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Topic: Day 2 On The Pitch - New Lessons Learned - New Problems
Message: Posted by: Magician Shaun (Jun 23, 2012 05:26PM)

Right now, I am going out on Saturdays. I plan to increase the amount of time I spend performing as I am able. I am a college student, and married and have to pull my weight with my wife. She is supportive of what I am trying to do but I can't just quit my very flexible full-time job, YET.

Now on to my day. I set up in the same area but a better spot. I was on the pitch at 8:45 am. The only other person that was out there was a guy playing a Sax. Allow me to quickly explain the location. I am setting up a major tourist draw, the Ga Aquarium, the largest in the world, and the World Of Coca-Cola are in front of me, and behind me is Centennial Olympic Park. The Sax player was on the left side of the cross walk facing the two tourist attractions and I was on the right, also facing them. I did my full show once, and hatted, made about 7$ from a small two family group with about 4 kids. I started working on building another crowd and then a terrible thing happened. This other performer, a musician who is at this pitch like everyday, sets up his drums, all 5 of them, with one of them almost touching my rope. I was a bit irritated. Especially because the first day I went out on a test Busk I approached this fellow and politely asked him about where I could setup to perform my Magic Show where I would interfere with his draw and money. Then today he sets up right on top of me like he owns the pitch. I really thought it was rude. It makes me appreciate the laws they have in places like River Street in Savannah where street performers have to setup a certain distance from each other. Anyway, I ended up moving, mostly because there was a Hot Dog guy setting up on my right as well, and I didn't feel like being stuck in between the two of them. I moved to a nice shaded spot closer to the Aquarium entrance. This was an issue in of itself I will explain that next.

The new location was poor because the line to buy tickets and get into the Aquarium was HUGE. The people going there didn't want to stop, because the line just kept growing and growing. So only the people who were passing by and not going to the Aquarium stopped. I worked about 4.5 hours. I hatted 31$. My second day on the pitch. I was a little bit disappointed but also I learned a few things this day as well.

The first spot was much better, the people going across the street to the park were done with the Aquarium or World of Coca-Cola. These are the people I want to try to stop. There have been problems with the Park Management running off performers. The park is PUBLIC PROPERTY but privately managed. By law I should be able to perform there. The City Ordinance says any public property is fair game as long as you do not SOLICIT. I noticed a guy selling Italian Ice next to the park entrance. As I left my pitch for the day I spoke to him and a woman who was restocking him. I asked them if they were independent or worked for the park. Turns out, they pay the park to set up there. I asked their opinion of me setting up on the sidewalk across from them. They said they liked the idea and as long as I wasn't selling anything, the Park wouldn't care. So next week, I will set up across from the Frozen Treat guy and see if we can't help each other out. I figure people stop for him want stand and eat their Popsicle, so they can watch me. People that stop for me will get hot standing in the sun watching my show. After I finish, they will likely want some cool treats to cool off..It's hot in Atlanta now.

I never really built a big crowd today. I think maybe the biggest was about 10-15 people. Mostly I think it would be described as a trickle crowd. A couple of times families came with their kids, and each time, I performed the entire show, really involving the children, and not holding back to build a bigger crowd. One lady videoed the entire performance with her two small children and another couple of families asked for pictures with their kids. All of these tipped WELL! I only did cards twice today. I did ACR for a lesbian couple followed by my sponge routine. They tipped about 3 dollars. The first time I did my whole show for a lady and her two kids, 20 minutes, and not a single additional person stopped, I thought that was strange. I am attributing it to the poor location choice.

My routine today was as follows:

Levitating Ball - Not part of the show, just a trick to stop people.

The show:

4 ring comedy routine, ala Pop Hayden's the Teaching Act (7 minutes).

