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Topic: The Streets of Magic
Message: Posted by: StreetWalker (Dec 4, 2002 11:40AM)
What is the best way to gather a crowd when performing street magic?

I use different patter etc but what is everyone else using? Just thought it would be fun to start a discussion Please post :)

:wow: :banana: :dancing: :pirate: :evilgrin: :kewl:
Message: Posted by: RandomEffects (Dec 4, 2002 05:23PM)
I work in a highly concentrated area so it is easier for me. But I generally will grab the first person who looks my way and show him a quick trick.

Anytime someone walks by and glances at me I call them over. "You can see it better up close folks" or for those shy people and the ones who try to find my angles a, "You won't catch how I do it from back there so you might as well come over here and enjoy the show," seems to get them in front. Once you have 5-10 people the crowd will naturally start to grow as long as you can hold their interest.

Message: Posted by: midnightmjb (Dec 5, 2002 04:25PM)
One of the best pieces of advice I got when starting out was to be what you want people to see you as - ie a star (or something close). Basically this means that the first step is self-confidence, because an audience can tell when someone is sure of themselves, and will be more drawn to this type of performer... it seems like a better bet you see. So put yourself out there as though you expect a huge crowd to meet your every flourish (though this may not always happen). One good piece of advice, expecially in crowded areas, is to elevate yourself at first - stand on a crate to attract attention, and when you've performed for a few people, step down and continue the performance. And just like Random says, a crowd will naturally form...
Message: Posted by: zantium2999 (Dec 6, 2002 04:15PM)
I agree with the responses above.
A good patter is a must but I would also like to add that like the above response (the first one) you should grab the first person looking at you and show them a quick but good trick and once you have their attention you should gradually work your way to your best trick. You don't want to waste your best tricks trying to obtain a crowd and then when it's time to finish up you don't have any closing material :firedevil:
Message: Posted by: DonDriver (Dec 6, 2002 04:39PM)
Hi Guys,
I've posted about this before. It's called "building a tip" (tip having nothing to do with money,ie tip hat). A tip is a group of people.W hen I worked the Jam Auction in downtown Las Vegas, many years ago, I would put a silk down on a tray on the ground and roll up the corners then just stare at it and say, "Watch, he's the craziest thing you ever saw, he's got feet like a duck, eyes like a bird, and big yellow fangs. He stands 2 inches tall, 2 inches small, he's going to jump out of that silk anytime now and do a tap dance right here on the sidewalk, watch! Everybody move up close, WATCH. Not that close, lady, he hasn't had his rabies shots. Sir, help me out. Put one foot in front of the other, the body comes with it, it's called walking, that's far enough, thanks..."
You get the idea. Just keep talking. Once you get a "TIP," start into your magic act and look at the silk from time to time then say, "Darn, the little guy must be on strike today.....etc." I could go on for an hour without doing anything.
Hope this helped,
Have a nice day,
Message: Posted by: wiggys (Dec 6, 2002 05:02PM)
Where I live we had street entertainers (jugglers, fire eaters, unicycle riders) and they seem pretty effective at creating an audience.

They usually just act in a way that marks them out as different, and this varies from person to person: some will stand perfectly motionless in a strange pose, others will perform sketches with "invisible actors", others will simply use the gift of the gab "Roll up roll up ladies and gentlemen!"

Go to somewhere tourist-y, I'm sure you'll pick up some tips.
Message: Posted by: slacker (Dec 7, 2002 02:40AM)
The best way I find is to simply start of showing an easy fun trick to whomever. Do something comical and people laugh. When people laugh others get curious and when others get curious then it draws a crowd. :dance:
Message: Posted by: SaL0m0n (Dec 7, 2002 06:20AM)
I totally agree with you, Slacker. Curiosity will always be the main way to pull in a crowd. If there are 5 people laughing and having fun watching you, then there's always gonna be 5 more that want to have fun and watch as well!

Message: Posted by: Danny Hustle (Dec 7, 2002 08:02AM)
Okay, I’m going to take a crack at this. But, before I do I want to qualify a couple of things. First, I have not been performing on the streets for a million years. Second I am a computer network engineer by day and because of this I approach almost everything I do in a scientific manner. I acquire as much information as possible, I categorize it, and I apply it with as much practical theory as possible. In the end, you polish it with trial and error.

