)
What works for you may not work for others. There are variables you may not be taking into consideration. From the way you state your experience as absolute truths, one might suspect you aren't even aware of the variables. Location is a big one.

Street theater in very busy, high traffic areas, drawing crowds of two or three hundred people at a time, spectators on short lunch breaks, people on the way to dinner, or the theater, ten minute shows make more money.

If you know how to stage and time three or four short routines, they add up to one longer show for people who want to linger. You might find people walking in on the middle of a shorter show more inclined to stay through another show and more inclined to tip. But what do I know?
Message: Posted by: TheGiz (May 21, 2011 01:44PM)
In my area people have shorter attention spans. Meeting in five minutes for lunch, catch the next bus etc. Not everyone enjoys or has time for 30+ minutes of magic, but a quick effect that burns them they will pay for that. Everybody's under pressure. I've had husbands want to stay and watch while the wife literally pulls him away to . . .whatever the place she wanted to go. I don't get coinage for my short shows, I usually get bills.
Message: Posted by: Chris Capstone (May 21, 2011 07:14PM)
I'm new here, but not new to the subject. I agree with Joe. There's no right or wrong way to do this stuff. It depends on so many different variables. I just got back from working a very large festival. I had an awesome spot that was a natural half circle. I have attached a pic.

I was doing 20 minute plus shows because the situation was right. If you look at the pic you'll see that everybody is sitting. This means you can play longer. Of course you can make bigger hats on 2 of these shows per hour versus 3 or 4 short side walk shows per hour.

But I sometimes the situation will dictate the smaller shows, and when it does, then that's what I do. This is not an artistic decision. It's just a practical decision.

I don't see the short shows as some kind of stepping stone to big shows. Nor do they represent an intermediate step in my growth as an artist. Shorter shows are just what I do when the situation dictates that. I do what ever will get the money to support my family.

It seems there's a lot of talk about "how to do things" rather "why to do things." I don't desire to be a giver of advice to others. I don't want that responsibility. I just want to share my experiences with others, maybe you can glean something that helps. Hopefully my experiences won't illustrate what NOT to do.
Message: Posted by: Rotten (May 21, 2011 11:24PM)
It's like fishing. Depending on location, bait, population. So many factors.

For example. Tonight for the first time, at this pitch, I did a 40 minute show from start to finish. Half pre-show crowd gathering. Half (or less) show. My show was three routines but I used one or two ways to gather. It was an experiment. Just for you folks. AND me.

I made half what I make when I turn and burn an 18 minute start to finish show. And it's a lot less work. I can do more of them. I take breaks but if the show isn't as long I have the energy to keep cranking them out. It's a longer recoup for me after a long show and more reset. I can do it but the money isn't worth it here. But hey, I tried. Just to see. Now we all know that doesn't work in my pitch.

So next I did one soft gather. One that brought them in and then two routines. I made the same as I had with a 40 min.

It's about the flow. I saw when I turned a large amount of my crowd during the show. About 20 minutes in. 18 minutes from now on. No more. But that's MY pitch. Then everyone has two minutes to give me money. They have things to do and just can't dedicate that much time. I am doing a three quarter show with six or seven deep and my back against a fence.
Message: Posted by: dmoses (May 22, 2011 12:28AM)
Thanks for the post Stperformer.

Not withstanding the points these gentlemen made, I get yours.

Message: Posted by: gallagher (May 22, 2011 10:25AM)
Hi Stperformer,
nice thoughts. I built up that way myself, but quickly went the other direction. I agree with The Giz here. Folks, `every day´ folks, don´t have the time. Playing `every day´ strrets, that´.s who I play for. I´ve found, where there are `Show seeker´,.. folks with time on their hands; There are either too many controls,.. or worse,.... too many performers!

On the other hand, the ABLITY to walk both sides of the Street,.. now lad,... THAT`S the ulitimate. Especially, WHEN you can go from one to the other!
Believe me, THEN, the globe becomes even bigger.

taking the time, to give it easy,
Message: Posted by: Stperformer (May 23, 2011 06:58AM)
Yes!!!!!!! you're absolutely right there Gallagher,:-) The ability to do a 15 min show or a 30 min show or a 45 min show etc is huge key to success playing the streets. Many places play so differently, so having the skills to adapt and change your show is essential.
Understand folks, I'm not knocking the 10 min show. It has it's place at certain places/time. And when I talk about a 30-45 min show I'm still talking about a larger sidewalk show, not a huge amped circle show at covent gardens or the like.
Essentially if you're stuck in one place playing the lunchtime crowds, then a short show may be where your are which is fine. But if you plan on playing place to place than you are eventually going to have to be able to perform a solid 30 minutes plus at times. And you will seek out places and times that allow you to do so. Which is a whole other challenge.

