A Guy Walks Into a Bar (Continued)


Café busking is a little like walk by busking but on private property. Generally you set up in a corner of a bar, restaurant or outdoor mall type area after getting permission from the business/property owner and you wait for people to come up to you to get drawn. (musicians can play and hope that somebody comes up to tip them for a request, like an open mic night). This is a popular request also from the establishment owner so they may seek you out and actually offer you an hourly wage or stipend if you’re lucky- or rather if you INSIST on it…

Most of the birthday party type entertainers I know in my local area drum up about 60% of their business by cafe busking. The management pays them a low weekly rate (about a quarter of their hourly rate) plus whatever tips they can make and a free meal (free is good), to come into the establishment on a regular basis and go table to table to entertain kids. It is a commitment however. the establishment may advertise your appearances and you may leave promotional information laying around. It may be a problem if it would be difficult for you to do it every week on the same night and time. For one thing, you may be giving up some work you can charge full price for in order to honor your commitment. If that were the case, you may have to have another entertainer to cover you sometimes, and pay them what they want in order to keep the commitment to the establishment. Remember, the other entertainer does not have an agreement to work for 25% of their hourly rate for a set amount of time so after a few times of doing this it might be hard to find a make up entertainer.

The idea is to bring the walk-by busker into the establishment to add atmosphere to the room. While this certainly does add charm to the establishment, it often happens that it is at the expense of the busker as traditional barking to get people to come sit for you would be inappropriate in this situation, for what the management has in mind, so if you’re not busy then you’re stuck there in a corner of a boring bar doing nothing and you’d be stuck in that one location.

If it’s OK with the management, you might try going from table to table and asking people to come sit for you in the corner if you sit there for too long. This starts my next topic though… You might be able to dress up a little and have a drink or two and you will for sure make way better tips than you would have on the street and not have to worry about as many of the “hassles” that they go through, but it is still very difficult to keep busy and make money this way. You are at the mercy of the bar. If you haven’t played your hand right, the bar owner may also want you to give him a cut of your earnings and also require you to not go to any competing establishments which is the last thing you want. Most of the positives cross over into the next section- STROLLING!

I WANT TO TEACH YOU ABOUT STROLLING, aka, WALKAROUND BUSKING, specifically in bars and restaurants. Strolling busking is just what it sounds like. YOU ARE MOBILE. The “pitch” may be a bar, a restaurant, a mall, a cocktail party, a parking lot, an outdoor concert, a street, a boardwalk, an intersection, a crowd of people anywhere, etc… mosltly on private property, sometimes on public. Strolling artists can go pretty much anywhere and sometimes they get PAID FULL PRICE to work at a gig where they are very likely to get tipped well!!

(Copyright, Adam Pate 2013. All rights reserved)


A Guy Walks Into a Bar (Continued)


The most attention grabbing style of street performing is known as “Circle Busking”. In circle busking, the performer takes some time to gather a circle of people around himself on the pitch, performs a show and then tries to keep the audience around as long as possible to collect their money. Anytime people see other people standing around, they want to stand around with them too and see what’s going on. The ease of gathering a crowd, being able to gather a little bit of fame while doing it and more often than not, making a decent amount of money in a short time is what makes the circle such a popular style for variety performers. (Variety performers are the jugglers, magicians, break dancers, fire eaters, comedians, musical acts, etc… You know- variety!)

During the show, the performer has an opportunity to build up the audience further and convince them to tip him at the end of the show. At the end, he passes the hat (or somebody else does it for him) while he continues to entertain the audience with witty banter and takes up the collection. If done right, there is usually a bit of cheekyness to the passing of the hat too that is almost as fun to watch as the show. This is to keep the audience around to tip more instead of walking off after the show. If the “hat man”, “pitch man”, or “bottler” is any good he will continue to draw a crowd even as people are leaving and hopefully convince them to even leave a larger tip also. The more people that are attracted to your circle performance, the more money (and often other articles of interest end up there too, lol) will go into your hat.

I have seen artists get a good crowd while performing paintings or caricatures to music for a circle of people. While all are not buskers, some novelty entertainers that cross into the ‘variety’ realm that come to mind are Dan Dunn, Brad Blaze, Denny Dent and Paul Merklien of Great Big Faces Caricatures. I have also seen a few teams of artists working in tandem to create something abstract on a large canvas or a graffiti piece. A good crossover between walk by and circle performances are the airbrush artists who create small works of art while putting on a bit of a show (of which they give to the highest tipper or sell outright if they can get away with it.)

One of the more valuable lessons you can learn as a busker is to pick up your speed. The faster your production turnaround, the more tips you can make. Keeping this in mind, the circle performers also know they must paint pretty quickly. Generally a variety performer can work a popular pitch for about 20-45 minutes with an additional 10 minutes to collect tips while the next act sets up and you tear down. If there is time to do so, ideally a circle show can last up to 90 minutes with the entertainer taking the opportunity to plug the show as he is setting up and continuing to entertain and collect tips while he is taking down the operation. If people are giving you money you can milk it for a lonnnnnnnnngggg Time.