First Phase one: When I first went on the street I had studied David Groves book “How to be a street magician.” It contained, in my opinion, some very good information, but an excessive amount of information that was either not practical or just plain wrong. For instance, in drawing a crowd an example Groves gives is to bring a bunny with you. Today, I cannot think of one practical reason for bringing a bunny onto the street to sit in the hot sun all day away from shelter so that you can draw a crowd. On a hot July day you do not want to be in Harvard Square and need to tend an animal between every show. If you have a long walk to your performance area the last thing you want to have to drag with you is a bunny hutch. It is not practical for most people. If have a circle show, and you only do two shows a day, and you live close by, and you have no skills with which to draw a crowd, this might work for you. The information I have just given you is something only a busker could know. A person who doesn’t know anything about street performing would look at that and say, “Wow, what a clever idea! I NEVER see magicians with a bunny on the street.” Another example from this book is to spend an exorbitant amount of time laying out your props and by making it look "mysterious" people will become interested. This is what some jugglers do. We are not jugglers, we are magicians. David Groves is a very fine writer but if you follow the instructions for crowd gathering in this book you will be really up against it. This is how I found out the information was not very good.

Enter phase two: I explained my problem to a very good magician and performer and he suggested Cellini’s book “The Royal Touch” to me. My reaction was, “That book got awful reviews” My friend said, “When was the last time you saw Jamy Swiss drawing a circle in the square?” Point taken, I purchased the book. Within the first 15 pages I knew exactly what I was doing wrong. Cellini explains everything in a very easy to follow manner. Instead of loading you up with a boatload of examples he gives one or two and explains why they work. Color and Sound. You need to draw attention and there are really only two ways to do this, and that is by catching the eye or catching the ear, color and sound. I now knew what I had to do and only needed a method of execution.

Phase three: Then I saw Gazzo. Gazzo is considered by many to be the guy standing at the top of the pyramid as far as street work goes right now. He is on the bricks everyday and draws them in by the score. He is a brilliant performer and a good friend. He allowed me to watch his show every day two or three shows a day and just go to school. Here is what I learned. Once you have their attention you need to draw them in. You do this by being entertaining, or crazy, or Gregarious. You do NOT ask these people questions, “Do you want to see a card trick?” Your job is to TELL these people what they want to see, “Hey come over here and take this card. What’s your name? Where are you from?” You need to be involved with these people. This is how you get them to stop and watch. Once you have a few people you can tell an old standard punch line joke or do a silly sight gag, these people like you, you know their names, they are inside the show and know that you are telling a bad joke or being a cut up on purpose. REMEMBER THEIR NAMES!!! Buy a Harry Lorayne memory book and learn the skills needed to do this. It is easy, and when you see the same guy in your show a week later with a new group of people and you can still call him by his first name he is going to drop a 10 in your hat.

Phase four: Presence and character. Sonny Holiday is a pretty good pal of mine. Sonny will be the first to tell you that he just does not like a lot of people. I have seen him throw away crowds because he didn’t think they deserved to see what he was showing him. I think the word I would use to describe Sonny is lovably cantankerous. If he heard me say it, he’d probably just smile, give me a chuckle, and tell me to drop the lovable. You can probably tell I like ‘ol Sonny. I can tell you when that man just stands on the street, just stands there, people stop dead in their tracks and look at him. It is a little eerie. The man just looks like a magician. A hardscrabble, vaudevillian, gangster magician, if I had to put a tag on it. He wears spats, and a fashionably hanging tux, and when he stands out there, he stands there like it is “Sonny’s Square” and not “Harvard”.

Those are the tools you need to draw a crowd. Sound and color, people skills, presence and character. Now that you have them you should be able to design and build the fixture that will frame YOU best. Because after all, when it comes down to brass tacks you have to do the work to find out how it applies to you. What is your character? Are you funny? Are you forlorn? These are all things you should be working on when thinking about applying this information.

For further reading check out Cellini’s book or lecture notes Whit Hayden's notes, "Street Magic" by Jeff Sheridan. "Street magic" is more of a history book but between the lines there is much practical information to be learned there. Cellini’s book is THE masterwork on the subject. If you read this book and you are a good magician you will be able to gout onto the streets and make a living doing it.

Avoid the Groves book. The good information it contains is given in much better format in Hayden and Cellini's notes.


Message: Posted by: Peter Marucci (Dec 7, 2002 08:31AM)
Cellini isn't considered the best for no reason at all!
Excuse the intentional double negative, but you get the idea.
Cellini recommends sound, noise, etc.
And he's right. It works.

