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 Post subject: Busking-an essay by DWmagic
PostPosted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 4:43 pm 
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Joined: 24 Dec 2004
Posts: 606
Location: Bris'ol - England
Busking is magic on the street, but none of this David Blaine stuff. Busking is performing for real people for real money! No Hit and Run stuff, Busking is putting on a show, not a trick, but a show, and then actually get them to pay you at the end. Well, I’ve decided to make this essay for anyone who is interested in maybe doing magic for money, street magic is great, but busking is going one step further and actually getting paid.

First of all, when you start doing Busking, if your not careful people are going to mistake you for a street hustler. That’s why I advice you stay away form the ‘Three Shell Game’ or ‘Three Card Monte’. Imagine you are the spectator. You look over and someone’s doing find the pea! People are going to think that you’re going to fool them into putting a dollar down on the table. Same goes for if you’re just standing at your table, shuffling a deck of cards. Cards can give the impression of street hustlers. I use cards in my act, don’t get me wrong, but presented in the wrong way, people are going to get the wrong idea. Putting a sign in front of your table is also a good idear to set you apart from street hustlers.

Secondly, how to draw a crowd. You’re not going to get very far shouting and screaming and people. Go over to groups of people and say “Come over here guys I'm going to start doing some magic.” Be friendly, but don’t take no for an answer. Be careful who you do that to though. I’m probably stating the obvious when I say don’t go over to a group of Business men. A family with some children is good, a group of giggly girls is also good. Once you’ve got a fair crowd, say to them that you haven’t got enough people to start the show yet. So get all of your spectators to cheer after three or something like that. For many people passing by, curiosity will get the better of them and they will start coming over to see because something exciting must be happening. Not only does this get a crowd but it avoids everyone getting into a crossed arms straight faced manner. You want to get them into the mood.

Thirdly you’re routine. Your routine has to be flexible. You never know. One day the sun might be out and the heat would become really uncomfortable not only for you but for the people watching. You should be able to shorten your routine, and if you want to, make it longer. I would advice your general routine to be between fifteen and thirty minutes long. You may think you would have to have a lot of magic to do magic for that long, but you don’t. The last thing you want to do is cram as much as you can into a twenty minute show. Go s-l-o-w-l-y. Add some humour into it. I would use a rope routine, coin routine and/or card routine, and the cups and balls. You could do some visual appearances and vanishes if you wanted to, maybe sponge ball routine as well. Don’t use all of those things, but if I were you I’d take the time to learn a decent cups and balls routine. But remember it’s not about the tricks, it’s about the presentation.

Audience management is next. Make sure everyone is a fair way around from you’re table. Also have them in a semi-circle around you, a square with no top, or something like that, especially if you have a big crowd. When picking volunteers don’t get someone who is going to be really embarrassed if they come up, but equally don’t pick someone who is going to steel the show.

Next, it’s audience participation. You’ve got to get the balance just right. You don’t want to get an audience member up to hold a piece of paper. When you think that it is appropriate then get an audience member up. But don’t be afraid to do up to and audience member, ask their name and where they’re from and make a joke. But yet again don’t do this to often, it’s all about balance. If you can get this balance, then audience participation is great.

The passing of the hat at the end is the reward to all of you’re hard work. Don’t be afraid to get the people to pay you. Accompany it with a some funny lines if you want,
“If you have enjoyed the show, please come up and put some money in the hat. Some people give me three dollars, that’s OK. Some people give me seven dollars, that’s alright as well. TEN DOLLARS is what people normally give me. Each. Kids, if you Mum or Dad don’t give you Ten Dollars, they don’t love you.”-make sure you deliver that Jokingly!
Or
"If you have any complaints write them on the back of a twenty dollar bill and put it in the hat. It's sure to get my attention that way..."
Also I wouldn’t actually literally ‘Pass the hat’ as people might nick money. Just go round with it or get people to come up an put money in the hat.

Finally, how are you going to be? Are you going to be Mr Silly the Clown, the slick yet casual magician, be and dress up as an old fashioned entertainer, or someone else? Make this someone you are, want to be, or can relate to. You don’t have to be yourself. I’ve heard of magicians being themselves and coming across all hastily. Don’t be afraid to act like it’s yourself. Some magicians are shy (including me) and basically act the whole time.

I hope you’ve found this helpful guys.

:D DW


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 5:09 pm 
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DW, as someone else who will start some serious busking this spring, where do you busk, and how long have you done it.

I am not sure what constitutes running around and yelling at people in your book, but I don't leave my table area to go and get an edge. I do talk to people as they walk by and get their names. I do yell some to the crowd to call them to the edge. I make some noise as well. I will play with a ring set, which people can see from a distance, even though right now my ring routine is not finished. I too do from a 15 to 30 minute show--I do rope, maybe a card effect, and a cups and balls effect. Which cups and balls do you do?


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 3:01 am 
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Joined: 24 Dec 2004
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Location: Bris'ol - England
Hi Chriskline, great to see a fellow Busker on this site.

I've been Busking for several years now, and I live in the UK, so that is where I Busk.

My routine varys from year to year, at the moment I start with a rope routine, then go into a sponge ball routine, then I will do a visual card or coin trick if the audience seem into it, and finish with the cups and balls.
(I use Gazzo's street cups and balls).

As for Buskers yelling at everyone, I think it's a good idear to get a small croud first by talking to people before you do this. If you start by shouting at everyone, they will feel intimidated, and won't want to be the first people to come over. As I said in my book, I also get the audience to cheer after three. It builds on the croud, as well as getting people in the mood.

