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tom hughes
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Hi folks,

I'm new on this forum so please forgive me if I'm out of order here.

I'm quite an avid street ( busking) magician and also do kids parties, I twist balloons and can turn my hand to many things... from a balloon vacuum cleaner to elmo.

Quite often I approach local street festivals and ask if I can twist balloons for tips ( yes, I know some of you will say that I should charge the festival itself but this is western North Carolina and that is probably not going to happen until I establish myself). When I do this I work my butt off and usually take home $200 to $250 at the end of the day ( inflating by mouth to speed things up, I rarely have a crowd of less than twenty around me when I'm twisting).

Yesterday I worked a street fair and the average tip was $1 with the occassional $2 tip. Today I visited another street fair and there were three or four twisters... being curious I hovered around to watch them twist ( nothing better than I was twisting the day before and no attempt to entertain the line[ no jokes, wisecracks or using the kids to help]... just straight twisting) and I noticed that the average tip was $5.

So my question.... how on earth do I increase my tips? Do I make a menu with "recommended tip $5" written all over it as I saw today, do I tie a $5 to my apron or is there a more subtle tip raising technique which I'm overlooking?

Thanks in advance

tom
http://www.ashevillemagic.com
http://www.themagictomshow.com
magician/magic show in asheville w.n.c.
MagicSanta
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Wow, that is a good question and an interesting observation. I'd like to see what some of the good guys have to say about it.
Zakari Asiago
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Hey guys, here is my 2cents, for what it is worth. first off, I would always charge the fair/festival something. even if it is a low amount. if you start off not charging a fair/festival you will never be able to work there and charge. they will just assume that you will work for free (tips only). and when other people contact that fair to get your information to book you. the fair/festival will pass along the info, you work for free. then it becomes, you will never be able to charge. I am not sure if it will increase your tips, but I wear some pins for them to read. I have two that are the same bright orange and style lettering. one reads "Tipping is nice..." and the second reads "...please be nice". Another reason I like to charge the sponsor, stems from when I was a kid. I didn't have money to tip a balloon twister, but he gave me one anyway. I don't want a kid not to get a balloon because they or parents don't have any money. I know this could become a long discussion, but that is my 2 cents.
Zakari Asiago

401 South Ave.

Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547
tom hughes
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Thanks guys,

I should clarify... the street festival I worked at yesterday actually considered charging me to be there and the one I visited today ( but didn't twist at) certainly charged all the twisters to be there ( I didn't work there as I was too late to register as a "roving vendor"). I don't know how you go about getting the sponsor to pay you ( although I'd love to find out!) but I see balloon busking at festivals as a way to promote myself for private gigs ( as well as a way to make a little extra money)... also, I would never turn a kid away if he/she has no money... only if they have no money and I've already given them a couple of balloons ( and even then it just feels harsh).
http://www.ashevillemagic.com
http://www.themagictomshow.com
magician/magic show in asheville w.n.c.
MagicSanta
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I always either had to pay for a spot (I did balloon yo yos not twisting) or got one for free, I didn't get paid by the festival.
dave_matkin
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It may be worth watching Don Drivers DVD turning the tip (i think that is what it is called). A lot of poeple rave about it - I have not yet got it but intend to some time "soon".

The other thing is psychology!

Mark suggests having a garter (hay may be he is a baloon hooker? - nah he does it for the lov eof it not the money). and have notes under it! So teh lowest denomination you have under htere is a $5. It "sets the tone". you accept lower tips but put them in your pocket. Make a thing if you get a $10 put it under your garter for people to see.

keep on being entertaining!
Lochlan
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IMHO:

1. I look at what I'm making a day. I'd rather make a dollar a sword than 5 dollars for a mermaid.

2. The amount you make is probably most dependent on who you're working for. I make a lot more money at edgy fairs for blue collar guys and the waiter/waitress crowd than I do at the outdoor-opera in the park crowd (sorry for the crass generalization but you get the point)

3. I will absolutely work just for tips. If I'm not already booked I'll try to make a couple of bucks working at a street festival or farmers market. I hand out lots of business cards and they are great leads. I make about half my normal fee working for tips but I book a lot of shows this way. I turn these fairs into paying gigs by telling people I can't guarantee I'll be there unless you pay me. I'll also only be there when I can make money, if I'm not making money I'm going to leave (and that's when they actually need me). We all know we're one of a kind artisans but the acts that drove all night with all their instruments fought to work on that stage for free.

4. I don't pay a vender's fee because I don't sell anything. For some of the bigger events that I really want to work I offer to perform a small show for their kids stage in lieu of paying a fee. I Try to be the first act in the morning so I'm not sweaty from twisting all day. When you're working for free you can plug your restaurant gig, yourself, whatever but don't do a crap show because you're not making you're normal fee. You want everyone to know what a great entertainer you are. (this only applies to events that aren't paying their acts, obviously if they're willing to pay the other acts you should be aiming that high)

5. Try lots of different things. Some crowds respond better to a show than a line, some people don't understand busking at all. If you've been busking with magic for a while or been to a busking festival you understand how important your tip-line is. I've seen poor performers rake it in with the right tip-line. For a line this is often a sign or a pin, but no less important and no less personal.
Bad to the Balloon
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Personally I think you need to do hats. Hats do several things.