On a sidenote I think it takes about 5 to 7 years to really get a good grasp of street performing.
Usually the first 2 years you learn tons and after which you think you are now a busker. But it's the next 4 or 5 years that you really start to develop and act and fine tune the details.
Message: Posted by: gallagher (May 23, 2011 09:15AM)
Hey Stperformer,
I´m glad you mentioned this "5 to 7 year" time frame. This is SOOOOO true, but SOOO hard to grasp or comprehend,... or SAY! It´s a scarey thought. I don´t think, one really realises it until the days pass. The nice part of the deal is; when you´re "in it",... you DON´T notice the days passing!

Also, this Idea of settling down and refining something,.... very good. Very good. It´s like collecting the cream, and making the butter. You drink a lot of milk,.. and step in a lot of manure. Along the way, there´s probably more sour milk,.. than ice cream. But in the end, enough to keep from eating dry bread!

guten Appettit!
Message: Posted by: DanielMooncalf (May 28, 2011 10:57PM)
You're not paid by the hour. You're paid by the strength of your routines, your ability to control a crowd, and how well you present your hat. Most people in most environments are not there to see a show... nevermind a overly long show.

People are hungry, tired, wanting to shop.

I'd be very hard pressed to believe that you're doing fantastic hats with hour-long shows.
Message: Posted by: Pokie-Poke (May 29, 2011 08:50AM)
I hate short shows, fact of life is that some times your stuck doing them. to me a show is a show, the same work, and I'm better at the bigger shows, and get better % of the crowd to tip on the longer shows. all on what your strenths are.
Message: Posted by: Stperformer (May 29, 2011 11:34AM)
Allright folks, a bit more detail of what I'm trying to say.

First of all, most places on the street you must build your crowd.
This takes a bit of time. You must attract attention, talk to the people, bond. A crowd builds a crowd. Your job is to create interest, likeability, set the hooks, and get them to stay while building more. How much magic you do while doing this is a matter of preference.
This is going you take 10-15 min anyway. (Yeah, I know, you can lite a fire and blast out some music...but don't even go there)

Then the show begins. And not just tricks. Suspense, laughter, running gags, situations, etc.

Finally the closer and you hat.

Easily 30 minutes. If your doing 10-15 minutes, start to end, you are not doing the full potential.
Yeah I know, how the heck do you hold 'em for half an hour or more. My answer...work on it, get better.
Granted some places and times it is not possible to do this. So you move on or wait for a better time. If that's not an option than I guess...so be it.

On a similar note, if you plan on doing four shows an hour for an extended period of time (hour after hour, week sfter week, years) you're gonna burn out real fast. Fine when you're young, but the body and voice won't last. Better off doing three great shows a day with strong hats, than 15-20 short shows and no voice and bagged out.

I'm just saying...
Message: Posted by: Chance (May 29, 2011 11:58AM)
On 2011-05-28 23:57, DanielMooncalf wrote:
I'd be very hard pressed to believe that you're doing fantastic hats with hour-long shows.

Daniel, with all due respect to you as a fellow busker, this statement leaves you clueless. My show averages 50-60 minutes (depends on intital crowd build and/or language barriers) and hatting is never an issue. In fact, part of my closing hat line includes reminding folks that they've been watching me for nearly an hour and you should see how many of them suddenly glance at their watches! What a wonderful feeling to see the look on their faces, suddenly realizing how long they've stood there mezmerized.
Message: Posted by: Kozmo (May 29, 2011 12:48PM)
You're all wrong....and ....you're all right.

Ask me why?
Message: Posted by: Chance (May 29, 2011 01:04PM)
On 2011-05-29 13:48, Kozmo wrote:
You're all wrong....and ....you're all right.

Ask me why?

Now, or during one of your lectures?
Message: Posted by: joe yang (May 29, 2011 01:26PM)
My show is three fifteen minute segments. Each segment is followed by a hat. That's a forty five minute show. I make more if I do three hats than one at the end. Some folks stay for all three shows, some don't.

