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Rochester Hills, MI
323 Posts

Profile of silverfire9
Well, I went up to the Seattle Center today, since it was the second day of the Northwest Folklife Festival, to make my busking debut. It was a very nice, sunny day, clear skies and lots of people thronging the streets. Seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I kept choking every time I tried.

I'd run through my act in my mind, to prepare, and to feel ready, then I'd step up, take a deep breath, and--"I can't do this" would ring through my head. Succeeding at this is too important to me, due to my situation, and so the pressure kept getting too high.

On the positive side, I got to meet Tom Frank and watch his show a few times. That helped some with routining and rethinking what I had planned. As well as how to attract the crowd.

Tomorrow, I'm going to the Mecca of Magic (and Mike Close lecture), then on Monday, I'm going back out. I spent 4 hours out there today, and I only did one performance, and that was to just a couple people, with no crowd building.

I will do better on Monday (the last day of the festival).

Any tips or suggestions on how to prevent pressure paralysis? I'd really appreciate it, as I really do want to succeed at this. Thanks!
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Inner circle
3987 Posts

Profile of Chessmann
You are going to have "pressure paralysis" for awhile, until you get a few performances under your belt, see what works, what is not working, *getting used to working with the people*, etc....

Think of it as if you were learning a new sleight. First you just can't do it at all. After a few days things *start* to click, and then after a few weeks (of constant work and thought, re-evaluation, etc...) you were wondering why you ever struggled so badly.

I think if you simply realize that these first attempts are as much education as they are work you won't be so tense. The key is not how you are now, it is "Will you keep going, no matter what?" If you will, you'll get where you want to go.
My ex-cat was named "Muffin". "Vomit" would be a better name for her. AKA "The Evil Ball of Fur".
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Bensalem, PA
883 Posts

Profile of Pokie-Poke
If any one says this has never hapend to them, thay scare me (or have never worked the street)
1: Don't think about the cash, or bills that nead paying or any other out side stuff, when it is show time think about the show, nothing else.
2: Start with something fun, and easy. this way you can play with people and get warmed up. drawing the crowed is part of your show but not part of your set.
3: Warm up, stretch, do yoga, get your body loose. This way you don't go out looking like frankinstines monster.
4: Start early, the longher you wait the worse it will get. Also the more shows you do the better your odds of sucess.
5: have fun, If it is not fun you my as well just get a job. Smile
6: Don't let a bad show spoil a good one. If a show gose bad, clean up the mess and start the next show ASAP! and don't let the last show bother you.

I have the same problem and I did my first street show when I was about 13 or so. Eaven now my first show is hard, eaven at fairs that I have done for years.

Other things that help:
1: Know your show, Know it in your sleep, the better you know your show the easer it will be to do. this will come in time.
2: Take acting or improve classes, on the street you are not a magican, you are a performer, Know the difrence and you will be happy.
Break a leg and let us know how it ends up.
I will post more if I think of any but it is late and I got a gig tomorow.
The Adventure cont...
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Los Angeles
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Profile of JamesinLA
Don't try to do a circle show right out of hte gate. Why not just some close up shows for a few people. Pretty soon, you'll look up and have yourself a pretty good edge before you know it. WORK WITH A PARTNER when you first start out. This makes a huge diference. You can help each other with feedback as well as give each other emotional support. Study Gazzo's Art of Krowd Keeping book. The more you work, the more you will get out of that book. Have fun, give fun.

Oh, my friend we're older but no wiser, for in our hearts the dreams are still the same...
Tom Frank
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industrial Strength Magic
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Profile of Tom Frank
Silverfire9 it was great to meet you today! Like I said, just being there with your stuff is half the battle. I watched you do your first show and it went fine, you should feel good about that.

I knew the gang here would give you some solid advice.

I posted a bit in my blog about the festival if you care to check it out.
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Profile of bropaul
I agree with Jim, as well as Tom, Mark and Pokie, but Jim hit it on the nail. Get comfortable! That is the key. Get comfortable! Pick your spot, set your table down and get your show together. Stand there for a while, not long, but long enough to "feel" the flow of the people and then approach a couple of people and do a couple of tricks. Don't worry about the hat, just get used to the water.

Tell them to have a great day and let them go. Do it again and again until you start to get bored and then change it up a bit try and draw a few more folks into it and do some of your "planed" show. Remember that will change... A lot!

Keep it short and you will build the confidence you need to go into what you have planned to do.

