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Buskers Journal

Articles and blogs written by Mario Morris and James James.  Click on the article you want to read and get some great advice, thoughts and muses of street performers.

Tricks vs Routines by James James
Tricks are something working girls turn. Routines are what they perform.
Sh*t, oops, wrong blog.
Yes.
Tricks V Routines. Let’s first quantify what each is, and then talk about what would be the way to go and why.
TRICK – A cunning or skillful act or scheme intended to deceive or outwit someone.
“a one shot event.”
That’s the bare bones, and to further examine, it’s a one shot event. A Wham ! Bam! Wow!.. And that’s it.
ROUTINE – A series of effects, sometimes combined with ‘bits of business’.
So, which should you use in your show. What would work best, and why?
In a way, both. Both have their uses, in attracting a crowd, and keeping them locked in. Both together are obviously part and parcel of you show. Each has it’s own reason for being there. One building on the other to create a show.
“street magicians flounder”
I’ve seen new street magicians flounder with just a collection of ‘tricks’, who then wonder why it’s not working.
I’ve seen new street magicians have a solid routine and not been able to ‘get into it’. It’s a geshtalt, a coming together of both, with a heavy dose of confidence, guile, and banter, that makes it all work.
I said it was both, but it’s more than that.
“that WOW! moment”
Both come together to create a show, each having its; own part to play. Single effects help create that WOW! moment whilst your routines push the show along to its final conclusion and destination, which, for some, is getting the money in the hat.
With a well constructed routine, with modular elements (for example the Ambitious Card), given the dynamic of each different show, you can extend, or shorten the routine depending on how your audience is reacting.
Not so with any single effect, but those small moments of WOW! can be a part of what you are trying to achieve.
“lengthen or shorten it”
As some may know I regularly perform the Cups and Balls, as taught by Gazzo. Admittedly, I have not changed much of what I have learned, but still, the full shebang of such a routine allows me to lengthen or shorten it, according to how my audience is reacting.
My raison de terre is to get money in my hat.To be paid. To earn an income, and as such, that is my main focus.
For sure ‘Art’ plays second fiddle, to some extent but being successful in ‘getting the money’ allows me to be creative in other ways and work on other pieces that I will use in different arenas.
“how you can learn from my experience”
But my exposition here for Mario Morris and The School of Busking, isn’t about me. It’s about how you can learn from my experience in order to help you take the plunge, or find some advice that you will find useful.
Next week, on ‘The School of Busking’ we  will be exploring Applause V Laughter, and why when working the streets, there is a vastly different approach to both.

Thanks
For the School of Busking and MagicNews TeleVision
James James

Top Ten Street Performing Tips by Mario Morris

My Top Ten Tips for Street Performing – Mario Morris

I have been street performing for more then 15 years and I love what I do – it has allowed me to travel, teach, and perform at festivals all around the world. It has given me the training and experience required for me to gain work as a festival worker, cabaret performer, close up magician and write and perform my own one man show. Everything I do stems from street theatre. I have picked up some of my best bookings whilst working the streets. Being a street performer means that you don’t need an agent and you have the freedom to work where and when you like. However its not a easy choice and not everyone will make it as a street performer. Like any art you need dedication, motivation and discipline. In 2006 I founded the School of Busking in the UK and have taken my lecture on tour to Switzerland, Italy, Germany and all over the UK and been part of the Jeff McBride School of Magic and Mystery – focus on Street Theatre for the past 2 years.

I would like to share with 10 tips for street performing:

1) Developing a Street Show

Whether you are developing a doorway or circle show – your show will need a beginning and an end. I recommend 3 effects for a show is enough. Your ice breaker/crowd gatherer, a middle effect and your finale. Make your show as unique and interesting as you can – you may have effects that you have bought directly from the performer, but remember right from the beginning try and perform each effect in your own style and character and do not copy word for word someone else’s act – because that is all your act will ever be – someone else’s!

Develop your character – the crowd will fall in love with you not your tricks or effects. Find out what suits you and wear the clothes/costume that suit your character. Be careful of overdressing – it may backfire if you better dressed the most of your audience and keep flashing your very expensive watch – unless of course – this is part of the character that you want to portray. On the opposite scale – dress like a beggar and you can expect a beggars wage!

2) Finding and working a Pitch

Every city and every town is different. When I arrive in a new town or city I do what I call Reconnaissance (a mission to obtain information by visual observation or other detection methods) by

walking the streets and getting a feel for where the best place to do a show may be. My motto is – its easier to apologise afterwards then try and gain permission – unless of course you hit a town where queuing is the norm then of course you must follow suite and enjoy watching, learning and making new friends.

