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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The side walk shuffle » » Lessons learned from the pitch (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

djurmann
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thinks time to practice and stop writing
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Yesterday I went out for the first time in the UK and my second ever busk. Frankly I was bricking it, but once I started the nerves disappeared.

My attempts to build a tip were richly rewarded by someone throwing water at me from an upstairs window, but rather less well rewarded by every other criteria. My show (original presentations of old tricks) was a runaway success.....provided you exclude success as a criterion. In truth it bombed....I think a strong Russian accent is not a winner in middle England. So I reverted to my real accent (posh-ish English)and developed a trickle show.....basically me presenting a number of tricks but without a unifying theme as such. It worked OK I guess.....as a trickle show, but my ability to build a crowd needs a LOT of work.


I also received helpful advice "you need a top hat and a white rabbit"which I intend to ignore but also from the same source some advice I intend to follow - a possible other location. Today I went up to Covent Garden to try again (change the audience) and met the wonderful Paul and Mark (who I have never met before, but they are lovely...all the buskers I have met have been really nice). Paul built a good crowd, Mark (who has been in the circus since 3) didn't build a crowd but an army, and then me.....who built a crowd rather similar to my usual (under 10 people, usually 5 ish). The take home lesson here was that even in a popular tourist venue there are crowd keeping, and as important, crowd retaining, skills which I just don't have as yet. People on the periphery watching, melted away as soon as I asked them to come in closer. The £3 I received (count em, £3) at the end of my stint was from one family where I had used their kid as the star of the show extensively. Paul's advice (doubtless correct) get a bigger PA system (one day but not on my hats), but from Mark I think the best advice of all - I need more practice building a crowd. He recommended I try the South Bank as did Paul.....so I did, meeting up with a "Take a photo with Jack Sparrow" act on Mark and PAul's recommendation as Capn Jack wants to turn his back on the easy money and turn to his first love...magic. Didn't have much time to chat as he was much in demand (he does indeed look like Johnny Depp - the *** ;o) ) so I had a go myself setting up to do magic....I reckon I made about minimum wage. Once I get someone to stop they enjoy the magic....but they prefer a series of tricks to the act I put together. My skills in terms of expanding the group utterly suck. I have tried tips from Kozmo, and tips by Mr Driver and Cellini. But the take home message for me is Mark's.....I need to put the hours in.

As for my act I am not giving up on it....becuase I suspect I could take a world renowned act and have the same result simply because I don't have the experience.

Lessons learned -
1) for beginners the South Bank in London is better than Covent Garden (though magician's corner in Covent Garden is unlicensed and the South Bank requires people to be licensed and are not offering any more licences until September to avoid overcrowding). However for me my local conurbation may be as good or better than the South Bank.

2) There is no magic bullet, experts can only say what works for them.....and it may also work for me, but it probably won't until I put the hours in.

3) I am not going to give up on my act just yet, but getting it to work will, I suspect, take an indefinable something that will only came after hours and hours....confidence perhaps?

Danny
Magician Shaun
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Danny,

The hardest part of busking is going back out there after you realize that your show doesn't work on the streets. Let me say first that I am not an expert, but I am working on it.

I will tell you how I build a crowd. First, I always smile and engage people. I talk to them. I joke a bit, make eye contact, and SMILE! I introduce myself with confidence. "My name is Shaun, I am a Magician. Some people even say I am good." I will then do a silk vanish. I do it over and over again while I talk to them. I talk about anything that is not touchy. I speak to the Children. If they are small, I get down on their level. I actually kneel down and speak to them. I ask their name, find out how they are doing, I act interested in their responses. I continue this as more people stop. I turn my attention to each group that stops and I purposely engage CHILDREN. Once 5 people have gathered, children parents, etc, and everyone that has walked up has the silk vanish, I typically move on to Sponge Balls if there are a lot of kids. If not I will do an ID trick, however I do it as a prediction and I do it very quickly.

If people are at the back of your edge, you need to engage them. The people at the front are already invested. You know there names, you have talked to their children, etc. The people in the back can get away if you don't make sure to keep their attention. You need to make eye contact with them as you speak. You should always be making eye contact with spectators as you perform, especially those in the back row. When you pass stuff out to be examined or ask for volunteers, try to choose someone from the back row. Also try to choose someone that is part of a group. If a group of 3-5 is together and in the back and you use one of them in an effect, you will keep the whole group.