It's a fun thing and remember these guys you are working for haven't seen you do what you do so well. You are in control and you will make there day showing them some magic that they didn't expect to see. While you are "warming up" to your new adventure, put out a small bowl, box, can or something with some seed money in it and you will at least pick up lunch money while you are testing the waters.

In time you will be feeling cocky and be banging your cups, making a spectacle of yourself, popping a show and passing the hat like the pro you are.

The process is fun and you will get that thing in the pit of your stomach that I still get after 31 years of street work, but that's what makes it work. Remember it's not being nervous, it's being excited. And oh yes... Get Gazo's Krowd Keeping! Not an option.

Good luck and don't take any prisoners...
Bro. Paul West
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Rochester Hills, MI
323 Posts

Profile of silverfire9
Thanks, everyone, for all the comments. I appreciate them. As soon as I'm able to afford them, I plan on buying Krowd Keeping and at least one video on the subject, probably Cellini's. Until then, there's only the School of Hard Knocks (tm).

I need to find a way to get rid of at least some of the tension about my rent before trying to get a crowd. And starting smaller would probably help, as well.

Thanks again, all. I'm getting ready for the Mecca now. Smile
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Myrtle Beach
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Profile of JoeJoe
You just have to get out there and do it.

Being comfortable in your spot in a plus. My pitch spot is in a square with rocking chairs around the outsides. I like to arrive early and sit in a chair and just relax watching the people walk by. I watch the traffic patterns, try to spot what people pay attention to when walking by, I like to keep an eye on the stores and their employees. I want to know every detail of my spot, I can tell you which tree the squires climb and which roofs the birds land on to scout out discarded food on the ground.

When I get to my spot, I feel like I am at home. I don't feel like I am in someone else's space, I feel all these people are in my space.

Just keep going out there, I understand the pressure of the rent being due ... try to get that squared away without depending on the hat, which will make it easier - if you feel like you have to do it, it becomes harder. When it feels like it is something you want to do, it flows a lot easier.

Hope this helps,
Amazing JoeJoe on YouTube[url=]
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America’s North Coast, Ohio
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Profile of BroDavid
Like a lot of things, fear of failure is an enemy to the perfromer.

Just remember this; Before you can succeed. You must survive.

You have survived the first one. Now you can move on to success.

Remind yourself that you didn't die the first time. Take a deep breath and then go back to it and have some fun, share the fun, and before you know it, you will be anxious to get back back out there.

You already did the hardest part, you got out there. Congratulations!

The are so many things that keep us from the first one; I am not ready, I don't have the right table, I don't know this, I don't know that, one of my rings has a hole in it, what if I get busted? looks like rain today? Its too hot. Its too cold. Not enough traffic, too many people there, and on and on...

But once you have gotten past that first one. They really do get easier.

And by watching someone like Tom Franks, you have a wonderful model of a real worker. But don't let yourself just be entertained, be educated. I learned more by watching Koz work for a few sets, than I would guessed I needed to know. And that is after reading all of the books and viewing all of the tapes.

Keep going for it. When you finally get it, it will get you. And you will have withdrawals when you cant busk for a time.

Oncea gain, congratulations on getting out there.

If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.
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Kevin Mc Lean
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Profile of Whiterabbit
Hi Silverfire,
Good to see you out there. I think JamesinLA's advice is a good place to start. Do a bit of close up for a few people. Find out what works for you and what doesn't first. That way, if you foul up, it's only for a few people.

Basically, I'm assuming that what you're after at this stage is the experience. Rack up a few points with a couple of people, find out what's good in a non embarassing way and then go for it in a few weeks.

I pitched balloons as the main business and did a bit of close up for the kids inbetween. I found that I was ready for a show one day when I had this crowd around me.

So get out there, do a bit of close up for a few people. Start simple (I highly recommend sponge for kids and some adults: packs small, plays big and excellent practice for sleight of hand and timing), entertain a few people close up, have fun, and you'll know when you're ready...

Get out there, have fun, don't be discouraged, and good luck.
May your fingers never lose their deftness,

May your tongue always lead them down the garden path...


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Profile of Kozmo
1 time!!!! ****, that's will get there just don't give up....dont let them beat you dude!...get out there everyday and work ...even if tis just an hour or 2...anythime you can go out go will eventually ..