Here are some of my tips for finding and working a good pitch: Respect other performers and street folk i.e. keep your distance; Don’t let street traders intimidate you; Shaded pitches are best; Look for quality not quantity – busiest may not be best; Look for natural outdoor pitches that can lend themselves to a theatre setting; Fit into your surroundings, don’t block foot flow or a doorway, for example; Be courteous and professional at all times; Keep your wits about you.

3) The Street Performers Props

What props are going to work for you? Think about the transportation of your props and how you will travel and get around with them. Everything you have with you – from your hat to your case and of course all your effects should be used as props. The moment you arrive on your pitch and put your hat on your head you are starting your show and everything you do – from setting up your table or your props for your show should be a deliberate act and therefore creating curiosity in the people around you. Allow the setting of your street stage become part of your crowd build. Play with your props as you set up your table, use your case as a centre point and stand and look at in in wonder – you will be amazed at how many people stop and look too.

If your finale is a 10 foot unicycle then of course your audience is going to know what your finale is and of course the advantage of a high finish means that you can play to much larger audiences and these are known as circle shows. The beauty of magic is that it can pack small and play big therefore you don’t have to reveal your finale props until you are ready – this will keep your audience guessing.

4) Attracting an Audience

I have a couple of different ways of attracting an audience depending on whether I am performing a circle show or doorway show-
Loud and Rude Method
Loud and Rude is the way I work when doing a circle show with the straitjacket finale. I use a chain from a bucket and I pour the chain out of the bucket into a straight line and then drag the chain across the road. When I’m getting ready to start attracting a crowd, I’ve got my bucket with the chain ready in my hand – I start to shout “Just about to Start!” Shouting loudly – “Watch this – just about to start”. I make a lot of noise and a lot of clatter. This immediately gets people’s attention. A classic way of attracting others is to ask the crowd to give you a huge round of applause as you take your centre stage (you need a least a couple of rows people by this time) and watch as other people wander over to see what is happening! A crowd attracts a crowd!

The subtlety of Curiosity!

When doing my doorway show I grab people’s attention in another way – the power of curiosity. If you don’t have big props that give your show away – then people don’t know what to expect and they become curious. I use the silk hanky routine as a crowd puller. The beauty of an effect like the silk hanky is that it can keep on being repeated until you have your first hedge to your audience.

I only begin to eyeball people who have stopped for a moment in time. Otherwise, people who keep on walking by can feel intimidated. I give the people who have stopped a moment to settle in and then they realise that I am not that scary! Then I do the disappearing silk hanky again, I get people to come in a little bit closer and when they are about a meter away from my table that is just about as close as I want them to be. If they get too close, then I pull table back. Otherwise I lose my depth with the crowd that I have got. The audience is not trapped in yet and I want more people to come in so I keep on playing.

5) Turning your Crowd into an Audience

Learn to connect with your audience. That is the advantage of close up – the closer your audience is the better the relationship you have with them. That is the disadvantage of a big show and big crowd – that is exactly what they are – a big crowd – not yet an audience. Just because people are crowding around you – that does not make them an audience. Develop a relationship with the people, make eye contact, communicate, reach out to individuals in the shows. Make people feel included. Welcome people to the show and ask their names and use it! On the streets eye contact is an important tool Make eye contact with individuals in front of you, behind them, to your left and to your right – make them all feel included. If someone is shy and doesn’t want to make eye contact then let them be – otherwise you may scare them away.

6) Overlapping Your Material

Overlapping is an important part of a street show – it keeps your audience locked in. Before I finish my first effect I introduce my second effect and this part of my show includes a lot of fun and audience participation. Then whilst halfway through my second effect I introduce the props for my finale so that they know that the big finale is yet to happen. Keep them keen, interested and entertained with overlapping your material. There are lots of different ways of overlapping whatever your material is and you can get creative with this – whatever your show.

7) Dealing with Distractions

Lets face it there are always a lot of distractions on the streets and remember no one invited you to be there! So take advantage of any distractions – Police cars, fire engines, ambulances, the local drunk are all distractions that you cannot ignore – work with them – control your audience and get them to move around or split your crowd in half or wherever is good for the distraction to pass. If you played it right and they are interested in what you are doing then they will be completely under your control at this point anyway, so they will go where I ask them and they will come back for me too. Acknowledge the distraction – have fun with the distraction and remember – bring the audience’s attention right back to you again. Ad lib your way through distractions and make them part of your show.

8) Keeping Your Audience

Getting a volunteer to participate in your show is a great way to keep your audience – I get a cute kid to come out and help me in the middle of my show and make them a star – the cuteness of the kid warms the audience to me and they want the kid to succeed and feel good and this gives your show a great energy that makes people want to be part of.

If you need a grown up volunteer – this is a safe way to get a volunteer – once you have your crowd or your audience, take a prop – it could be a ball or a silk. Take it out your pocket or case and give it to a guy in the audience and ask him to put it in his pocket and tell him to forget all about it and I just get on with my show.