Silk Vanish style trick using a Rainbow streamer. (about 3-4 minutes - really didn't play as well as I thought it would. I guess I will try a regular silk next time)

Sponge routine ( 7 minutes - I use a volunteer who holds my wand for the first half of this and uses it at the beginning to saw one ball into two - plays great)

Finale - Professors Nightmare, I call it the Ancient Hindu Rope Mystery.....Ask for a Volunteer, then explain the trick where the Fakir, plays a flute causing the rope to rise from a basket, his boy assistant climbs the rope, disappearing followed by the Fakir and his large sword. You hear a commotion, and then the Fakir throws the boys hacked off limbs into the basket, I turn to the volunteer in my circle and say, "OK, are you ready to help me with this trick?", This gets a good laugh and then I say I am just kidding, I can't do that trick, we are going to do a different rope trick and I do Nightmare, Fiber Optics style. I don't do every bit of it but I run it about 7 minutes or so. seems to get good reactions because it is very visual.

Last bit, I only actually used my Hat Line once or twice. My wife helped me make a nice sign and I announced my finale each time before starting it and most people would have money out for the hat by halfway through the finale. As they did it others would too. I suppose if I build a good size crowd I will deliver the line. I found that almost universally, if you use someone's children in the show, interacting with them and involving them, those people pay every single time.

Later I will post my lessons learned and any other thoughts I have about today's experience and changes I need to make. I would appreciate any advice you have about what you have read and I look forward to hearing from everyone following Day 2.

A picture of me leaving for the Pitch today and the second is of my first setup before the drummer stacked his drums onto my pitch as if he owned the sidewalk.


Message: Posted by: troppobob (Jun 23, 2012 07:06PM)
G'day Gr8gorila
I am enjoying reading about your busking adventures.
Sounds like you have a good plan for next week's location.
The photos give a good idea of how it all looked - it appears that you have a good mobile show and that was a good thing given your need to relocate on this occassion.
From what you have reported it sounds like you are doing ok at engaing your audiences - I look forwad to reading more of your story.
Bob Latta (aka Troppo Bob)
Message: Posted by: Magician Shaun (Jun 23, 2012 09:09PM)
Thanks Bob, I really wanted to contain this to a single thread however with the way this forum is setup with the inability to edit posts and post titles, I will be required to post them each individually or else I won't get many responses. I also help that this in depth experience will one day be able to assist someone else along the road to Busking. I dream of a time when I can stop working a normal job and just be a Magician that has an Engineering degree to fall back on....

I have had some time to reflect and I will now discuss my overall feelings for the show and the day.

First I will list what I feel was successful as far changes in my setup and show:

1. The Chinese Linking Rings (My wife is Chinese, from Beijing, she said she never heard of them) are a great trick to build an edge. I am performing primarily during the day in a tourist, family vacation part of town. The rings are flashy and noisy. Using an audience member in the Pop Hayden style teaching the Rings act is great because it helps your crowd to build itself. Really, the laughter and applause of the "students" family and friends is excellent in this regard. Other people want to know why people are laughing and having a great time. So they stop to find out. I engage them and they stay for more.

2. The Sponge Balls with massive spectator interaction KILL and are a great crowd-pleaser. Kids beg to see more after a 7 minute sponge routine. They love the part where they get saw the ball into two with the wand.

3. The Rope also gets amazing reactions. All day, those who watched it were amazed. Even if my handling isn't as good as some others, they seemed to genuinely enjoy it.

4. The Sign was excellent. Made a HUGE Difference. People know up front you are working for free and will ask for tips at the end. There is no shock.

5. The rope barrier. Excellent at controlling your personal space and creating a stage.

6. The locking box for the money and props attached to a tree with a bike chain allows me to focus on entertaining without having to worry about anything bad happening to my stuff.

7. My chosen style of dress and the character I am portraying seems to work. I worried at first that that I was overdressed. The thing is that with so few street performers working in Atlanta I am required to distinguish myself from the common panhandler and con man. This is both so the police do not bother me and so that I stand out for my prospective audience.

I think that engaging the children and making them a part of the magic really helps to get rid of the let's catch the magician syndrome. The reason is, the children are volunteers in each of my effects and are instrumental, as far as perceptions are concerned, in creating the magic. They don't want to fail and their brothers and sisters don't want them to fail either.

