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Old 06-30-05, 07:18 PM   #1
Andy S
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Default Another First Busking

Hey everyone. You're probably sick of hearing these, but since I enjoyed reading them before first going out, I'll go ahead and amuse someone else.

I went to Harvard Square, not in the pit by the subway station, but by a line of shops up the street. Luckily, my goal was to make $1, and my summer's goal (I'm mostly doing this for experience) is to pay off my $40 permit. I made $3.05, but that's only for one 20 minute show, putting me at a respectable $9.15 an hour (if only it worked that way).

As recommended, I came up with and rehearsed a rough outline of a 15 or 20 minute show with crowd-gathering, a beginning, a middle, and an end. When I got there, 5 or 6 people were sitting around, and loads were walking places within viewing distance. My problem (I think) was that I didn't verbally advertise and explain enough that I was about to do a show, and it would have a beginning and an end, so people should get up and sit it out. Unfortunately, people never really gathered, and I went through my juggling routines minus all the comedy that required an audience I could be sure was paying attention. Naturally, without all the talking I was done in only 10 minutes, so I desperately did everything performance ready that I could think of, taking me to about 20 minutes before I bailed with my 3 bucks (and a Canadian quarter some jerk threw in).

At least I enjoy juggling -- I got to do what I enjoyed, and made a few dollars. I suppose I should have no regrets. Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated. I'm assuming with a start like that, things can only get better. (Don't worry, I still know the first 100 shows will suck -- don't spoil my misguided optimism

Thank you for putting up with my whining. By the way, reading all of the articles and posts here has been extreemly helpful, so thanks. And thank you, Mr. Ragatz, for telling me about these forums. At least I now have a vague idea of the many things I did wrong.

-Andy S, looking forward to my second attempt
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Old 06-30-05, 07:42 PM   #2
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Congrats, Andy, well done.

There might be 99 to go but you've just done the hardest one by far.
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Old 06-30-05, 10:32 PM   #3
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Default I remember my first time in Harvard Square

I think I made $33 in two shows on my first night in the Square. I thought I had done a few "street shows" in other towns before I got to Harvard Square, but now that I look back, those other shows were more like "juggling on the sidewalk with a hat out for 20 minutes" type of shows. (More like a musician playing songs with an open case.) But those first Harvard Square shows felt more like "shows."

Don't stop now! It will get better. Keep a journal. Write down what works and what feels good.

Oh... and don't be afraid to rearrange your bits every time. I think I did a different show every night for a year before I really found the groove for my routine order.
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Old 07-01-05, 07:38 AM   #4
Andy S
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Hey Jim, thanks for the advice. Have you found that there is a prime time for doing Harvard Square? I kind of felt like everyone had somewhere they needed to be at 7:00. It's light until 8:30 at least. Does the crowd settle down?

Oh, and do you know if chalk is allowed? I feel kind of stupid shouting every minute that I'm doing a show, but maybe that's still the best way to go.

Thanks for your help -- at least I know there's money there to be had. Do you ever put a hat out in front of you, or do you hold out until the end and pass it around so that people know they pay for what they get?

-Andy
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Old 07-01-05, 09:03 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by Andy S
Hey Jim, thanks for the advice. Have you found that there is a prime time for doing Harvard Square? I kind of felt like everyone had somewhere they needed to be at 7:00. It's light until 8:30 at least. Does the crowd settle down?
HSq is best in the evenings. There is definitely a dinner/after-work hustle and bustle between 6 and 8pm and then things settle down. The sweet spot used to be from 9-10:30pm, but those days are gone. I always liked the dusk slot at Harvard. (Start when there's light, finish when it's dark.)


Quote:
Originally posted by Andy S
Oh, and do you know if chalk is allowed? I feel kind of stupid shouting every minute that I'm doing a show, but maybe that's still the best way to go.
Chalk shouldn't be necessary in Harvard Square. People know how to watch a show and will move if you ask them to. And if you need to keep shouting that you're doing a show DURING your show, then you're doing it wrong.

1. Shout to get a crowd. (or don't shout...)
2. Define the edge (tell them where to stand)
3. Do your show.
4. Finish and ask for tips.

If you find people walking away after every trick, you need to work on your character and transitions between routines. OR... try doing a shorter show. Every time you finish a routine, it is a satisfying moment for the audience and they feel less guilt about walking away. If you do ten tricks, you have ten moments that are potential crowd peels. Try doing fewer bits and making them more interesting. And try making each routine integrate into the next. You want the energy and tension of the show to constantly build in a smooth, transitionless way... Especially when you're starting out. You don't want peaks and valleys of energy because the short attenion spans will walk away when the tension is released (between bits.)

The simplest way to do this (but not a habit you should get into) is to introduce your next routine before you've finished the routine you're on... or to be constantly talking up your finale during your transitions. Again, this is seen as slightly amateurish, but you're an amateur. It works and it's not a bad way to learn the basics of keeping an audience's attention. After a while (like 200 shows!) you will learn that it's your CHARACTER that's holding their attention and you won't need to be filling up time talking about your next bit.

You want the crowd to be subliminally thinking, "I like this guy. What's he going to do next? I can't wait to find out."

Quote:
Originally posted by Andy S
Thanks for your help -- at least I know there's money there to be had. Do you ever put a hat out in front of you, or do you hold out until the end and pass it around so that people know they pay for what they get?

-Andy
It's customary in most places (especially Boston/Cambridge) to have a collection device (hat, case, bag, etc.) in plain view for people to see. If they have to leave early, they may drop something in the hat. Also, if it's in plain view, it's something you can allude to during the show. At the end of the show, you make your "pitch" and then either hold your hat or stand behind it and let people come up to donate. Don't "PASS THE HAT" into the crowd. You might not get it back.

People will come up. When you're just starting out, there's always an awkward moment at the end of the show when you're standing there holding your hat, thanking the crowd for watching, and asking for money. It seems like a minute will pass before anyone comes forward (and then there's a rush.) Don't take them by surprise... "Warn" them that you'll be asking for money before your big finale. Maybe even do your "pitch" right before you get into the finale trick. Then people can be digging into their pockets while you're doing the finale.

Try not to hit them with the first mention of money AFTER you're done and standing there with a hat in your hand. It's a very jarring visual and it makes people uncomfortable.

On the other hand, in Harvard Square, everyone knows about busking and they know you're out there working for tips. It's not going to be a big shock for them, but you can still be smooth about it.

Watch the other acts and see how they do it. Don't steal lines, but watch a bunch of people and you'll see the structure/formula for the hat pitch. Then you can add your own lines and character to YOUR hat pitch.

Later,
Jim
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