Then when it is appropriate – remember I have picked this guy as my ideal volunteer – he just doesn’t know it yet – this is the guy that I want to wrap me up in a strait jacket later in the show! I then ask “is there anyone here who happens to have a silk handkerchief in their pocket – anyone here?? Amazing – sir can you pull that silk hanky out of your pocket – can you bring it out here – what is your name….” Then you put him where you want him to be on your stage and you have your volunteer. There are a number of different ways to get your volunteer –

just don’t use that word!

9) Making Your Audience Pay

Throughout your show you need to be educating your audience – training them into letting them know this is what you do for a living. I tend to say right at beginning – “My name is Mario Morris and I travel up and down the country doing shows in front of kind folks like yourselves and this is called my Slight of Mouth Show and this is what I do for a living.”

The word busker is not a word that everyone understands. Make subtle points throughout your show e.g. if someone takes a photo of you during your show, exclaim “I don’t mind you taking a photo mister, just don’t show my mum – she thinks I work in an office!” This way you are educating your audience that you do not get paid to do this and this is all before you come to doing your hat lines. Exclaim – “this is what I do for living” These little one liners throughout your show educate your audience. However – don’t be desperate throughout your

show – people pick up on these vibes. It is also good practice to be specific about what you want your audience to pay you – if you want a pound, 2 pounds or even 5 pounds – ask and
specify to your audience that that is what you want. You will find this makes a great difference to your hat.

Your hat lines must come before your big finale, because you have them locked in by that time anyway. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is what I do for a living; please do not just walk away. Put one pound, 2 pounds or if you can afford it 5 pounds in my hat at the end of the show…” Remember – it is not rude to ask for money – they have just watched your show and you have just entertained them for the best part of a half or whole hour.

And finally

10) The Versatility of the Street Performer

Street performers are the most versatile performers I have ever encountered. Street performers are able to work in a whole variety of settings. A seasoned street performer should be able to apply all of his skills to many different events and occasions. The busker who is experienced will be able to transfer his skills that he has working on the street, right into any venue or event he may find himself in.

For more details look on www.schoolofbusking.com. The School of Busking DVD has over 3 hours teaching material

Busking and Beyond by James James

Being able to take to the streets, find a patch of concrete, generate an audience, and earn a good income, is all good and well.

But what about when you’re like me. Old and grey, no insurance, or superannuation, and nothing saved. It can be at times like these, one would get that “Oh Sh*t” moment.

But there is a way around it, and can greatly enhance your life and bottom financials. It takes work and dedication though.

Dedication, because, as you may feel that you have earned the equivalent of a weekly wage, in one day, it does behove you to leverage the time that you have saved in making that good swag.

Find something else you like doing, and get good at it, and then you may be able to have that as an income stream also. I’m not advocating doing a regular job…No! No! No!

It should be something that allows you to disassociate your income from you labour. That is to say, the project you work on has long term implications, and will (with some management) help provide you with an income stream, when you either don’t want to hit the streets, or unfortunately cannot.

Busking is a great way to see the world, make great friends, and dive deep into an alternate culture. When you get good at it, there will still be days that you can’t be bothered, or  through illness or injury are unable to do what you love. Its all about leverage.

You see, I’ll give you an idea of some figures. In the past, I have earned more, in 3 WEEKS than my wife does in TWO MONTHS. A great wedge of cash that went into savings, and current liabilities. How I wish it could be the same every time I get out there and pound the bricks.

But NO!

It doesn’t work like that.

So, following my own advice and words, I am (and have been) laying down the groundwork towards a better financial future. I haven’t been able to make it happen as yet, but I am ever confident that it will turn that valuable corner.

Something my father used to say, does come back tome, and that is,he thought I was good at what I did, but it is a wise man, who looks to the future and invests time in creating something that works and earns, even whilst you sleep.

Look at what Mario and Lady V have done. Apart from being the first to pull it all together, they have created a behemoth in ‘The School of Busking’, which helps others discover the highs, lows and joys of working the streets. It helps yes…and earns an income for them, through the sale of video, even though the work has already been done.

So it’s up to you.

What else are you passionate about.

What else can you do, to leverage the time that you have.

What else can you create that can help others, which in turn will help yourself.

Nuff said.

Next Video will be about something even more deep.

I’m sure.

Please remember to leave a comment and join the conversation.