Thanks for the reply.

:D DW


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 7:30 am 
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DWmagic wrote:
Hi Chriskline, great to see a fellow Busker on this site.

I've been Busking for several years now, and I live in the UK, so that is where I Busk.

My routine varys from year to year, at the moment I start with a rope routine, then go into a sponge ball routine, then I will do a visual card or coin trick if the audience seem into it, and finish with the cups and balls.
(I use Gazzo's street cups and balls).

As for Buskers yelling at everyone, I think it's a good idear to get a small croud first by talking to people before you do this. If you start by shouting at everyone, they will feel intimidated, and won't want to be the first people to come over. As I said in my book, I also get the audience to cheer after three. It builds on the croud, as well as getting people in the mood.

Thanks for the reply.

:D DW


I talk to people as they pass, but I do make some noise and people can here me from a distance. There is a difference between projecting your voice and shouting. I try to project.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 12:46 pm 
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Hey DW and Chris:

Thanks so much for the insight. As the weather starts to get warmer, I feel that I could do some serious busking on the beach board walk not far from my home. There is a steady stream of people walking by and I think it could work out well for me. I don't lack the confidence in my routines, but I am a bit hesitant to actually do this. How do you get paid? Pass the hat? Have a jar with a "tip" sign on it or do you just hold out your palm at the end of the show? How long do you stay in the same area? Have you ever been approached by the police and told to leave? I would really like to try this and maybe I'll read your replies and just do it one night this summer.

Thanks in advance!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 2:30 pm 
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danold22 wrote:
... How do you get paid? Pass the hat? Have a jar with a "tip" sign on it or do you just hold out your palm at the end of the show? How long do you stay in the same area? Have you ever been approached by the police and told to leave? ...


To answer serialatum, I get paid quite well when I busk. I have a square can attached to the front of my table so people can drop moiney in it as they leave. I also walk thru the spectators after the show and hold my hat out for people to drop money into. In both I start out with a $5 bill and 2 one dollar bills, if people drop change in I take it out immediatly. I will stay on the pitch until the crowd leaves or until I have reached my monetary goal for the day. (The goal changes from day to day with friday and Sat being quite high and Mondays being only $100)

Lastly YES and when the police tell you to leave don't give them any crap, just say "Oh I am sorry I didn't know it was illegal here. Is there a place where I can legally perform?" They will either say Yes go to the ....(wherever) of NO not in theis town!" if they tell you the latter, pack up and change towns.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 2:42 pm 
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I think this is a great idea. I have actually saw this been done in my town last summer.

But the kind of props he used where big, No cards and coins.
For example he did a cup & ball routine as we know it, Exept he used 3 hats and 3 tennis balls for the climax large tennis balls.
He also did juggling and sword swallowing.

As for the police there's usually no problem, They enjoy it as much as the spectators.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 3:02 pm 
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This is tricky. You want to be in an area where there are lots of people, but not necessarily in a pathway where people are walking from one place to another. It is best to have an area where people are milling around, shopping an area, or where people are sitting outside eating lunch. But, you work where you can build a crowd. You will learn these as you do busking—as will I. I will do mine at a downtown, riverfront area that has a large food market, and lots of small restaurants and bars. There are some large areas with seats where people go to sit to eat lunch. I was told that I didn't need a license but I went to the police to make sure.

You should pass the hat (walk around with it at the end of the show,) because it is hard to make much if you hope people will just drop money in the hat. You do need to let people know that you will pass the hat. I will say things like, “My dad said I could never make money doing magic on the street. I told him that if I did a great show, people would put fives and tens into my hat at the end of the show.”

I had originally developed a longer, 30 minute show, but I am prepared for a shorter 15 minute show. From what I am hearing from professional buskers, people are not staying for longer shows as often any more. Plus if you cannot get a crowd above 10 or 15, you want to have shorter shows. My shorter show will be a short rope routine and a truncated cups and balls. I do Gazzo's routine and use six baseballs and a five inch soccer ball for the hat load. Normally, it will take 20 minutes, with good audience participation, but shortened it takes about 12. I also am working on a ring routine, and will use the rings as a draw until I feel comfortable doing the full routine. I also have some card effects if needed. I will do Cards Across (Harris), Chicago Surprise (Haydn), or The Classic Eleven Card Trick (Paul Harris) if needed. I will mix and match to see what works best, which is the way to go on the street. I use a portable table with a velvet top and a sign in front.

I have done most of my show at fairs, but have not yet passed the hat. My first trip will be this Saturday, which is a market day. Assuming the whether is nice, I will get down there by seven o’clock, and stay until the crowds thin in the early afternoon.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 6:58 pm 
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chrisrkline wrote:
...You do need to let people know that you will pass the hat. I will say things like, “My dad said I could never make money doing magic on the street. I told him that if I did a great show, people would put fives and tens into my hat at the end of the show.”...



Chris, my favorite and most subtle hat line is from Sunny Holiday on Cellini's "Art of Street Magic vol 1"

He pauses before his finale (either the beginning or middle of Cups and Balls, I'm not sure) and announces to the crowd that this this the big finish they've been waiting for. "If you don't pay anything else, pay attention..."

I've been told by other buskers that more often than not after this line you can see the people reaching for their wallets.

It's a *great* line that shakes them out of their stupor, lets them know that this is IT, and gently reminds them that although they didn't buy tickets, the show is not exactly "free."


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