• Hats and apparel have a perceived notion of customization, especially if you fit each one. More $$$
• Hats draw more people in. They are big and your really can't hide them. Customer radiate outward.
• It defines you as an artist and not sword and dog guy.
• Hats create a carnival atmosphere. It says party!!!

When I have done outside festivals I have had people wait 45 minutes in line to get one of my creations. Average tip is $5-$20 a few $1 but very rare. Also I am paid to be there, usually very well.

Breaking it down I do between 30-40 hats per hour.

As to the tip garter I do not wear it when I am paid my regular fee. I do wear it in my restaurants and tip only street fairs (which I do rarely)

I would be remiss if I didn't let you know I have 2 DVDs on the market that teach how to make great balloon hats fast!! Bad to the Balloon Issue #1 & #2

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Shark • Dolphin • Mermaid • Surfer • Tiki • Duck • Gator • One-Eyed Monster • Pirate • Tower • Swan • Dragon

All are original designs or modified designs simplified for speed. It uses mostly 260 balloons, with some rounds, 350's and 160's too.

82 minutes of instructional fun!!
Mark Byrne
AKA Mark the Balloon Guy
As seen on the TODAY SHOW
www.balloonguy.net
Creator of Bad to the Balloon DVD series
Go to my store: http://tinyurl.com/Bad2theBalloon
tom hughes
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Thanks for all the ideas folks... here's some thoughts I had;

1) get rid of the tip bucket. The way I see it my tip bucket ( an actual bucket with the word TIPS written all over it) encourages people to tip less. Firstly a bucket looks cheap and so people think I'm worth less and secondly it makes the actual tipping process less personal and allows people to simply throw money into the bucket while I'm starting to work on the next model, so they throw in less than they would if they were handing me the money directly... I'm effectively undermining the tipping process itself.

2) work slower. The twisters I saw working at the festival on the second day work a LOT slower than I do... they therefor seem to make it look more difficult and therefor more valuable.

3) Display the tip I want. I'm going to put a few higher denomination banknotes in my hat band... just as a signal.

4) Hand my business card to EVERY parent, wether they tip me or not. Firstly it's good practice and secondly it encourages an exchange between myself and the parent rather than between myself and the kid... after all the parents usually carry the money don't they.

5) Organise my line better. It gets so hectic in my line ( such as it is) that I feel rushed and I'm sure some kids wait longer than others ( some people just can't seem to queue up around here), the parents notice and the tip gets smaller because they've been "waiting longer".

6) Have a menu with a "recommended tip" written on it... it's not subtle but then neither is the traditional "hat line" where you tell the audience how much you think your show is worth.

7)Take breaks... on Saturday I twisted for six hours straight, no break, and inflating by mouth so I could get through the constant mosh pit of kids... also, if I'm not always there and twisting then there is the thought that "we need to get one" before I leave. Whereas by twisting non stop and making sure that EVERY kid gets one I'm creating "balloon inflation" ( excuse the pun)... these balloons can't be worth very much if everybody has got one. Rarity ( even percieved rarity or the possibility thereof) makes an item more valuable ( although I'm a bit soft and I'm sure I'll still try and make sure every kid has got one).

8)Dress more formally. Usually when I work a street fair I wear a Hawaiian shirt and a derby hat. I think I'll change that shirt and wear a polo type one... probably with an embrodered logo... it'll make me look more professional.

9) Keep entertaining... I'm so full of it anyhow it wouldn't be me to twist for the "grey and boring" side.

Okay... I know this sounds a tad mercenary and makes me feel like a money grabber but as I say when I'm magic busking; " I'm a teacher, and have a nine month old baby.... I REALLY need the money".

Thanks for all your advice.Keep it coming.

tom
http://www.ashevillemagic.com
http://www.themagictomshow.com
magician/magic show in asheville w.n.c.
MagicSanta
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Man, I love all the good ideas here. Now if I can learn to twist a freakin' balloon to look like something in less that five minutes I'll be poopin' in high cotton!
dave_matkin
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Tom you said:
" I'm a teacher, and have a nine month old baby.... I REALLY need the money".

If I said that in teh UK they would laugh at me! Teachers are quite well paid over here (well not in FE - but inmost ofhte places).

Any how a belated congrats on the baby!

Hay you could practice twisting whilst she/he keeps you up at night!
tom hughes
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Really Dave?

Funny that cos I'm British, I just live in the US... and I remember being a pretty impoverished teacher there too. Have teacher salaries gone up back in Blighty? ( you could easily persuade me to move home!)