Now, what I think didn't work very well:

1. The floating ball - lite flight style. It is very good at making them stop. The problem is, it's just too good. How do you top that? How do you top un-explainable levitation? Answer: YOU DO NOT!!! YOU DO IT AS A FINALE!

2. I have been using a rainbow streamer instead of a standard silk. It seems to not play very big. I make it appear from nothing, have a spec touch it, help me pull it out, vanish it, and it gets little reaction. For my reasoning for why that is, see #1.

3. My location was poor. I originally intended to spend the whole day there today. The fact that my good spot where I could build a solid crowd was taken, the trickle crowds I got from my new location, and the fact that a Crash Link went bad, bruising the HELL out of my hand, due to improper positioning of the Key, let me give in and quit after only 4.5 hours.

4. The Sponge ball ending I originally had was bad. The finale was false transferring a ball into the hand while it supposedly held another ball (actually nothing). I have not found a good solution to this in all of the material that I have. Also, the super soft sponges work great when they are wet but are so big when wet that I cannot French Drop them and palm them convincingly.
The major problems were 2 fold.
a. If I open the hand that supposedly holds the ball and the spectators see nothing there is a problem.
b. Less of an issue but still there, the hand palming the first ball could flash it in the process of a false transfer.

Other thoughts:

I quickly fell into a routine of immediately resetting everything after a completed performance. 2 Sponge Balls in each pocket. Reset ring orders, and with my current lineup, that's about it. One time of pulling your rings out of the bag and them not be in the correct order, and you will never do that again.

I would like to make every slight I do perfect. I feel that they are good, but maybe not perfect. I am not sure if some of that comes from fear or anxiety or what.

It makes you feel good when you finish your show and your audience wants to take pictures of you with their kids, strange kids, that you have never met. But they had fun and their parents thought they had fun and wanted to immortalize the time with you by taking pictures. It makes you feel successful. More successful than getting money actually. Don't get me wrong, I need to make money, it's a fact of life, and if I can learn to do it from something that also gives others that kind of joy, so much the better.

I was really upset by the way the Drummer acted today. I think he was extremely rude. I also think he was wrong. Why on earth would you set up right on top of another performer. How do you deal with something like that? It also seemed like neither one of them wanted to be very close to me. Even though I was probably near to 50' from the Sax guy, he came over to my new pitch and tried to get me to move again. That was probably the most frustrating and irritating part of the day. Why do people think that they own a spot on the sidewalk? If I got up late on Saturday and didn't make it to the Pitch before 10:00 am, how am I to get mad at the guy who set up there or do something so rude and inconsiderate as setup right next to him with my setup touching his.

I need to replace the silk streamer with a more conventional silk vanish. I am not sure exactly why the streamer plays so poorly compared to the standard pocket silk. Does anyone have any suggestions on this?

I was able to consistently repeat the same patter for each trick over and over again all day. That was another positive thing.

Please leave me some feedback. I would especially like to hear suggestions for IT Hookups for street performers that work well while you are performing, how to deal with the "this is my piece of sidewalk" problem, and any suggestions on my problems with my sponge balls.

Finally, the videos and picture taking has made me think that I need to either put my real name on my sign as was suggested by an earlier poster or come up with a stage name to put on my sign. Just not sure what I want really. I mean Shaun The Magician doesn't really just roll off the tongue and it's not super catchy and simple to remember like Gazzo, Cellini, or Kozmo. I like the idea of having a one word name because it makes it easy for the people to remember the Magician that they took the photos and or video with.
Message: Posted by: Zombie Magic (Jun 24, 2012 01:24AM)
Gr8gorila, your journey is inspiring! Thanks for those great pics. You look like you've been doing this for years!
Message: Posted by: AlexB (Jun 24, 2012 01:36AM)
Re drummer contesting your space: I think that you have the huge advantage of not relying on this income, whereas he does, since he is there every day. So go up to him and make it plain that if he tries picking fights over space with you, you will involve the police, with the likely outcome being that both of you will be chased away from that area. He should be much more interested in maintaining a peaceful co-existence than you.
Message: Posted by: Magician Shaun (Jun 24, 2012 08:27PM)
I have decided F*** that drummer. I will have a better spot next time I go out anyway. It is my understanding that both the drummer and the Sax guy have been run off from Centennial Olympic Park and it was mostly due to the Italian Ice guy feeling that they were interfering with their business. Since his company pays a large fee to the park to be allowed to be a Vendor there. I talked with the Popsicle guy and his boss and they both thought my performing near their stand would be great.
Message: Posted by: Nick W (Jun 24, 2012 09:08PM)
I wouldnt write free magic show on my sign. just magic show is enough...white sign with thick black lettering...your there to make money not spare change...
Message: Posted by: dmoses (Jun 24, 2012 10:07PM)
Re: the drummer.