Adieu

James James

Freedom vs Restrictions by Mario Morris

The very essence of this statement attracted me to busking.  The freedom to be able to travel and perform and to come and go as I pleased. I was already a world wide traveler before I became a busker.
In my early years I made jewelry but I gave it all up to become a busker – as I see it,  I evolved into a busker. I have been to some great festivals  as a street performer.   My very first visit to the Edinburgh Fringe back in the nineties  was educational. I was blown away by what appeared to be freedom of expression back then. No permit system that I can remember and we   played to the wee hours of the morning. Nothing like it is in the present day – the whole street is regulated by a very approachable, friendly, committed team!
It goes without saying with regulations comes restrictions that just grow after they are first introduced. Do I favor being regulated by a body of people?   Not at all. On the other hand if one is in place and if they are approachable and fair and friendly enough I will work with them as I do now when I visit the Edinburgh Fringe! At festivals you can expect regulations.
Streets are  a whole different matter.   Let me begin by stating my stance. Each and every one of us have the right to express ourselves  on the streets as long as we do so in a peaceful way.   Regardless of any law –  if it infringes on this basic human right, if you are not allowed this is an act against basic human right.
My heart goes out to performers in countries where that is the case and to break that law could lead to you being dealt with most severely. In the UK busking is legal and in most European countries. In the USA they have the First amendment that defends the right to express your self in a public place. As in the UK and Europe these rights are often overlooked and ignored and it takes a brave few to stand up for their rights or should I say to educate local authorities.
I have lived in and have visited countries where I have stripped down to my pink lycra  pants and then escape from a Straight Jacket – basically I can do what I want for the most part.  I count it as a great privilege to have traveled the world performing magic and my cup and ball show with a unique side show twist.
I love just turning up into a city, town or village and  setting up my show and performing my show.  More so I enjoy going into places that have little or no history of busking in place. I have often worked towns and cites that do have other performers in town.
Basic human engagement becomes central for performers to work together.   Communication – the simple act of ‘hi my name is Mario Morris what’s yours?’  is key. You work out what is the best thing to do  – very simple – in an ideal world. ‘Ok you’re working here and  I am going to work down there, or lets go back to back‘   You simply work it out. Street performers have being  doing that for centuries.
The problems will only arise if  there  is a break down in communication and some one does not intend to be respectful. They may have a large set up and they intend to blast you out with their amp. This is an increasing problem on the streets, the war of the amps. There is ways of dealing with it.  Again the most effective is first talking, then talking to other buskers who are more swayed by universal peace and justice. And you persist  –  talking them around – making it clear if you can’t work neither will they.
I had an instant like this the other day.  I was sharing a pitch with my pal Little Arifand along comes a musician with an amp the size of a sub-trunk and blasted into my show. I was able to finish my show because I had my audience in the palm of my hand by this point. I finished and  then went up to this chap and  I politely told him the score and asked him firmly  never to do that again. He apologised and said he would’t.  I guess we will have to wait and see –  if anyone ever gets violent towards you I would not put up with it and call in the police. That is crossing the line.
I have visited cities councils that have introduced a voluntary code of practice often without consulting a single busker. In my opinion –  this will not work.

Number one  – there is already an unspoken code of practice in place  and its called – performers talking!  Mmm that’s it  – talking!  I recommend that city officials and city councils to  talk to us.  Remember busking is a legal right in the UK;
These codes of practice are often ill thought out and restraining and can cause more arguments on the streets than they solve.   Often misunderstood that it is the law but it is  not  enforceable, so buskers can override it and talk and come up with their own solutions.   But you where already doing that I hear you say.
The thing that I dislike most of all about Codes of Practice is that city councils introduce them rather than adopting the code of practice of the street which has  already organically grew into place. Call me suspicious or  old fashioned.
Instead they set up their  Codes of Practice in one of their offices and it is doomed to fail.  And so months  or perhaps even  years later they either abandon it, or  they go down the long route of trying to introducing a permit system. Can you see where all this is going?  Well someone has to pay for it all. To me this is madness, Okay there are some places that have had these permit systems in place for some time and its on private land. Okay –  fair enough!   I guess like Convent Garden in the UK or Granville Island in Canada to name just a few –  this is where you have to audition and pay to perform. The relationship between the performers and the organisers are totally dependent on  – yep – you guessed it – communication – talking.
It is essential that the performers have a united voice when dealing with an organisation  of some sort! You can guarantee there  will be a  misunderstanding  and disputes along the way. You have got to bare in mind we are talking about performers livelihoods here.
Right now for example and in fact inspired me to write this in the first article in the first place.   The performers at Granville Island in Vancouver are  in dispute with Granville Island organisation  because new regulations have been introduced without consulting a single performer!
We are not just talking about a tweak here  and there.  Here is just one example – from May 1st there is to be a complete ban on fire on the Island. Their is never been an incident with fire in the years since buskers have taken to the Island. Now they have introduced their plans to ban it. At least 5 local acts use fire as major part of their shows and that is before you think of the hundreds of performers around the world that will now be excluded from the Island.
My hope is  and know it first hand from the performers of GI is that we hope that Granville Island will come  to reason. For the first time Buskers on GI need to stand together and defend their rights of freedom and expression and their livelihoods.  Power to them!
Coming back to the street i.e. regular non private land, I cannot think of a worst thing then  to grant  a permit system to allow me to do what I have the right to do in the first place. Don’t get me wrong –  I have had them in some places that have had them in place for some time – like York or Bournemouth for example. It may even suit local performers.  The point is, you really don’t have to pay –  you have a legal right to busk. I don’t think we should allow this  to continue to grow. Its like a form of extortion and it all come down to our right of freedom of speech and expression.
If street performers are to be governed –  let them lead the way, listen to them and empower them. You see Art is very powerful and has changed societies and perhaps that is why authorities try to control it. Yet Art has no Boundaries
I will finish what I have said are my thoughts based on my experience.   I am open to dialogue and learning.