I would think that painting this way would have to be super neat and tidy also, so as not to get paint everywhere and screw up the pitch for everybody else who uses it. So be mindful of that. Circle buskers are vulnerable to some of the same kinds of pitfalls as the walk by buskers are, but they’re also limited by the popularity of the pitch and the possibility of props being stolen, tampered with or misused by an audience member. A positive point to bring up is that there would be other performers around and the hours would be sporadic. Lots of down time watching and mingling with your fellow performers might be fun once and a while too. You might not get along with everybody but there would be plenty of opportunities to see how other types of entertainers handle the challenges that come up and you’ll learn more than being alone.

Any time you put yourself out there to perform for the public, you stand the risk of being hassled in one way or another and it takes some serious chops and a butt load of confidence to perform for a circle of judgmental strangers, IMO. Sure, individual people are judgmental, but usually can be won over easily enough. A large crowd made up of people from all walks of life is a different story altogether. You will find that people are dumb animals who along with being easily entertained, are also easily scared, misled or angered. This makes large crowds of people scary for many reasons. Performing a show for a large group of people makes it easy for hecklers to try bug you and ruin your show. While this is great entertainment for the rest of the crowd, it can be aggravating if you lose control of the environment and can quickly make your show go full on FUBAR. A good busker has a billion one liners to shut these people down and do it quickly to maintain control of the situation. It is a must. God help you if you lose control of the show…

While the circle setup might be great for a variety performer, it might not necessarily translate all that well to a artistic novelty entertainer. There are elements of circle busking that you can incorporate into your one on one act however. I will discuss some later at length.



A Guy Walks Into a Bar (as I did tonight)

Back in the saddle again!

Felt GOOD! Wasn’t all that busy, surprisingly but I did well enough. No complaints! People were nice too. The first person I saw yelled across the bar to me because he recognized me from up at Put In Bay and came over to tell his friends to get a caricature. Yep! Jumped right in!! Took a few photos. None turned out great but Here are two that weren’t horrible. The first photo does neither the girl or the drawing justice. The flash messed it all up. (and completely washed out the other drawings I took photos of tonight) The second one is of a guy with 2 girl’s butts. The one on the left was LOVING the way I drew her pooper in the drawing. The girl on the right, not so much. It was fun and I thought the girl’s reactions were hysterical. I guess this is why the “Butt Sketch TM” guy’s picture’s are so corny and lame, lol! Who cares? Anyways, got to use my new credit card swiping thing to collect a tip tonight which was awesome! I’m really glad it has become so main stream too. Can’t imagine trying to convince someone it’s legit. I did have some dipshit ask me to show him samples before he would get a caricature as if I was at a freaking job interview. That one still creeps me out. I would just assume that anyone who doesn’t understand that I don’t keep them -I give them away- and don’t carry around samples for people like him to judge me on wouldn’t appreciate a caricature in the first place so fuck em. Anyhow, it’s late and it’s gonna be a long weekend. Have fun, be safe and try not to get arrested!



Made a new busking sign that says I accept credit cards too! YIPPEE!!


News Release From DelMarVa Today OCMD Via ACLU

I thought I had lost this. Posting it now, since I found it.

“Ocean City lifts unconstitutional ban on strolling caricature artist from performing on the Boardwalk

June 2, 2005

Deborah A. Jeon, Managing Attorney 410-889-8550 ext. 120
Rick Griffiths, Attorney (410) 889-8550 ext. 134

Caricature artist Adam Pate will be allowed to do his lightning fast portraits of passersby on Ocean City’s Boardwalk this summer, after a letter from the ACLU of Maryland spurred the City to reverse its initial rejection of his application under an ordinance that imposes unconstitutional restrictions on free speech. Mr. Pate was told by City Solicitor Guy R. Ayers III that he was forbidden from performing on the Boardwalk because he accepts tips for the caricatures he draws. But when the issue of free speech on the Boardwalk last arose, back in 1995, a federal judge ruled that it was unconstitutional to discriminate against speech that contains commercial content. ACLU managing attorney Deborah A. Jeon, who filed the 1995 case, threatened a return to court if the City did not lift the restrictions on Mr. Pate.

Ten years ago, the court ruled that there exists no real substitute for the Boardwalk as a forum for artists, said ACLU attorney Rick Griffiths, who co-drafted the letter. The First Amendment clearly protects the type of expression Mr. Pate wishes to engage in. It was in the public interest of all who visit and enjoy Ocean City’s premier venue to remove this unnecessary and unconstitutional restriction.

The current Peddlers and Solicitors ordinance of Ocean City’s Town Code imposes a year-round ban on soliciting donations on the Boardwalk. But because the Boardwalk is a traditional public forum, it should only be subject to reasonable and content-neutral time, place and manner restrictions when there is a substantial government interest in regulating protected speech. Mr. Pate performs his drawings rapidly and with creative spontaneity, which people find entertaining and educational. That he solicits tips with a notice on his drawing board does not affect the sincerity of his artistic expression. The ACLU could see no justification under the First Amendment to exclude Mr. Pate from this traditional public forum.