I think if I played a pitch every day and some kid showed up and plunked himself down and said "I was here first" I might be tempted to set up next to him too.
I'm not saying he's right... just that I understand.

Message: Posted by: Magician Shaun (Jun 24, 2012 11:02PM)
Thing is, he doesn't own the sidewalk. On another note, if you work a normal job, you get up late and show up late, the boss sends you home, what are you going to do, work for free? I mean if you show up at your job an hour late is it normally cool for you to just go about your business working as if nothing happened?

I was on the pitch at 8:45am. 15 minutes before the venue opens. What gives you the right to set up next to me and ruin my show? If your show is good enough it shouldn't matter. You should be able to set up anywhere and make money. Then next week you know you need to be on time.

I mean I show up and he isn't there, I am supposed to say, oh there is a guy that owns that piece of public sidewalk, I can't perform there?
Message: Posted by: Myke Phillips (Jun 25, 2012 03:05AM)
If he sets up beside you next time, ask him politely to move. Say you can't do a show because of the noise, if he says no, ask him if he would like to alternate. If he says no to that, then he is being a twat. Take a PA with you next time and play music at him, "Drum & Bass" lol.

I had this problem with a saxophone player, trust me I am a polite guy but once I knew he didn't care about me not masking money, I Got rid of him. Musicians don't play so well when they are angry or upset, unless they are hard rockers lol

It doesn't matter how long he has been there or what level your show is at, he doesn't own that pitch. You have every right to be there.

Message: Posted by: MagiCol (Jun 25, 2012 05:43AM)
You're doing well for the 2nd day out. And your write-up is very interesting. Later on you're going to look back at this record of your early days busking and think how much you have progressed since then.

While you're fixing your sign to get rid of the word "Free" how about making the word MAGIC sit along one base line instead of down, up, down, up lettering? That way it will be easier to read.
"Shaun The Magician doesn't really just roll off the tongue". Well, how about "Magician Shaun"?
Message: Posted by: Magician Shaun (Jun 25, 2012 06:50AM)
The Free part helps with the cops.Not a single person dropped change in my hat.Most tips were about 2 and one 5. Atlanta has some strict anti panhandling and anti solicitation laws. Once I establish myself and the cops are familiar with me I will remove the free and see if it makes a difference. There is also a law preventing the use of amplification for street performances...
Message: Posted by: Yekrats (Jun 25, 2012 08:48AM)
Hang in there, buddy. I did my first busking show a couple weeks ago. It was a lot of fun but was hella-lotta work. I also found opportunities for improving from my first show. The best school for busking is the school of hard knocks. Hang in there.

Concerning the sax player and the drummer: They might be viewing you as "competition", and I bet if someone were to ask them, they thought you were muscling in on "their" space. (Especially, if you are the "newbie" and they are regulars who have established that area as "their" space.) It doesn't make it right what they doing, but it's probably something that you'll probably come to expect, sadly. You might be in a position to help each other, however. When I set up, I was located right next to a street vendor, and I think we had a relationship that helped each other. My magic act drew people in close to her booth and possibly increasing her business, and people from her booth wandered over to my magic show.