Here is a link to the The Buskers Project, for more school of the thought I like how these links are presented in a some what joking manner and also the Granville Island Busker Group

Start Small and Grow Big by James James

THE SCHOOL OF BUSKING – START small grow BIG

I’m sure you have seen HUGE street shows (Magicians as well as Jugglers), where there are upwards of 200 people, all enjoying a performance, all ‘nicely’ managed in an orderly semi circle. You may look at this and think…” I want to do that”. You may also think that all of these people turned up en masse and stood on an imaginary line that circled the performer in the middle.

If you thought that, you would be way off track. It all starts off small. That is if you are a table top magician. So how can you engineer a small group of people to become a large audience., and there is a BIG difference. Not just in the size, but in the bringing together of a group of disparate strangers, and mould them into an audience.

You start small.

“a central point at where the magic happens”

My only experience of the streets is with a table. A central point on which everyone can focus. Not a prop to hide behind, but a central point at where the magic happens. Eugene Burger tells us of working behind a bar (as opposed to ‘table hopping’), and what he calls ‘The Power Position’.

That is to say, with people gravitating towards you, you and your performance have gravitas. You have the ‘upper hand’. They are moving into your space. You are the one in total control. You are the reason they stopped. You have stopped them doing what they were doing, and made them stop and watch.

I’m sure you can see the greater value in this, rather than approaching tables (which by the way, is still valid), and moving into their space.

Now…Imagine you are on a busy path (big enough to hold a large audience) and you are setting up your table to work. Where do you place yourself ? Where do you start. Where would be the optimum space to put your table. Before we get to that, here is a bit of history, as far as I know.

The Edinburgh Festival has been the biggest festival in the world for many years. The Fringe, T.V and Film, Science Festival, Literary Festival, Theatre Festival, as well as others.

“over 1 MILLION people”

Combined, they bring in over 1 MILLION people to Edinburgh every August. Now that’s a lot of traffic. I don’t have the names, but I understand that some street performers happened upon the Edinburgh Festival when it was in its’ earlier stages, saw the amount of people there, and thought… YES! This would be great place to do shows, for a few weeks.

Word got out to other performers,and now after so many years, The Edinburgh Festival is the THE place where you will find over 100 street performers (over 4 weeks), doing shows. Magic and otherwise.

“it’s where the traffic is”

The reason I mention this, should be obvious. It’s where the ‘TRAFFIC’ is. If you have not been; let me say that on a bright sunny day, there will be literally thousands of people packed into The Royal Mile, all there to watch shows, and catch the buzz. What does this mean for you, and your street show.

Well…positioning. The place to put your table when setting up, is right in the middle of the flow of traffic that is there. Then it will be easier to stop a small group of people walking by with your presence, banter, and ‘build’ material. (Build material will be discussed at a later date).

So now you have a few people stopping and watching, you’re out in the middle of the path or space, and you’re into your first routine. One thing you don’t do is rush it. Slow down, take stock of who and how many people are there.

“group of people entertained”

Yes, keep this group of people entertained but do not rush the routine. Embellish this routine with bits of business, one liners, jokes, and comments. The reasoning is that if the ‘flow’ is slow, it gives more time for more people to join the crowd and watch. Thereby growing the size of your (again) fledgling audience.

You should find at some point that people are crowding you, now is the time to pull your table back and ask those at your sides to take 1, 2, or 3 steps back.

Always give a desired amount of ‘steps’, as it is very direct and not vague.

Make it easier for them to follow ‘instruction’.

Apart from starting to attract more people, you ( in getting them to follow simple instructions ) are also getting them to start becoming an audience, behaving as one, instead of a group of strangers. Whilst continuing to build the number of people watching ( and yes, there will be walk offs ), you will find yourself moving your table back further, and further…

Once you have attracted all these people, it’s time to mould them further, into an audience. As an audience, there is a different psychology at play. Group dynamics, pack mentality, can all be manipulated to arrive at the best result for you and your show.

“make them an AUDIENCE”

The desired result is to make them AN AUDIENCE. When they all behave as a group, it is easier ( not easy, but easier ), to drive them towards putting money in the hat.

To recap.

