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Rex Boyd
How To Find a Place to Street Perform
Rex Boyd

Believe it or not, there are actually loads of places where you can street perform if you want to bad enough. Of course, you want to know where the really good ones are. OK, I'll tell you; the good ones are all gone. And the best ones haven't been found yet. Allow me to explain....

Whenever a good street performing spot is opened up, it often takes less then a few weeks (or even days) for word to spread to all the other performers in the area or even around the world. Long before this internet stuff started, buskers have managed very well to not be able to keep anything secret about good show pitches. Hardly surprising when you are probably doing 3 to 5 shows a day in front of 300 people at a time if you discover the holy grail of a new pitch. The word always gets out and soon you will have to share the pitch with 2 or 3 other performers, which might eventually become 10, 20 or even 30 other performers. Then your great spot is no better than any other established pitch. I know that hardly sounds fair but that is just the way it goes. Even if no other performer finds out about the pitch, it won't take long before some of the locals decide that they would like to give it a go. How many of you are examples of this yourself?

Another reason that I can't tell you the best place to perform is because the REALLY good pitches only happen one day or maybe a few days per year at a festival or special event of some kind. It may even be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. You should always be on the lookout for just such an opportunity. Check the newspapers, travel guides, tourist information offices, or just ask around. If something BIG is going to happen the regular people in the street will all know about it. This concept applies whether you are off to an exotic foreign location or just off to a nearby suburb. If all goes well, not only will you make money in the hat, but maybe the festival organisers will want to hire you for next year. Then again, maybe they will just assume that you'll will come for free anyway so they won't hire you. I'm afraid that difficult subject is up to you to contemplate on your own.

More regular, everyday locations can also be found in a variety of ways. Of course, you'll need to find some pedestrians. If they are tourists or have spare time on their hands (like on the weekend) your job will be much easier. By the way, as a self-employed person, you should always look for ways to make your job easier. Do some extra shows when you are likely to make good money and don't bother wasting your energy if no one wants to stop and watch. You'll only humiliate yourself and give street performing a bad name if you persist in a bad situation.

To find pedestrians with time on their hands, check the following locations world wide: pedestrian streets (duh), craft markets, farmers markets, parks, sea fronts, lake sides, and bar/restaurant areas on the weekends. Often, you will find lots of people about and not actually enough room left over for you. Don't be stupid. If you are likely to block off traffic flow by doing a show don't bother doing it. Someone like a shop owner will certainly phone the police and you will be out of there. Think ahead and look for the right pitch where you can happily work without annoying any of the area businesses or even become a hazard by making people walk into the street to get around your audience.

Sometimes the best spot is not obvious at first. Maybe the right location will actually be a more difficult place in which to get a show started, but will be better in the long run because you can fit in a larger audience by doing a long crowd build. You also must remember that even if you are in a spot where lots of people will pass by they won't necessarily stop or stay for long if they do.

Bringing the people over to you at the better spot is almost always worth the effort if you are doing a show. The people who have dedided to join you will invariably be a better audience than the ones who you just happened to be blocking their path. If you are a musician or just want to stand there juggling while people walk by, then you on the other hand probably do want to be among the flow of traffic.

Either way, you must always consider the natural flow of pedestrian traffic through an area. When starting your crowd building, it is best if you can have enough room for people to watch from a distance until they are ready to come together to form your audience. They need to feel comfortable that you know what you are doing first. And don't forget, it is crucial that attention is paid to having people stand together as an audience not only for traffic flow, but also in terms of giving some life and energy to your show. If people are too spread out, you will have a very hard time entertaining them. How you manage to get them together and warmed up as an audience I am afraid is up to you.

If you are desperate to find a pitch, you can always consider the following: Office workers outside their buildings on a lunch break; subway train platform or even on the train itself; bus or trolley stop; inside (yes inside) a bar or restaurant (always ask permission first). Please note that I only recommend these alternatives if you are REALLY desperate. You won't enjoy it and you won't make much money, but at least you know the option is there if you need the money bad enough.

Rex Boyd

Rex Boyd has spent the past ten years traveling the world street performing. He's originally from Kansas, but now lives in London. You should see him dance.

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