I agree with the above poster who says to drop the "Free" word off of your "Magic Show" sign. My area has laws against "begging" and "solicitation". I looked up our city ordinances. "Solicitation" (here, at least) is defined as the selling of goods without a license; so I determined that it doesn't apply. I have no physical goods that I'm selling. The law is very specific! Further, concerning begging - I just make sure to never beg, to just let audiences know that tips are welcome and appreciated, but not required. Laws vary from city to city, but it might be prudent to contact your city clerk and ask about the specific ordinances, so you can be sure you operate within the bounds of the law, and that you'll be able to quote chapter and verse of the law if questioned by authorities.

Good luck, best wishes, and fat hats.
-- Scott S.
Message: Posted by: Magician Shaun (Jun 25, 2012 10:16AM)
The following is copied from Street Stage Atlanta website, I verified it by searching out the actual ordinance and reading it:

1.) Busker cannot use amplification.
2.) Busker cannot single out a person, or audience, for a specified amount of money. Busker may say, "I work for tips."
The City's Commercial Solicitation statue is set forth in section 43-1, Subsection (a) of the City Code of Ordinances:
(a) Definitions: "Commercial solicitation" or "to commercially solicit" is any request made in person on a street, sidewalk, or public place, without a permit, asking for an immediate donation of money or other thing of value, including the purchase of an item or service for an amount far exceeding its value, under circumstances where a reasonable person would understand that the purchase is a donation. Commercial solicitation shall not include passively standing or sitting with a sign or other indication that one is seeking donations without addressing the request to any specific person.

Now, my first day out, I had a Cop interrupt me during a show asking me how much I was charging the people for the show. I told him the show was free of course. This completely destroyed the show, the presence of the police caused my crowd to begin dispersing on it's own. With the Free Magic Show sign last week I had a couple of officers stop at my Pitch or near it, read my sign and walk on, saying nothing at all to me.

Due to the specific nature of the Atlanta City ordinance, I don't think I can get away with any of the hat lines that include asking for a 5 or anything of the sort. Last Saturday I only actually delivered my hat line 2 times. The rest of the shows I did seemed to be for family groups. They all tipped on their own long before I finished the Rope Finale. They were pulling bills out without being prompted and only one or two people gave a single dollar bill. One of those came up to me while I was levitating a ball and gave me a bill saying, "I don't have 20 minutes for the full show but that was AWESOME!" Another was a gentleman and his wife that I stopped with the ball saying "I can levitate a borrowed object as well, let me borrow a quarter, I promise I only will levitate it and not make it vanish." He pulled out a quarter, I levitated it, and landed it in his wife's hand, handing it back to him. He pulled out a bill or two, don't remember for sure and also said, "I am in hurry, but thanks." Handing it to me.

Maybe I will try the "Magic Show, Tips Appreciated" only sign without the word free. However, very few people didn't tip so I don't know if it hurt me at all or not.
Message: Posted by: Octopus Sun (Jun 25, 2012 10:25AM)
The bucket smacker...
I bet he's been on that pitch for quite along time, moving about here and there,
and you a total complete Noob has intruded into what he and other know/thinks and
rightly so, that you have come into their space you have INVADED and are stealing their CASH!
remember you are the Noob and those who were there before you will push you out of your pitch.
all due to territorial rights, you may even get a brick in the head, watch your back dude.
I've seen it happen several times, a nasty bloody mess...have fun and be prepared for the worst in people.
you ain't a street person, and they are. you are a invader.
street peeps use serious violence to make an impression on Noobs
pecking order rules dude. it happens frequently.

How long have you lived on the streets and spanged?
Never ever in your life.

been there lived the life.
Message: Posted by: The Great Zoobini (Jun 25, 2012 12:46PM)
Message: Posted by: Mario Morris (Jun 25, 2012 06:13PM)
Any one who may brick somone has been their to long.
Threating talk is the begining of the end of a working pitch.
Every one has the right rich or poor, the streets belong to all.
As soon as you think you can disrespect somone, threating or attack you have crossed the line.
You no longer a busker your a FUG in my mind, I seem to much of that crap, time for them to GO!
Talk like that makes me real angry, buskers like that make me sick.
Folk like that make the streets unsafe, you want to be free, don't put up with it.