It all depends on the crowd, the location, time of day, etc. I hope it doesn't sound like I'm saying this is how you have to do it. I hate when someone tells my how I have to do it. This is how I do it. It is not a suggestion or opinion. I'm not really fond of them either, especially from know-it-alls who accuse others of being resident experts. It is just my experience. I love to hear from experience.
Message: Posted by: Pizpor (May 29, 2011 02:18PM)
Kozmo - Why?
Message: Posted by: Kozmo (May 29, 2011 07:32PM)
During the lecture LOL.....

You have to identify why you are doing this. Are you doing this because of money, for a living or for fun....if its for fun then do what you want. If its for money then you need to consider some things.

How big a pitch are you working. If the pitch will only handle say 50 people then you cant build it any larger and making your show longer wont make you anymore money.You would want to end it and start another. Maximize the space. Its a fine line between the point of diminishing returns.

The point of diminishing returns is when you have filled the space available and making the show longer only makes you happier.

If you're working outside on the streets and its hot. Should you try to do a 45 minute show. No you shouldn't. It should be much shorter.

There are a lot of factors that go into the length and size of show which I cant talk about here. But even the things I said above if I'm right it should make you think.

Your show needs to be flexable.... end it quick or build it strong. To do this start small and it will build naturally. You will improve. I see new guys trying to do large shows right off the bat and most fail. Start small. Its better to do 10 minutes of great material than 20 minutes of mediocre. Trust me on this, I'm right. You try to do big you will fail and you will quit. Besides that, You can do a 10 minute show anywhere. Theres always a pitch to work. ALWAYS! Do a huge circle show and you will chase a pitch your entire career.
Message: Posted by: joe yang (May 30, 2011 01:06AM)
Devil's advocate here, I'm giving Stperformer the benefit of the doubt, despite the way he comes across. He says he's been doing this a while. He says he's tried shorter shows. He says he gets bigger hats doing longer shows. Depending on the pitch and the performer, I've seen it done. It would be nice in discussions like this to get a little more background, location, time of day, day of week, crowd size, volume of foot traffic, venue, etc. It would be nice too if some of us could be a little more objective and realize the show we do one small town could be very different from a show in a major. It would be even nicer if people read posts more carefully. Suggesting we do this or that isn't saying that's how you have to do it. Telling us to get smart and do it your way won't make many friends.
Message: Posted by: Stperformer (May 30, 2011 07:13AM)
Hi Joe,

Hopefully I haven't come acros too pushy as that certainly isn't my intention. Reckon that's one of the problems with internet discussions as it hard too read/write in the proper tone intended.
I totally agree with you (and Koz) that everyones situation/eviroment is different. Bloke working one pitch, weekends in small downtown vs someone working major cities trying to earn a living. etc
That said I'm trying to bring to light, the importance of being able to do a longer, more complete show if one wants to persue busking performing to a full-time, venture abroad. Too be quite honest I think this is probably a small percentage. Which is good as it certainly is no bed of roses.
So I'm not saying a half hour show is better than a 10 min show or vise versa. But what I'm trying to convey that if you want to persue busking to a further level, and by this I mean making a living at it and working abroad, then yes I really believe you gotta/ have to be able to do a longer show in order to compete/survive. Just my experience which I'm passing on.
Message: Posted by: joe yang (May 31, 2011 07:10AM)
No problem! Thanks.
Message: Posted by: TheAmbitiousCard (May 31, 2011 04:48PM)
So many of these posts just sound like someone reading out of their favorite theory book on busking.
Blah, blah, blah, blah.. same ol', same ol' blah, blah, blah.

Everybody wants to be a guru. Blah, blah, blah

Kozmo actually discussed heat, etc. ...an example of someone that doesn't sound like they are reading out of a book.

p.s. Buskers need to work on their spelling! LOL
Message: Posted by: Bobby Maverick (May 31, 2011 09:21PM)
It always depends on the variables.

Learn the spread. Work the pitch you're on.

I will do a short set all day ling and be happy as h#ll doing it. Then again, if the pitch allows (space, ambient temp. and pace) Im doing a bigger show. If there's a BIG pitch (room for 4 or 5 hundred) I'm going there and doing monsters.