Start with yourself and table( if you use one ), out in the flow of the foot traffic, build with smaller effects, making the focus the interaction and not just the ‘trick’. When your cried starts to grow, pull your table back, continuously being aware of the size of the crowd.

Be in your final position, when you bring out the big guns, and lock them in. If this isn’t what you are doing already, give it a try, it works for me, and may work for you…

“The Build and Beyond”

Next week on the School of Busking we  will be looking ‘The Build and Beyond’. If you have found this beneficial, entertaining, and interesting, please leave a comment and share ‘the love’…

For the School of Busking and MagicNews TeleVision

James James

The Build and Beyond by James James

THE SCHOOL OF BUSKING – START small grow BIG

I’m sure you have seen HUGE street shows (Magicians as well as Jugglers), where there are upwards of 200 people, all enjoying a performance, all ‘nicely’ managed in an orderly semi circle. You may look at this and think…” I want to do that”. You may also think that all of these people turned up en masse and stood on an imaginary line that circled the performer in the middle.

If you thought that, you would be way off track. It all starts off small. That is if you are a table top magician. So how can you engineer a small group of people to become a large audience., and there is a BIG difference. Not just in the size, but in the bringing together of a group of disparate strangers, and mould them into an audience.

You start small.

“a central point at where the magic happens”

My only experience of the streets is with a table. A central point on which everyone can focus. Not a prop to hide behind, but a central point at where the magic happens. Eugene Burger tells us of working behind a bar (as opposed to ‘table hopping’), and what he calls ‘The Power Position’.

That is to say, with people gravitating towards you, you and your performance have gravitas. You have the ‘upper hand’. They are moving into your space. You are the one in total control. You are the reason they stopped. You have stopped them doing what they were doing, and made them stop and watch.

I’m sure you can see the greater value in this, rather than approaching tables (which by the way, is still valid), and moving into their space.

Now…Imagine you are on a busy path (big enough to hold a large audience) and you are setting up your table to work. Where do you place yourself ? Where do you start. Where would be the optimum space to put your table. Before we get to that, here is a bit of history, as far as I know.

The Edinburgh Festival has been the biggest festival in the world for many years. The Fringe, T.V and Film, Science Festival, Literary Festival, Theatre Festival, as well as others.

“over 1 MILLION people”

Combined, they bring in over 1 MILLION people to Edinburgh every August. Now that’s a lot of traffic. I don’t have the names, but I understand that some street performers happened upon the Edinburgh Festival when it was in its’ earlier stages, saw the amount of people there, and thought… YES! This would be great place to do shows, for a few weeks.

Word got out to other performers,and now after so many years, The Edinburgh Festival is the THE place where you will find over 100 street performers (over 4 weeks), doing shows. Magic and otherwise.

“it’s where the traffic is”

The reason I mention this, should be obvious. It’s where the ‘TRAFFIC’ is. If you have not been; let me say that on a bright sunny day, there will be literally thousands of people packed into The Royal Mile, all there to watch shows, and catch the buzz. What does this mean for you, and your street show.

Well…positioning. The place to put your table when setting up, is right in the middle of the flow of traffic that is there. Then it will be easier to stop a small group of people walking by with your presence, banter, and ‘build’ material. (Build material will be discussed at a later date).

So now you have a few people stopping and watching, you’re out in the middle of the path or space, and you’re into your first routine. One thing you don’t do is rush it. Slow down, take stock of who and how many people are there.

“group of people entertained”

Yes, keep this group of people entertained but do not rush the routine. Embellish this routine with bits of business, one liners, jokes, and comments. The reasoning is that if the ‘flow’ is slow, it gives more time for more people to join the crowd and watch. Thereby growing the size of your (again) fledgling audience.

You should find at some point that people are crowding you, now is the time to pull your table back and ask those at your sides to take 1, 2, or 3 steps back.

Always give a desired amount of ‘steps’, as it is very direct and not vague.

Make it easier for them to follow ‘instruction’.

Apart from starting to attract more people, you ( in getting them to follow simple instructions ) are also getting them to start becoming an audience, behaving as one, instead of a group of strangers. Whilst continuing to build the number of people watching ( and yes, there will be walk offs ), you will find yourself moving your table back further, and further…

Once you have attracted all these people, it’s time to mould them further, into an audience. As an audience, there is a different psychology at play. Group dynamics, pack mentality, can all be manipulated to arrive at the best result for you and your show.

“make them an AUDIENCE”

The desired result is to make them AN AUDIENCE. When they all behave as a group, it is easier ( not easy, but easier ), to drive them towards putting money in the hat.

To recap.

Start with yourself and table( if you use one ), out in the flow of the foot traffic, build with smaller effects, making the focus the interaction and not just the ‘trick’. When your cried starts to grow, pull your table back, continuously being aware of the size of the crowd.