Mark Storms
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Seattle, WA
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Hey Silverfire and Tom Frank Nice to see you here on the Café. I was at the folklife festival but I didn't see Either of you. I only saw one magician the whole time I was there. I was thinking of doing some street performing at the festival tomorrow (MOnday) also but it looks as if the weather is not all that great. Also I need to get a more solid act arranged. As for those nerves Silverfire, the only thing that can fix them is getting out there and performing so GOOD LUCK! I still get pretty bad nerves in front of small crowds. The larger the crowd the less I get though.
Find out what you cannot do.., Then go and do it!
Dave V
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Las Vegas, NV
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Profile of Dave V
I guess it's my turn next. We're leaving for Copenhagen next week and I'll be there debuting all my new stuff the following week. I won't have internet to post daily updates (I might have to chase down an Internet Café) but I'll be sure to let everyone know how it goes. I have nothing to lose, I'll never see these people again, and I'm not doing it for the money, so we'll see what happens.
No trees were killed in the making of this message, but a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.
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Rochester Hills, MI
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Profile of silverfire9
Good luc--er, break a leg, Dave. Smile

And thanks for all the encouragement, everyone. I do appreciate it. Part of why it's frustrating is because there's no logical reason I should be freezing, lol. I mean, I performed at my church's Halloween party with *no* act. I had one I was going to do, but circumstances were other than I expected and I just did random magic at a table.

I had no problems with freezing there.

I *know* I can do the magic, I *know* I can entertain the crowd, I *know* I can draw the crowd.

It's like way back when, when I was doing this Adventure Dynamics thing. Various physical challenges for team-building and self-challenge. One of the things was climbing a 30 foot pole, with a safety harness on, and then jumping off onto a trapeze bar. I'd done a previous challenge just fine: on a tightrope 30 feet up, then leaning backward to get off of it.

The trapeze bar thing, though, I just froze. I didn't consciously feel afraid; I felt frustrated. I would go, "Okay, I'm going to jump now. Really." And then send the command to jump, and my legs wouldn't even twitch. Every time I went to try, the same thing happened. I must have been up there at least 15 minutes, trying to jump.

Eventually, I had to climb back down and let the next person try.

Saturday's attempt gave me that exact same feeling. Unlike with the Adventure Dynamics thing, however, I'm going to keep trying until I either succeed or convince myself beyond any shadow of a doubt that I can't do it. With the 30 foot pole, I didn't have a second chance.

Here, I have as many second chances as I want.
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Profile of Jaz
Doing random magic works better for me too.

Once I plan a set and script I've got more to think about and have placed restrictions on myself. It's a lot to remember for me. It gets scary when I start forgetting stuff.
I've sweated, shook and got nervous during acts I tried to script and follow to the letter but haven't had the frozen thing. The two times I tried this I really didn't do very well. I think if I free things up a bit, with less strict patter and maybe a looser set, might be better for me.

Fear is fear. It don't matter if it's jumping to a bar or blowing your act.

I froze only once when trying to pull myself up to a steep peaked roof in order to adjust an antennae. Like you I was more peeved that I couldn't move than feeling afraid.
Glenn Alloway
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Edmonton AB Canada
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Profile of Glenn Alloway
I just want to thank everyone very graciously for their contributions to this post. It is the most invaluable resource I have found so far. Most importantly silverfire9, for actually going out and doing it for the first time. And then telling me first hand what you went through. I have my street act almost ready and I have been practising it for months, but I haven't made it to the street yet for various artifical reasons.

Your stories and enthusiasm inspires me to do more, and actually go out and try. I too have great trouble with being nervous. For me it typically comes when I start doing any trick, even with people I know, and even if I'm performing for a single person. I don't freeze per-say, I just forget to breath. Really. I find myself 30 seconds into a routine and gasping for air. At that point I just try to slow down, and breath. I guess it comes down to surviving first, then the magic become more natural. Thanks again to all of you for the help.
"This is madness and yet there is method in it." ~Shakespeare
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Profile of JamesinLA
I do want to add that doing magic for your "church group" or for anyone that knows you is a far way from a "real" crowd. Anytime you are performing for friends or friends of a friends it's not a real crowd. That's what the street has to offer you: strangers who will walk at the slightest hiccup. That's why it makes you good.

Oh, my friend we're older but no wiser, for in our hearts the dreams are still the same...
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Rochester Hills, MI
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Profile of silverfire9
True enough, Jim. I could mention that the church I was performing at was a church I hadn't been to since I was a kid (I go to a different church than my parents normally, and this was at their church), but what you said still holds true. Also, it was a kid's thing, which made it an even more different situation than being on the streets. Smile

And speaking of being on the streets, I know I said I'd be back up there today, but I forgot I had other stuff that needed to be done, that I'm getting paid for. No, that's not an excuse: I'm doing a website for someone for $400, and I promised the mockup version to be ready by the end of the weekend. If I can get it done today, I'm going to ask for an advance.