Once I am into an effect, I tend to purposely try to make eye contact with those in the back. I know they can get away if I don't and I want to keep them. I am fairly good at keeping a crowd, and I attribute it to a combination of natural ability and training I got while working at Magic Masters. Working for Magic Masters was like formal busking training and I realized a while back how similar it was.

Anyway, once you can keep your crowds, you will have to work on getting as many to pay as possible. This is done through proper hatting. Once you are getting as many people as possible to pay, I think %50 is a good number, you will need to then work on getting those that pay to pay more. I promise you that what you get paid is not dependent on the quality of your entertainment, unfortunately, your actual entertainment probably contributes about 50% to your hat maybe even less, the rest is how well you educate and hat the crowd and convince them that you should get more than they originally thought. I will give an example. Joshua Bell, one of the greatest violinists in the world played 6 songs in the Washington DC subway for 45 minutes. He did this on a $3.5 million Stradivarius Violin. He made $32. So skill and a great product are only half the battle. You then have to get people to buy what it is you have.

Remember, Cellini said "Stop a CHILD, stop the WORLD!" It is also true that if you engage a child you will keep the parents.

Good luck, maybe some more experienced than me can give better advice.
Zombie Magic
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I went out for a beer and now have
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djurmann
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thinks time to practice and stop writing
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Thanks Gr8gorilla,

I LOVE your suggestions! My current approaches have been "see something amazing it's going to be fun" approach, or the "learn to win at cards" approach (I have a faux gambling routine with a joke ending), or my kneeling down going magic magic magic, you've seen dynamo, you've seen David Blaine, now see it in front of your very eyes. No cameras and everything examinable".....I think your friendly chatty approach is a better approach than my one. Slow down and chat more :o)

Eye contact for me is an interesting one....when I looked at people and invited them closer they tended to disappear. I think I need to ramp up the smile.....and put in the hours.

Notes: Smile more, chat more, magic later, magic slower and get back out there Smile

Thnk you for your tips. I will use them.

Best wishes,

Danny.
Magician Shaun
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Remember when you are engaging small children it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to KNEEL down. Get down on their level so they can see you as if you are performing just for them. It will keep them interested, it will make them like you more, and their parents will notice. I can't stress enough how important playing to the Children is, I will reiterate Cellini's statement: "Stop a child, Stop the world."

Some other things I have found helpful:
1. Dress professionally, especially when starting out. You want to separate yourself from the common beggar or the untalented hack. Prove to everyone that you are a magician, a magician has always dressed slightly better than his audience, people expect you to be dressed well, otherwise you are just a conman.
2. Have excellent personal hygiene. No one wants to talk to a guy with bad breath or B.O.
3. SMILE, SMILE, SMILE, SMILE! No matter what you are feeling, you must present an inviting, happy personality.

Now, I know that some street guys will say that you shouldn't dress too nice because they won't tip too well. I don't think that applies honestly, I mean unless your out there in a Rolex and an Armani suit. People really do have this mental image of the Magician being a well dressed gentleman. It will be easier for you to make people believe you are a magician if you look like one. I wear a pair of dress pants, a button up shirt and a black vest. Sometimes I wear a tie or bow tie and I always wear a hat that contrasts my clothes. I wear a white hat because I tend to wear dark pants, shirts, and vest. You want to stand out somehow. My hat is a white cotton Panama Jack Safari hat. I have to wash it often because it's white.

One last thing, how long is the show you are trying to do? Do you have a repeatable VISUAL effect you can do to build an edge? Silk Vanish, Muscle Pass, Dancing Cane, etc? it needs to be flashy so if you are doing a silk vanish get bright colored silks and the biggest ones you can fit in you TT. Muscle Pass should be done with a polished silver coin at least the size of an American Dollar (Morgan Silver Dollar is the standard I believe), Dancing Cane, I have never done this but I hear it can be great if you are practiced with it! Anyway, this should not be part of your show. You should then have 2-3 effects, say 10 minutes worth of your best stuff, your very best. Everyone told me when I started that 10 minutes of great material is much better than 20 minutes of OK material. The reason I like the Silk Vanish so much is because I can do it over and over and over and over and I don't have to pay any attention to it at all, and it is just visually STUNNING!
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