Be in your final position, when you bring out the big guns, and lock them in. If this isn’t what you are doing already, give it a try, it works for me, and may work for you…

“The Build and Beyond”

Next week on the School of Busking we  will be looking ‘The Build and Beyond’. If you have found this beneficial, entertaining, and interesting, please leave a comment and share ‘the love’…

For the School of Busking and MagicNews TeleVision

James James

Are All Pitches Created Equal by James James

Even going back to the same ‘pitch’, after a hiatus, you will find that you have to get into that pitches particular groove. And even more so, if there have been changes, i.e. where a few shops have been shut, or an indoor mall is boarded up, for renovation.

It’s all about the energy and flow.

The flow of the foot traffic, and the energy that you bring, and manipulate, from that one patch of concrete, that looks just like any other.

Travelling abroad, to a non English speaking country has its’ challenges as well. As in the short video above, you will hear of my experiences in Malaysia. A beautiful country with very hospitable people.

The first three month contract I had there, I came into it with the same bombastic energy that I had,when working European festivals and streets. The second contract, I had a fractured ankle and had to change my whole modus operandi. I came in with a slow, and low key energy.

Then I was able to help the audiences ‘get on my train’, without being harangued. They did (as I did) enjoy the journey more, and ultimately I made better hats.

I mention this, not to self aggrandise, but to give a palpable example, of how as a street performer and busker, one has to be adaptive to ones surroundings. What works on one pitch, may not work on another.

I may say though, that the learning of which, only comes through the doing of it.

In starting out, I’m sure you race through your material, hoping that you will be able to keep that small group you have gained interest from, interested and entertained. If you go fast…SLOW DOWN.

You should watch Gazzo or Nick Nickolas live…Not just for their entertainment value ( and if you get the chance to watch…make blooming sure you tip their hat), but watch how slow they go. It’s all about ‘pacing’. If there is a massive footfall, like during a big festival, they may go faster, as then they can turn over more shows, but mostly, its slow and build.

If you are working a pitch with not much footfall, you have to weigh up getting to the core of your performance against the possibility of more people joining your crowd (and soon to be morphed into tha audience).

A good analogy would be, working at the top of a hill, and knowing how long you could keep those that are there, interested, whilst you wait for more people to join.

Even if you have just a small audience, and the footfall, for some reason, has slowed to a trickle, don’t have an ego the size of a barn door, don’t spread your audience out into one thin line.

Have them gather closer, use whatever space you have to create a dynamic energy that will be felt and appreciated.

I would say, that it is not an easy thing to ratify ‘on the hoof’, but over time, and GETTING OUT THERE and doing it, you will have more arrows  in your quiver.

As said in the video, it’s experiential. You have to get out there and EXPERIENCE IT.

Next week, we shall have (as Monty Python would say) something completely different. Oh, and if you are wondering about Mario Morris’s School of Busking. It is one of the best and the longest running…

Till next week.

Please make sure to leave a comment and ask any questions that you may have.

Jamees James www.magicnewstelevision.com

Applause vs Laughter

As entertainers, and magicians, we want validation from an audience, be that in the form of applause, or laughter.
We want to know that our audience is enjoying our performance.
“Applause.”
We want to know that our audience is with us, and realize that what they are seeing is pretty damn amazing.So how does an audience usually show appreciation at the end of an effect, or routine, whilst on stage. Applause.
Especially if you give them a direct applause cue, arms outstretched, a ‘tada’ moment using music, a dramatic pose and gesture.
Its gratifying to construct a routine and show, where you nail the points at which your audience reacts in such a way.
Interestingly enough, applause like this can be the death of a street show. Normal applause points on stage throughout any routine could create an adverse effect in your ‘hat’. That is to say, your audience may not be there at the end of your street show.
“death of a street show”
Why??
On the streets, applause can be a trigger for audience members to feel that they have seen enough. Make them feel, ‘Shit, that was good/cool/amazing’, and give them license to leave. In their minds, they have been entertained fora brief moment and as they have had their ‘climax moment’, i.e. sharing in giving applause, they feel satiated and are gone.
This doesn’t happen all the time, but happens all too frequently if you don’t attend to it.
“audience show appreciation”
One way to garner applause and get it, is not at the end of a routine or effect, but when using a volunteer. Have your audience show appreciation when you invite someone ‘on stage’ with you, and the same again when they return to where they were.
Laughter on the other hand. Spontaneous laughter, helps keep your audience ‘locked in’.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t give your audience room to applaud. Just don’t engineer applause at the end of a routine. Ask for applause when bringing up volunteers, stamp on any applause after any ‘normal applause points’, ask for applause when volunteers leave your stage, construct, and be in control of when and for how long your audience applauds.
“tie them all closer together”
Laughter on the other hand, should be encouraged. As when your audience laughs, it is not an emotional signal to leave, as is applause. When you have the whole of your audience laughing, it also serves to tie them all closer together. They are behaving as one.
Stamping on applause, could be as direct as saying “No, no no”, or as you fill your arsenal with one liners, quips, or comments, stamping on applause will take on a new form…
Laughter!
And we know that laughter helps keep your audience locked in.
“Bugger all.”
Locked in is where you want your audience to be, because if there is no one there, when you come to the big finish…you’ll earn nought. Bugger all. Nothing.
If you can imagine making love to your partner, and you climax too soon, someone isn’t going to be fulfilled. However, if you hold back, hold on, take it slow, and both reach ‘it’ at the same time, or close to, you will both be satisfied.
Laughter at this point will quite obviously be a no no…
So think of applause like that. Have your audience hold on, have them wait, then through the process of ‘making love to them’ you all reach the same point at or near the same time.
“feel like a prostitute, you get paid.”
And then you get to feel like a prostitute, you get paid.
( A strange analogy I know, but one which is for a different time, although we do prostitute our ‘Art’ for money!!! Hmmmmn).
Next week on The School of Busking, and this may sound weird, ‘Volunteers & The Golden Child’, but it ‘s not. Lots of psychologilistality, or something like that.

