A Guy Walks Into a Bar… Continued

POOLS AND STREAMS

There are many different kinds of places where it is possible to do caricatures and busk other forms of novelties for tips, but the movement of the crowd almost always breaks down into 2 basic designs, -what I like to call streams and pools. A stream is a “kinetic” location where there is movement, like a busy sidewalk or a hallway of some kind when people are passing by. It is harder to approach people in a stream (from my experience) as they are moving and sometimes have their minds set on a destination, meaning you have to be eye catching or cat call to people, but it does not mean it’s impossible. It is possible sometimes to move with the crowd, get somebody interested and then stand in the flow of traffic. This is an opportunity to create what I call a “hot spot” if people slow down long enough to watch you work. (More on hot spots later.)

The most successful I have been in a stream situation is at a festival or a carnival area where I have been paid by the venue to stroll and busk for entertainment (and of course accept tips). The reason for this success I attributed to the fact that people weren’t really GOING anywhere. They were just wandering aimlessly from vender to vendor or maybe to a bathroom or beer tent. It was a captive audience of sorts. As a successful PUBLIC PROPERTY example: I have done this on Bourbon and Royal in New Orleans during Halloween (and seen other novelty artists doing so as well) and it was very well received it was also not as kinetic as some crowds (streams) as there were a lot of guests standing around looking at boobies or drinking beer because that’s what they were there for. This is ideal.

A Pool is a “stagnant” area where people are just sitting, standing or generally milling around and there is little or no reason for them to move anywhere. Cocktail parties, dinners, concerts, dance floors, food court areas, bars and nightclubs are pools. These work best because it is easy to approach people and they are more likely to be interested in some entertainment to keep the conversation lively. (For this same reason, sports bars with lots of TV’s, games like pool, golf, darts, etc… and game bars like Dave and Busters or Chuckie Cheeze aren’t as good because there’s so much going on and that’s what people are there for) It’s easy to just approach the group or individual and ask if they would like a drawing or whathaveyou in this environment. 

When scouting a private property busking location keep this in mind. Also keep in mind that if you have gone through the crowd in one location and there are no new faces, it is helpful to have a couple of alternative locations within short walking distance that you can move to and make a small route of places to visit. This will keep you busy for as long as you feel like busking especially if there is a variety of different types of establishments. If there are 2 irish bars next to one another they will probably have the same clientele and busy times, however if there is a sports bar, an upper class wine bar and a dance club on the same street they will each have a different crowd and be busy at different times of the night.

People will likely visit several establishments (bar hopping) throughout the evening, which means you have discovered your own private gigantic pool to fish from and the current of movement from place to place keeps the location lively!

A Guy Walks Into a Bar… (continued)

PRIVATE PROPERTY

So far I have only discussed your rights on PUBLIC property, there are completely different rules concerning PRIVATE property. If the pitch you intend to work is on private property you will need to ask for permission and do as asked by the management of that property in order to busk, nuff said.

There are times you may not realize you are on private property. For instance if you are on a sidewalk in front of a business, that business has the right to ask you to leave for any reason they deem necessary, even if they do not legally own the property outright. Also, there are times when a public space is not public. For instance, the city can grant a temporary license to a group for a public space like a park or a street to be used for a special event, even a protest. It may be possible to busk there but permission will be needed from the license holder to do so. Also, they might have hired their own entertainment which causes obvious problems. At certain times and in certain areas however, busking is encouraged during special events, weekends, block parties, sales, etc… If in doubt, find out who is in charge and call them. If you can get a hold of them ahead of time, you may be able to convince them to HIRE YOU to entertain their guests! – but we’ll get into that later…

Now, why do you need to know all of this? First off, you should ALWAYS know your rights. Second, so that you will have a general idea of how things are settled when there is a difference of opinion between performers, private property owners/businesses and the law/city. Third, and most importantly, so you will know the all too common hassles that even professional buskers of over 50 years have to go through to make a living and so you can appreciate the fact that you shouldn’t ever have to deal with ANY of that junk if you take my advice!

(Copyright Adam Pate, 2013)