Message: Posted by: Stick Man (Dec 7, 2002 09:01AM)
This works quite well but it does not always keep the spectators there. Do a trick where an object transports itself from your hand to the spectator's. Stand about 2 meters from the spectator and if any one tries to walk between you, ask them to stay to the side for just one second. This makes them wonder why and they watch the rest of the trick.
Message: Posted by: Danny Hustle (Dec 7, 2002 02:18PM)
On 2002-12-07 10:01, Stick Man wrote:
This works quite well but it does not always keep the spectators there. [/quote]

If you are talking about my post, it does ALWAYS keep them there. It stops them dead. We are talking about gathering a crowd BEFORE you start a show. If you suffer from premature showtime not enough people will have seen every trick and you will lessen your hat take. You need to stop them first.


Message: Posted by: Al Kazam the Magic Man (Dec 7, 2002 06:05PM)
I'm with Danny one this one. Getting people's names, and referring to them by name, drawing them in, in a personal way really works for me in my situation as well. Granted, I usually work as a clown, so the color part really helps as well. Where I live there are virtually no clowns, so I've got a monopoly on that one. My son oftens juggles to gather a crowd and gets folks to stop.
As usual, great advice, Danny. Thanks.
Message: Posted by: Danny Hustle (Dec 7, 2002 06:55PM)
Man, I love clowns. On the street they ALWAYS seem to make the best hats and have the most fun.

My buddy, Perry the Hobo, will often do a quick show in front of my pitch as I re-gear for the next show. In that five minutes he makes what I do for a 15 or 20 minute show.

Another thing he does is tells the big spenders that I am about to do another show and builds me an edge. Probably much like the tag team you do with your son.

I guess that's another thing. Don't be afraid to network with other performers. It sometimes works to the best interest of all involved.

In a similar vein, a few weeks ago, Sonny Holiday had asked me to pick him up a violin case. He saw mine and really liked the idea. The next time I saw him I told him I had it and would run to my car and get it. I flat out refused to let him pay me for it. Sonny has given me for free advice that he wouldn't give to anyone else for a million bucks, so I figured a violin case was the least I could do.

So, I run to the car and when I get back Sonny has this BIG crowd stopped dead. He sees me and says, "And here he is folks, the guy I've been telling you about, he is going to knock your socks off, one of the best magicians in the world AND I KNOW ALL THE BEST, Danny Hustle!

It was the best hat I had all day and I made about five times what I paid for that case.

If you know Sonny, it's even better because he HATES big crowds. He just was not going to let me give him somethin' for nothin'.

Networking is great. Now that I think of it, Whit Hayden started that way in New York with a guy he called, "The Captain." His notes on street work are great.

Thanks Jo Jo and FAT HATS!


Message: Posted by: Eric Evans (Dec 8, 2002 01:49AM)
Great story Dan, and some very good advice as well.
Message: Posted by: CardSharp (Dec 8, 2002 03:14PM)
Try loud speaking, wide arm movements, and a bright costume. Being a little hyper doesn't hurt either, so you might want to drink a lot of coffee. :pepper: :hotcoffee: :pepper:
Message: Posted by: JamesinLA (Dec 20, 2002 06:19AM)
If I've already got the Cellini tape, should I also invest in his book, "The Royal Touch?" Does it cover more material than the tape? I'm leaning toward the Whit Hayden street notes. (Any idea where I can get the notes?) Thanks.
Message: Posted by: Vinnie Anderson (Dec 20, 2002 08:02AM)
Drawing a crowd...the wrong way.

My best friend was a carnie (he travelled with the carnival working games) so I decided to try to incorporate his methods with my magic. Now, I like to use the street con man version of 3 card monte (with the bent cards). So this couple is walking by me and I start snapping my fingers. The guy looks and I call him over (carnies do this all the time, works great!!). I see him with a lady and ask if they are on a date. He says, "Yeah." I said, "Cool. How would you like to make some extra cash?" He said, "What do I have to do?"

(Out come the cards) So I explain how we play, I let him win a few times, then I really get into it. I got the cards moving really good and am up about 20 bucks (I never collect this of course, this is gambling and that's illegal). So the guy stops me and says he's had enough. I said, "What do you mean you had enough?" He said, "I've seen enough of your routine to know a con man when I see one. Now get out of here."

I said, "I'm not leaving, I always perform here." At about this point he pulls out a badge (doh! an off duty cop!) and says, "You can leave on your own or I can remove you."

Needless to say, I left on my own.
I also no longer perform that type of TCM on the streets anymore!

:bikes: :bluebikes:
Message: Posted by: Adam V (Dec 20, 2002 07:14PM)
Well, on the plus side he probably really impressed his date :)