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  1. #1
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    Need Advice/Criticism For Busking Routine

    Hey everyone!

    I've been performing street magic for a while but I have never thought about busking. I've always felt awkward taking people's money directly when I barely know them and much prefer money coming through direct deposit into my bank account. Money is tight right now since tuition costs have gone up and I need more avenues for pocket money since all my main job money will be used for school.

    Here is a description of my busking set and I will explain the pyschology of it afterwards. I would like to get some feedback and opinions on it.

    So I would set up a table or suitcase and set on the ground and just leave it open. I would then walk up to a nearby group of people and introduce myself as an entertainer and ask them if they would like to see my craft. If they agree I would start performing for them.

    "So I'm currently a struggling college student *as I'm pulling out my fire wallet* that loves to entertain people with magic. Unfortunately, university has been burning through my funds! *as I ignite my fire wallet*" (hopefully this will attract more people to watch as well).
    "All I have in my wallet is simply five dollar bills *In preparation to do Prophet by Tom Isaacson* but if magic was real what would it really look like?"
    I would then wait for someone to hopefully suggest that they would turn the money into a higher denomination.
    "That's exactly correct! So with a snap of my fingers, I would make those ones turn into one hundreds! (I would pause to let this moment sink in for the audience and have them examine the bills if I feel that they won't take them).
    "Unfortunately Uncle Sam isn't too fond of this idea and I have to keep them as just single dollar bills thus my struggle is real!" *snap them back into one dollar bills*

    I would then pocket the money and ask "Now seeing that, who wants to loan me there money?" At this point hopefully I will have eager volunteers to loan me some money. "I will be destroying this eventually so I will take the lowest denomination you have. You see I have this weird relationship with money in that" *puts coin through hand via Doubting Thomas and it lands back in the spectator's hands*"I can push it straight through my body!"

    "But wait I can do more with that coin. This is how I would trick you via sleight of hand *makes coin disappear and reappear via sleight of hand* and this is how I would seemingly make it sound like it's breaking due to audio illusions." *flicks coin to make a breaking sound*
    "But this is something that only magic can explain..." I would then close my fist and perform Break by Uday Jadugar and hand all the pieces to the spectator and leave them with an impossible gift.

    "For my next effect, I need a volunteer!" (hopefully this will draw in more spectators). I would then pick a volunteer and ask them to think of something very personal that I would have no way of knowing what it was and to write it down on a post-it note. I would let them write it on the back of a box of cards. I would then perform Psypher 2.0 by Robert Smith and slowly elude to obscure questions that are specific to that personal item to make the mentalism all the more powerful and then finally reveal it.

    "Since we already have a box of cards out, who would like to see a card trick?" From there I would go into an ambitious card routine or my bread and butter effect, Camper. I would end with a spectator's signed card going from my shoe and then later into my mouth utilizing the smoke gimmicks of either Smoke by Alan Rorrison of The Dream Act by Shin Lim.

    For the last bit of it, I would close with Counterfeit by Wayne Houchin with a business card so that way a spectator has an "impossible" souvenir with my info on it.

    So the psychology of what I'm doing all starts with bringing money to the table right from the very beginning. I'm not directly asking for money but in my comedic routine of Prophet and a fire wallet I'm addressing the need for such. Then I immediately go from that into another money routine that borrows money from a spectator which is psychologically suggesting to people to give me money but then I leave them with an impossible souvenir. I then go into a mentalism routine that is designed to be personal with a stranger to try and build some sort of relationship with my audience who are strangers to me. I'm hoping it will psychologically suggest that I'm a type of friend of theirs by doing a mind reading act of something they love. I then go into a card routine that most people would guess is sleight of hand which is good because I want them to see that I'm a practiced magician and thus they would not be donating money to some chump on the street but rather a guy who takes his art very seriously. I close on Counterfeit because it's a great way to close a routine and it at least leaves someone with a business card in hopes that other people will ask for my business cards as well. (I really wish I had Double Cross to close on but I'm currently broke ).

    My backup effects for the routines (in case something goes wrong) are as follows. Prophet-Coinbite, Doubting Thomas/Break- Superman Coin Bend or sleight of hand routine, Psypher 2.0-Steam 2.0/All Seeing Eye by Dan Harlan, Ambtious Card-Camper, and I have to use Counterfeit as my closer unless I wanted to do another mentalism routine.

    Any help/criticism is greatly appreciated!
    -Tyler

  2. #2
    ChristopherThisse's Avatar :: Moderator
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    So, I don't do a ton of busking but I do have some experience with it and I have made some decent money doing it. I have learned a few things along the way largely due to some suggestions I've gotten from guys who are far better than me at it.

    So three major points I think you need to address: Gathering the crowd, the length of the show, and hat lines.

    Gathering the crowd: Do not depend on having more people stop and then tip you at the end of the show. While you will occasionally have someone walk up and watch the last bit of the show and then give you a nice fat tip, usually the crowd you have at the beginning will be the people who tip you decently. If you start with 2 or 3 people, there's a good chance you'll only have those 2 or 3 people unless you're good at hooking walkers by, and/or those original 2 or 3 people will be the only tippers.