If one has a problem you talk, that's it.
You don't set up next to them and bully, it does not look good you don't Bully full stop.
Why put up with it?
NO one is going to hold on to anything by being a bully or a fug long term.
don't crap on your own pitch.
Message: Posted by: deadcatbounce (Jun 25, 2012 06:16PM)
Maybe it's a mis-spelling of STARVED, I was a-thinkin' .....
Message: Posted by: Pecan_Creek (Jun 25, 2012 07:49PM)
Ok I was trying to figure out what a fug is and I found this.


That can't be right.
Message: Posted by: Magician Shaun (Jun 25, 2012 08:32PM)
OK, so first the drummer isn't playing buckets. He has very nice professional drums, 5 of them. He unloaded them from a truck. I sincerely doubt he is anymore homeless or hungry than I am. Second, this is one of the busiest tourist spots in Atlanta. There are always police walking around making their presence felt. I wager that anyone using bricks to knock people off the pitch would spend 10+ in prison for aggravated assault.

On a side note, maybe I don't look like I spent a lot of time on the streets but I have real experience dealing with these kind of people, several years of it, about 7 to be exact. I am not too terribly worried about my ability to handle the situation.

Now, the other thing that I would like to stress is that there just isn't a real crowd of street performers here. There are plenty of beggars, and panhandlers, just not many performers. There isn't huge competition at each pitch. I mean, I have lived in Atlanta since 1989 and the last several years I have seen about 5 street performers including myself and the other two guys I have been seeing at the pitch I am working.
Message: Posted by: Mario Morris (Jun 26, 2012 02:02AM)
LOL, I meant thug!
Message: Posted by: deadcatbounce (Jun 26, 2012 04:08AM)
By way of an explanation - I was unaware that "spanged" was a valid word. I thought it was a spelling error of magnificent proportions... (Ref: Octopus Sun, above)

Now.. "panhandling" - I understand that ok, but spanged was a new one on me.

All cleared up?



BTW Mario - our two posts above "crossed"..while I was responding to Octopus, your worthy comments were posted.. therefore, I was unaware of your post... get it? ! :)
Message: Posted by: Mario Morris (Jun 26, 2012 06:55AM)
Got it!
Message: Posted by: ringmaster (Jun 26, 2012 08:04AM)
I don't spangle but I'm still spangdangling.
Message: Posted by: Nick W (Jun 26, 2012 09:34AM)
About asking for tips: You folks have been a great crowd...so great in fact that I don't even need to talk about money.you all know what to do (say that as you tip your hat over)
Message: Posted by: ed rhodes (Jun 26, 2012 10:36AM)
I still like mine, and as you are nowhere near where I am, you are free to consider it (I changed "Providence" for "Atlanta" for obvious reasons);

(Tied up in a Shang-hi Shackle)
"My agree with the city of (Atlanta) is that I am allowed to perform for tips so long as I don't 'directly solicit funds.' I will therefore NEVER 'directly solicit funds.' I will never tell you you have to give me money. That would be rude. I will never beg you to please give me money. That would be pathetic. I merely point out, in the city of (Atlanta,) tipping is not something done with cows!"

Then I escape.
Message: Posted by: Magician Shaun (Jun 26, 2012 02:13PM)
Another thing I noticed is the brick story comes from Cellini if I am not mistaken. I actually saw that exact thing referenced on Jimmys blog. Another thing, I don't want anyone's spare change. If my show is so bad that my audience wants to give me change then I am done busking, forever. I sure as hell didn't spend many years of my life learning magic, and then mad amounts of time turning that magic into a show for entertainment for SPARE CHANGE. I don't live on the streets and I don't think that very many street performers do live on the streets. I mean how many people would want to take pictures of their kids with a dirty, smelly, street person? That isn't being rude or mean, but if you live on the street, odds are you don't have ready access to water and soap for bathing or washing your clothes, so it is likely. I don't really understand the purpose of the blonde guys post, was it in jest, were you serious? In fact I think until I know I will just pretend that post never happened.