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Jay Jennings
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Scottsdale, AZ
244 Posts

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Quick back story so you know where I'm coming from...

Got into magic in the 5th grade, dropped out of school after the 8th grade and started performing "full time" (still lived at home), went to RBBB Clown College in 1980, made my living doing magic/juggling/ventriloquism until my early 20s and then got "a real job."

Over the last 20-25 years I got into computer programming and then internet marketing, but I always carted along a few boxes of props and magic books. Now I'm going through a mid-life crisis or something and am burned out of the internet marketing stuff and want to get back into performing.

Here's my current situation and why I need your help...

My son and I are living in Alaska for another 3 weeks and then driving down to Seattle to pick up my wife and daughter. We're then buying a travel trailer and heading for Florida -- but we're going to take a few months to get there.

First a stop for a month in northern Idaho, then a month in Michigan, then a month in Missourri or North Carolina (not sure yet which route we'll take), and finally a month in Florida. Then we'll sell the truck and trailer and buy a sailboat and move aboard and head for the Caribbean for "a while."

So, I need to figure out what my best options are for diving back into performing -- while on the road -- in places where I have no contacts -- after a hiatus of more than 20 years.

My Performing Experience

I do have years of training and experience, and looking back on my previous performing, I just wish I had known the "business" part of show business was so important -- I probably wouldn't have burned out.

Back in "the olden days" I did a lot of school shows and company picnics/parties. While I did my share of birthday parties, I have more fun with a family audience than doing a straight kid show. I did some big box illusions a couple times but will have no room for any large apparatus.

We may have a dog that could be used in the show, but I can't cart along doves, etc. I also have a 12-year old daughter who juggles and rides a unicycle and a 14-year old son who does the same and he's also a little into magic himself. Since the kids are homeschooled they are available as assistants at all times. (And what do you know, it can actually be part of their curriculum!)

Assuming I put together a good show (I don't have any doubts about that), what might be a good course of action for me to take over the next few months? How can I skip the "struggling magician" phase and go (almost) straight into paid gigs given my situation? Hard? Impossible?

No, I don't expect a step-by-step plan (although if you have one to share, by all means go for it!), but any tips, pointers, warnings, etc., will be welcome.

It seems like my biggest challenge will be going cold into a new place and starting from scratch each time with no time to build up a reputation in the area.

Thanks.

Jay Jennings
Paddy
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Milford OH
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Jay, a whole bunch of do that exactly. go to the forum "The Sidewalk Shuffle" here. it is all about busking. Also check out Danny Hustle and jimmy talksalot on that forum. they are both full time buskers.

We as buskers have it a lot harder than the party or close up people. we have to be a lot better than them. Yes I said that to raise a few eyebrows.

we go into a town and find a local gathering spot. Set up and start to draw a crowd. As soon as we begin to get a crowd (I start ith 5 to 7 people) we start our show. All through the show we tell them that we will be passing the hat at the end.

I do a sidewalk show, one that lasts about 15 minutes and consists of 3 effects. I use the "Hat lines" all thru the show, I must tell people that I am going to ask for money 10 times in 15 minutes. I do my finale, and start passing my hat. My average 15 minute show will bring in $30 to $50 depending on the day (weekends being higher earning) and the time of day. Add that up and figure 3 shows an hour and I make good money. All of us buskers make decent money. Give it a try. Great way to live, travel where you want to and get paid for it.

Peter
Non Impediti Ratione Cogitationis

I reject your reality & substitute my own

http://www.Scho-Lan.com
Jay Jennings
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Scottsdale, AZ
244 Posts

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Paddy -

Thanks for the suggestion. I've actually been thinking/planning on busking being one aspect of what I do. In fact, I'm waiting for Don Driver's Building A Tip video to be delivered right now so I have more knowledge going into this thing.

Because I'll be completely honest with you -- I've done hundreds of shows, I've done walk-around stuff, I put on a good show -- but the idea of busking scares me! I've wanted to do it forever, but always made some excuse not to.

But now with two kids, I'm thinking I'd love to pass on to them the ability to gather a crowd and make some money. So I'm going to do it!

However, I'd really like that to be just part of what I do -- so I'm looking for more ideas on how to do "indoor" shows in a strange place. =:)

Thanks!