    You need to gather a crowd before you start the show. In some areas you are able to simply shout, "Come see the show! Magic show starting in 5 minutes!" If I'm doing a busking show it's probably at a festival or convention, so it's appropriate for me to do that. I have a few carnival-barker style lines I use to catch people's attention. Otherwise you might need to do something more subtle. Two of my favorites: 1) I have seen a guy who just starts staring up at the sky for a second, then when someone walks by he goes, "Hey .. do you see that?" Then that person stops and stares. He does that a few times and then people start stopping randomly wondering what all these people are staring at. Then he goes, "Oh, well, guess it was nothing. Who wants to see a show? Right over here!" 2) A guy in NYC sweeps the area he's going to perform in. Really thoroughly. Like, sweeps an area, crouches down and inspects, finds some dust, starts sweeping again. Does this for 5 or 10 minutes. People will stop to see what he's doing.

    Find a way to gather a crowd first. I recommend starting with at least 5 or 10 people.

    Length of the show: 8 minutes of your best material is much better than 15 minutes of mediocre material. The worst thing you can do is have a moment of boredom for the audience. There is nothing keeping them from walking away at any time, you have to be presenting the best stuff from start all the way through. You've got 7 routines listed. I don't know how long that show would be for you, but it's at least 2 routines more than I use in 25 minutes. You've never done this before - I recommend looking at what you're planning to perform and cut it back to only the very best stuff that you basically cannot fail at.

    When I watch the really good buskers, they don't do many routines. Whether it's a magician, juggler, fire performer, whip artist, etc. Doesn't matter. Most of the time is spent telling jokes, telling stories, engaging the audience and making them feel like friends. Don't use the magic as a shield - use it as a highlight.

    Hat lines - You will not make much money if you do not specifically say you are trying to make money by doing this show. I know it can be awkward, particularly in the US, but you have to get comfortable with saying, "Now please pay me." Get creative with it, and make it slightly funny and self-deprecating, but you have to blatantly ask for money.

    Kozmo recommends doing three separate hat lines. One early on that's very light, "Well, that's why I work for tips." One more blatant about halfway through, "That's why people give me money for this." And then a straight out asking for money line, "Ladies and gentlemen I'm about to do my final routine here. When I'm done please don't run away like rats from a sinking ship. This is what I do for a living, so if you enjoyed it please help me continue to be able to bring this show to the streets by putting a little something in my tip box there. Remember a $5 will barely cover a cup of coffee these days." Or something like that. Don't copy that directly, find something that suits you.

    Selection of material: I don't know what kind of performer you are. I don't know if I've ever watched a video or anything of yours, so I don't know how jarring a transition it would be to go from money/coin tricks to mind reading. I can say that most performers can't make that transition smoothly - particularly when you're book-ending it with a sleight of hand card trick. I talk about consistency in my book, Boffo - your performance character needs a consistent set of powers for the audience to fully buy into the concept of your show. While the idea that mind reading does help the crowd feel closer to you is sound, that concept can be deteriorated if the set up to the mind reading, and the followup after it, isn't consistent. They will just lump it in with the 'other tricks'.

    I have often said that I don't think anything will do more to knock an ego down than busking. When I first started, it was really rough. I had people walk away in the middle of the show. I thought I had written a really cool, engaging show, but really I hadn't. It would have worked for a parlor show, but not a busking show. After people kept leaving all evening, I packed up, went home, and completely re-wrote the show.

    Be prepared for that to happen, too.
    http://www.ellusionist.com/boffo-pdf-by-christopher-thisse.html

    The HP Lovecraft of Bizarre Magic

  3. #3
    ChristopherThisse's Avatar :: Moderator
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    Oh and one other thing - If you are going to be doing multiple shows in one area, it can be a good idea to write two shows and alternate them. That way people who come back get to see more and want to tip again.
    http://www.ellusionist.com/boffo-pdf-by-christopher-thisse.html

    The HP Lovecraft of Bizarre Magic

  4. #4
    Ty Lee's Avatar :: Elite
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    Dude, you got someone close by that can help you out. Suprised you didn't tap me..........
    Watch me prestadigigoo, prostigoogigate, pull a rabbit out this hat!

    Ty

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ty Lee View Post
    Dude, you got someone close by that can help you out. Suprised you didn't tap me..........
    Hey Ty!

    I am just collecting advice from different sources on the internet. Will definitely hit you up when I go out! Are you going to the Magic Meet-Up this week in Colon?

  6. #6
    Ty Lee's Avatar :: Elite
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    Supposed to be going on the 7th, but not sure I won't be broke.
    Watch me prestadigigoo, prostigoogigate, pull a rabbit out this hat!

    Ty

  7. #7
    Ty Lee's Avatar :: Elite
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    Strike that, it's only from the 3rd to the 6th, so no, not going.
    Watch me prestadigigoo, prostigoogigate, pull a rabbit out this hat!

    Ty

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