I learned from Kozmo that there isn't always a big pitch. In fact,there arent hardly any anymore. So you're gonna starve unless you have a small show. I learned the art of the small show from Kozmo and it actually made my bigger shows so much better. The monsters are monsters because of the small show lesson learned.

Start small get good at it and then work your way up. You will be better for it. Koz told me the same thing Cellini told him. Sometimes you just have to toil.

If you cant make it unless you can only do one kind of show then you're screwed. If ya don't think the hour long shows pay then you're not doing something right or just havent seen a good show yet.

Go pay your dues, make them bones...
Message: Posted by: Chance (May 31, 2011 09:41PM)
Hey Bobby, how did that thing work out with your friend Jeff? What's his full name? What's his home pitch or his web site? I'd love to talk things over with him.
Message: Posted by: Bobby Maverick (May 31, 2011 11:03PM)
I called him up and he swears its him...I'm gonna go by his house and be sure its the same picture before we get into all that.

I'm almost positive though...then again it would be hard to tell with the head turned...

I will let you know.
Message: Posted by: Chance (May 31, 2011 11:24PM)
It wouldn't be hard at all. There are 6 padlocks in two different styles, two of them are marked with black tape, and they are arranged in a specific order up and down my back. The chains are in a very specific position, and the scenery around me is easy to pick out, like the stone wall I'm standing in front of. And don't get me started on the moles on my back, lol. Plainly put, it's the only one like it in the world and it is mine. Just because my face is not visible doesn't give anyone the right to claim it as theirs. I'd very much like to see the photo [i]you[/i] are talking about.
Message: Posted by: Bobby Maverick (Jun 1, 2011 06:57AM)
Hey Chance relax. I told you I will look at it again, only this time I will have my phone and pull up your pic at the same time to compare...no worries!

If its the same, you will be the first to know. Then you can come and beat him up! LOL!
Message: Posted by: JoeJoe (Jun 4, 2011 10:58PM)
On 2011-05-29 20:32, Kozmo wrote:
Your show needs to be flexable.... end it quick or build it strong. To do this start small and it will build naturally. You will improve. I see new guys trying to do large shows right off the bat and most fail. Start small. Its better to do 10 minutes of great material than 20 minutes of mediocre. Trust me on this, I'm right. You try to do big you will fail and you will quit. Besides that, You can do a 10 minute show anywhere. Theres always a pitch to work. ALWAYS! Do a huge circle show and you will chase a pitch your entire career.

Well said. If you can't do a solid 20 minute show, you shouldn't expect to be able to do a 40 minute show.

I build my show in modules ... a modular show. I don't do a set show ... each section has a particular purpose, and sometimes I need to fill that purpose and other times I don't.

Like if I've announced I'm going to do a magic trick and the kids come forward but the parents don't ... then I do "mis-led". After phase one, I say "if you guys in the back can't see you can come forward and see the illusion too, I don't mind" ... then I purposefully hide the illusion so they can't see it, forcing them to come forward. It works nearly every time.

But if I announce I'm doing a magic show and the entire family comes forward ... then there is no need for me to do "mis-led" ... it serves no purpose, it no longer has any meaning. It doesn't actually do anything.

Knowing "what" to do ... "when" to do it ... and "why" to do it ... that takes a real knack. If you can figure that out, you will never need to second guess your show structure.

Message: Posted by: mota (Jun 5, 2011 12:24AM)
An hour show that holds people on the street...if I was wearing a hat I would tip it to you (and empty my wallet at the end)...that is impressive.

Street veterans may correct me on this (it is from memory) but didn't Mal Cross work New York with three tricks? If I remember one of them was anti-gravico (and the other two were equally simple).

I also have a friend who does a small, short show and has for decades. In his case he lives near a tourist area and there is something in the city ordinance that says he can do it right outside of where he lives. He pulls himself together and goes downstairs to the entrance to his apartment building. His commute is three flights of stairs.

Just thoughts to share...I don't claim to be an expert (or even remotely close).

Question for veterans of the street....do you burn out an area quicker with a sidewalk show or a bigger show...or does it make a difference...or, as many things are, does it just depend on many things?
Message: Posted by: Tim Friday (Nov 15, 2011 10:24PM)
This is a great post, really great discussion going on between Kozmo, Bobby, Chance, Stperformer, and all the others involved.

I can say I learned a lot from reading this one.

It seems Stperformer has really started some very insightful and provocative posts.