Jay Jennings
Paddy
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Milford OH
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I understand that feeling Jay. Busking is like working without a net. The only way to do it is get out on the street and start working. I did make it sound easy but truthfully when I started I SUCKED BIG TIME! We all do when starting. But I listened to the crowds and when they walked off I quit doing that trick, when they cheered and dropped money in the hat, I kept that one. Also I learned that the patter can make a difference between being entertaining (and making money) or not (and bombing.)

I used the "devils hank" routine with a 50 cent piece and made it disappear only to reappear as a jumbo coin. the patter I started with was that when I traveled thru Erope in the days when all countries had their own currency and you had to change currency at the borders. Well I used my devils hank and told the gaurds that I had no money. Then the other magicians all asked me what do you do when it reappears as the same coin, so I say the devil's hank changes it to the right currency.

People just didn't follow that story. Everybody is used to the Euro being the only currency. So now when I do the trick I just toss out the jumbo coin and say "see magicians can make big bucks." Gets a laugh and it leads into another hat line.

Sorry about being long fingered (if this were verbal it would be "long winded.") But I really love what I do and hope that you will too when you start busking.

Peter
Non Impediti Ratione Cogitationis

I reject your reality & substitute my own

http://www.Scho-Lan.com
tacrowl
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Maryland
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Jay,
Just a warning if you plan on using the dog in your act - the USDA requires you to have a class C performing animal license. Especially busking in unfamiliar areas, chances are good that someone will catch you.
Tom
Tom Crowl - Comedy Ventriloquist

ComedyVentriloquist.com

Learn-Ventriloquism.com

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BCS
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Jay,
It sounds like you are going to have a great adventure, I wish you and your family luck and a safe journey. If you could share your trip with us, I know as an armchair magician I would enjoy hearing of your magical travels.
Thanks,
Bruce
gadfly3d
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Every time I have worked a travel trailer rally people have come up to me and in addition to complimenting me have suggested I look in travel park shows. Most of them mention Texas and Florida. I haven't pursued these as I don't travel that far, but it might be something to look into.

Gil Scott
Brian Turntime
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Gil,
Wow, that hit me like a ton of bricks. I think of all the times my family, when I was a kid, camped in a KOA or some remote campground... if there had been a bloody kazoo concert within walking distance we would have gone, certainly a magic show...
So blending your advice with Paddy's why not busk at the campgrounds to start, after getting permission from the camp? Maybe perform in exchange for free spot for a week?
------

Last night I stayed up late playing poker with Tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died. - Steven Wright
tboehnlein
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ohio
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Busking I believe is the only way to go, you will not be inay spot long enough to get a clientele, although the campground shows are a good ideal.
Jay Jennings
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Scottsdale, AZ
244 Posts

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Funny the idea of performing in campgrounds came up -- I just found a book I'd purchased back in the 80s -- I don't have it right here but I think it's called "Campground Conjuring for Cash" (possibly by Donn Davison). Since we will be living in campgrounds for at least the remainder of 2008, I think I'll look into that option. At the very least I think it'd be a way to get free camping.

Thanks for the info on the USDA crap -- one more example of stinking government running amuck. I can put my kids in the act but the family pet can't participate? Sounds like infringing on his "rights" to be a member of the family. Maybe I should call the ACLU (or CCLU, Canine Civil Liberties Union)?

Yes, I think busking will be our first line of attack -- although when I mentioned it to my wife she started stressing out BIG time. I think I need to find some other families who do this so I can point to examples of how it can work. =:)

Thanks for the help, everyone.

Jay Jennings
Brian Turntime
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As close to being a gypsy...
But why not get on the phone and talk to some campgrounds on your route? Tell them you have a performing family. How cool is that.
------

Last night I stayed up late playing poker with Tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died. - Steven Wright
Donald Dunphy
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Victoria, BC, Canada
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Hi Jay -

If you know where you are going, reach out to some possible prospects by phone to introduce yourself. Tell them that you are touring their area for specific dates, and are offering them your show for those dates are special prices. Offer them info, with special "on tour" prices for specific dates, by fax as a follow-up to your initial introduction call. Follow-up with a call to close the booking. If you use email and a website, that can factor into your mix of lead generation.

I have traveled to other provinces and different areas on vacation several times now, and booked shows for dates I was going to be there. It was novel for them to have an out of town performer (and I enjoyed it, too). Win, win!

Look for markets that you'd prefer to work, and where your stengths lie. Schools, child care centres, libaries, theatres, festivals / events, shopping centres, churches, etc. Offer them a compelling reason to have you.

- Donald
Donald Dunphy is a Victoria Magician, British Columbia, Canada.
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