If I can get that done while there's still a few hours left to busk, I'll go back up. Otherwise, I'll have to pass on today. *shrug*
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Profile of wand
I did street magic for two summers at the 3rd st promenade in Los Angeles which is a haven for street performers of every kind. My 1st day I sat out my table and the wind blew it over. As I was collecting it, some props fell out of my poachers pouch and the wind took them too.

Once I got everything situated though and got started, I had the time of my life!

I started out the way David Groves mentioned in his book on street magic...asking people if they'd like to see some magic. This got me nowhere fast. After about two hours of this, I was yelling at people, pitching myself as the the most entertaining thing on the promenade and pounding my make-shift wand on the table. My crowds immediately picked up. The tips fluctuated from pretty good to terrible (6 hours one saturday and I made 12 cost me 10 to get of of the parking garage)

Once I got comfortable with the close-up came the next challenge: I put together a stand up show. On the street, some people doing close-up tend to fade into the backround and they get comfortable. They have a wall at their backs and they sort of hide without really knowing it. Doing a stand up routine was, in my opinion, much more challenging.

I got much bigger crowds with the stand-up show and the tips picked up.

A word of warning though. Don't be too impressed with all those pictures of Gazzo, Cellini, etc., that you see where they are surrounded by a million people. Keep in mind that most of these photos were taken at venues like Boston where performers must audition and are the only performer on the stage at the time. They are not being upstaged by loud music and another entertainer 6 ft on either side of you trying to steal your crowd.

While I'm sure that these guys are expert at drawing the huge crowds, I strongly doubt that at places like the promenade and boardwalk they could draw crowds like the ones in the photos.

I'm putting together another street act now and hope to be out there again starting next week.

Another suggestion: pay no attention to what other magicians say about what works and what doesn't on the street . A trick might fall flat with one crowd and be your biggest tip getter 5 minutes later. Find out for yourself. It will only take you about two days to know the kind of stuff that plays.

What's really fun is trying out new locations where you never see street performers. I went to a city here in Calfornia called Laguna Beach and was toldby the police that I had to stop taking tips. The lady from whom I had just taken the tip began yelling at the officer that at least I was working for the money unlike the homeless person 10 feet from me who was shouting obscenities at people who refused to hand him their money. It was great. I had a crowd of about 20 people giving the cop a hard time. This was better than any tip or any amount of applause.

As far as gathering crowds...the magic word is:MUSIC. It draws them like moths to a flame.

Have fun...If you work your way down to California someday look for me at the beaches. Good luck and don't give it up. It's the best way to do magic even on bad tip days.
Bill Palmer
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Profile of Bill Palmer
I will never forget how I learned to do path shows at the Texas Renaissance Festival. Granted, Renaissance Festival work isn't exactly the same as working downtown on the square during lunchtime. After all, people have paid a gate fee to get in, and they expect to be entertained. All the instructions I had was to do at least a 20 minute show every hour, and not get in anyone else's way.

After a couple of hours of performing, I picked up on the idea that I could start my crowd-gathering routine as soon as the group that played across the path from me finished their shows. So, that's what I did. I was situated in a spot that everyone who left that show had to pass by me. So all I had to do was get them curious. But I had an immense amount of trepidation about passing the hat. There were two reasons for this. One is that my father was a concert artist. Busking was somewhere down on the food chain, roughly above offering to squeegee someone's windshield for them (as far as he and his friends were concerned). The other was that I sucked. I had absolutely no confidence in my ability to make hat money.

So, instead of passing the hat, I closed with the Van Cleve/MarcoM "Miracle of the Little Orange Mouse," and let the kid have the balloon animal. Then I sold balloon animals until the next show time. I also had a wishing well that I built next to my pitch. It was basically a pot hanging from a tripod stand. I would get about $5 - $10 a day in that.

As the festival continued, I got better -- even to the point of not sucking any more. People actually came to see me.

I didn't do an honest hat pass until the second year. I was going to sell scrolls of spells, but I forgot to get them printed one day, and that forced me to do a real hat passs. And, wonder of wonders, I actually made more money in my hat than I was getting by selling scrolls of spells.

So, my lesson from this was that the way to learn to be a path or street performer is to do it. And the way to learn to pass a hat is ... to do it.

Good luck to you, Silverfire ... and FAT HATS!!!!!
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."
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