For  The School of Busking and MagicNews TeleVision
James James

Volunteers and The Golden Child

No this is not some review of and Eddie Murphy film..although it was really bad

What other form of entertainment uses volunteers in the way that magicians do.

What other form of magic performance uses volunteers in the way that street performing magicians do.

Not many, if at all.

“opens up different levels of interaction”

The use of volunteers in a street show, opens up different levels of interaction, and allows for even more material to be used to engage an audience.

And engaging your audience is paramount. Whether you work the cups, do manipulations, or perform the colouring book. Interaction and engagement are key factors in making a street show successful.

Depending on the character you portray, allows for different types and levels of interaction with an audience member. Most have seen how some of the ‘names’ on the street use volunteers, and one may think that is the way to go. It all depends on your own character, and it is best to keep with the character you present, and deal with those that help you on stage accordingly.

“that is out of character”

To use lines, bits of business, and material, that is out of character, jars the audiences experience of you and your show, which can lead to a reduced ‘hat’ at the end.

I’m not at liberty here to advise what material to do when using a volunteer, as I am not conversant with your character, and would not suggest you ‘steal’ carte blanche from any other performer.

Yes, my show is still so similar to Gazzos’ and yes it is at times indistinguishable, but the lines and bit of business are my character, due to the fact I am a dictatorial, vicious, vacuous, vile, and vulgar bloke anyway….

So what’s this GOLDEN CHILD as mentioned in the title…

There are times when doing a show, and bringing a child up to help, that just send the energy you are creating into orbit.

“into orbit”

A child can create such a big impact on your show (and ‘hat’), that if you don’t have a routine that can include a child, it is wise to create one.

But remember…you are the one in control. You and your show are the primary focus. Any golden moment created by any volunteer should put you both in a good light, but your bulb needs to shine brighter…

“audience feel something really special”

Using volunteers can be a bit hit and miss, but when you are sure of your material, you will be able to further create something that has the possibility of making that audience feel something really special.

Here’s a wee story, an example of being in total control of your environment.

A few years ago, during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Sam Wills, aka ‘Boy with Tape on his Face’, had a packed theatre. One of his volunteers was a very well known comedian in the UK (Alistair McGowan).

Sam being from New Zealand was not aware of this, but did sense a bigger reaction from his audience, when Mr. McGowan came up on stage.

“took it all in his stride”

Alistair McGowan being the professional he is, took it all in his stride, and went to great lengths not to steal any of the ‘limelight’ . Being fully aware that he wasn’t the star of the show, just a bit part player, there were opportunities for him to play it so large, but he didn’t.

Until the end of the routine, when he went a smidgeon over the top.

“one of those moments”

The packed theatre loved it. They were ecstatic. It was one of those moments one remembers for a long time. It wasn’t that Mr. McGowans’ small extra bit was way off routine, just that he slightly embellished it.

As an entertainer himself, and a well recognised figure, I’m sure he couldn’t resist. but as said above, he was a total professional and didn’t overdo his part.

But even that wee bit at the end he did, was enough to have Sam need to bring it all back to him, to which he did in great style.

As to what it was, what happened, is not what we are trying to share. Just the fact, that no matter how great any volunteer is, it is imperative that you keep the main focus on you.

Yes, get applause for the volunteer, but bring it back to you.

I’m sure we all have instances when, as performers, we have experienced great and not so great moments, whilst working.

“what your experience was”

It would be interesting to hear what your experience was below,

Next week, we shall be looking at Anchor points, which although is quite a hard concept to put into practice, it’s one that should be invaluable…

Till then

For The School of Busking and MagicNews TeleVision

James James

P.S. Eddie Murphy’s film The Golden Child really was bad

P.P.S. It was. Really!!!