I'll be in Britain next week. Any twisting or busking to see oop north?

tom
http://www.ashevillemagic.com
http://www.themagictomshow.com
magician/magic show in asheville w.n.c.
magicgeorge
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Both my folks were teachers we had gold taps in our house.

I thought that teachers and nurses where still generally soeaking under-paid. Especially considering how valuable they are to society.

Unfortunatly, I think Lochlan may have a point about the dollar swords. I used to busk with my partner who quite often made more than I did making dogs and swords where I made the spidermen etc. people loved the fancy balloons but would only pay about twice as much for them and they take 3 or 4 times as long to make.

Of course, you could do a balloon show then pass a hat.

George
Bad to the Balloon
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How about a balloon show then auction off your best 10 creations ... highest bidder takes all!!
Mark Byrne
AKA Mark the Balloon Guy
As seen on the TODAY SHOW
www.balloonguy.net
Creator of Bad to the Balloon DVD series
Go to my store: http://tinyurl.com/Bad2theBalloon
tom hughes
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Wow... that's a fantastic idea! Okay... what's a balloon show... I've never seen ( or heard) of one until I came to this forum. From what I'm guessing it's a like a circle show where I make balloons, involve the audience, crack jokes and do a couple of "death defying" balloon stunts, all while making a few huge balloon animals... sounds like a gas... or have I got the wrong end of the stick ( again).
http://www.ashevillemagic.com
http://www.themagictomshow.com
magician/magic show in asheville w.n.c.
Bad to the Balloon
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There are several varieties out there:

Storytelling with balloon costumes on spectators ( I have one called Inflatable Fables)
There is Allyn Goowin too check out his videos here:
http://bugsandballoons.com/index.htm

Balloon Magic

Balloons stunts:

Swallow a balloon

Blow up a glove on your head (Ala Howie Mandel)

Climb in a balloon:
"Climb Inside: The Ins and Outs of Using Jumbo Balloons on Stage", written
by Larry Moss is now in stock. If you've ever wanted to try climbing inside
our 72" Rifco Clear latex, but just weren't sure how, this is the book for
you.
<http://www.continentalsales.net/item.php?it=6052>

My favorite was Carl Skeeves as Andy Mation at Disney he could make a single disney for a crowd tell a story for 20 minutes and hand it to one kid and walk away!!!! I want that job!!!

At the end of my show I do a montage of songs that I twist balloons to the songs are choreographed to fit together. Ie: Spiderman, Monkeys (60's), Wipeout-surfer dude, Jaws theme- shark ......
Mark Byrne
AKA Mark the Balloon Guy
As seen on the TODAY SHOW
www.balloonguy.net
Creator of Bad to the Balloon DVD series
Go to my store: http://tinyurl.com/Bad2theBalloon
dave_matkin
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Quote:
On 2007-07-31 08:47, tom hughes wrote:
Really Dave?

Funny that cos I'm British, I just live in the US... and I remember being a pretty impoverished teacher there too. Have teacher salaries gone up back in Blighty? ( you could easily persuade me to move home!)

I'll be in Britain next week. Any twisting or busking to see oop north?

tom


Well I am at threshold and would be on 32K (give or take a bit) if I were working full time.

But if you break it down per hour then yes the pay is naff. I just finished working for Burton College as a part time lecturer £17 / hour. But they only pay you for the time you are lecturing (so you don’t get paid prep and marking time so it is crap). But mainstream teaching in schools is much better - but again work it out per hour and may be not so good.

I guess you just live to your means don’t you? We have been really blessed in that we have lots of friends with slightly older kids and get lots of hand-me-downs in nearly new condition so not had to spend too much.

Regarding busking up north - don’t really know I live in the midlands. The only thing I can think of is in Chester (but my geography is crap is think that is Wales way?) there is a guy called Dave Sothern (SP) he is a really good busker and thoroughly enjoyable to watch – especially from a performing point of view. Other than that I can’t be much help may be other people can chip in? Where abouts will you be?
magicgeorge
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When I lived in Manchester I had a few good spots for balloon busking. I made a fortune with a bag of red, black and white on the day United toured the streets after winning the treble.

The best balloon show street act about is probably Pedro Tochas. He does about a 45 minute show with a handfull of 260s. His balloons are simple but beautifully shaped but the real genius lies in his physical comedy and audience management.

George
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Having done a few wide-open street fairs

1. manage your lines ( use some sort of line markers)
2. entertain throughout
3. have a regular line and a $5 tip line -- and address the $5 tip line first
4. Get a pump
5. Lots of water and sunscreen, and a hat
6. go slow
7. repeat above as necessary
8. ( don't make balloons for people who aren't there; I.E. "I have three grandkids at home who would just love...")

Comedy writer ( who has also been a balloon worker.)

PM me for some good lines
dave_matkin
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Thanks CW
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