People around the country love my quick caricatures, and they have recommended that I go to Ocean City’s great Boardwalk, said Mr. Pate. This is the first time I’ve ever had any trouble doing my pictures in public places. I have a right to perform, and now Maryland beachgoers can have fun watching me this summer.

The current ordinance is very similar to an Ocean City ordinance ruled unconstitutional in the ACLU of Maryland’s 1995 case, Markowitz v. Mayor and City Council of Ocean City. In his ringing defense of free speech rights in that case, U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Garbis called the ordinance vastly overbroad and said courts have allowed government to restrict free speech only when necessary to protect the public safety of health. The ACLU had brought suit on behalf of a member of the Libertarian Party who wanted to collect signatures on the Boardwalk, along with a puppeteer and a juggler who regularly performed on the Boardwalk.

City Solicitor Ayres confirmed in a May 26 letter to the ACLU of Maryland that Mr. Pate will be allowed to perform on the Boardwalk, saying that his proposed activity was not prohibited by the City ordinance after all.”

Epic Caricature FAIL.


From ISCA Group on FB: “I think one of the things that might make my stories interesting to this group is that I taught myself. I had NEVER actually paid attention to how anyone drew caricatures of anyone before so every challenge I came across was handled in the best way I knew how, -and clearly sometimes they were handled badly, lol. But what’s interesting to me is that the outcome of my decision might be completely different than what most ‘taught’ caricature artists would come up with after learning a style and having support from, say Kaman’s, Fasen or Richmond’s concessions. I really enjoy seeing the way some self taught artists handle different challenges because they are usually pretty unique.” Case in point:

The Ashland County fair went on and I drew lots of people. The drawings were so bad that when somebody shows me a drawing I did from back then I don’t know wether to be amazed, embarrassed or feel sorry for them. All yellowed and crinkly and crappy lookin’. I had no idea what “archival quality paper” meant… Unfortunately, the sharpie lines do hold up well, even if you have no concept of line quality… To that I will attest. Every now and then I see one and the image creates a sudden, depressing panic in me. Like when you were little and you peed in a dream and then woke up and find out that you had actually peed your bed, AT CAMP. If anyone reading this happens to have one from back then, please burn it! Lol! Please. I will draw a fresh one for you for free if you prove that you burned it! 🙂

I worked at a few more local events before I went away to school. Most memorably, I did the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival where I charged $2 and was so busy I never got to even look around and eat a forced meat sandwich. (I did get a sweet festival t-shirt with silk screened lederhosen on it though!) My parents went with me and they were amazed at how long the line I had was and at the end of the night when I counted up my loot, I had collected $350! People will buy anything for $2 I guess.

After the fair, I went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh for my first quarter of classes. I enjoyed school. I had lots of fun partying, making new friends and finding my way around the BIG CITY of Pittsburgh. It was the first metropolitan area I had ever been in really. The school was right down town and I lived only a 5 minutes away. I felt like Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat up in the air! I was on top of the world!

There were a couple of festivals in Pittsburgh near downtown and since there is a big art school there, several of the festivals are art centric and caricatures are very popular at such events. My first year in Pittsburgh I went to the Three Rivers Arts Festival to check it out and see what all the hub bub was about. I saw some caricature artists there and thought “I can do that too!”. I wanted to sit there and do them but I was too late to get in on the action. I could have busked in the park there, but was told I’d get into trouble. So I went down to Point Park and sat under the bridge so as to be more inconspicuous. (Totally illegal by the way. The festival has a special permit to use the park for the concert venue every year. What is normally public property was being used privately per special license, therefore it was at this time private property and I needed permission to set up there. Didn’t know that then… Luckily nobody hassled me.)

2 milk crates a ‘jam box’, a sketch pad and a few markers is all I had. I think I may have taped a cardboard sign to a wall on the bridge that led into the park.. Only in the big city for a month and I was already ghetto as fuck!

I was asking for $2 a drawing or tips or something like that. My drawings were terrible at the time, but then again, they were only $2! I was still very green and hadn’t really had any experience or education on the matter to speak of. I drew a few people’s kids here and there and made a few bucks. Well, along came these 4 black kids who were going down to the festival in Point Park. They asked for a drawing and I realized with horror that this was the first time I had ever been asked to draw black people and I had no idea how to do it. It was not going to be pretty.

Clearly this is not something appropriate to be horrified by to most people’s standards, however, growing up in rural Ohio, in the middle of nowhere, I had only seen a few black folks in my life, and had never even SEEN a drawing of one that I could think of (that wasn’t intended to be blatently racist). Let alone one done in black Sharpie on bright white paper… My dorm room mate was a black guy but that doesn’t mean I drew him! I really had no idea where to even start! Being self taught, I knew I had to make some mistakes to learn the correct way to do things. This was one of those mistakes. It certainly was… I did some stupid things, but this probably gets the prize for the stupidest.

Folks… I really do apologize if this sounds crude, or racist or whatever. It’s not intended to be. Part of what I learned on this day is that you just have to be brutally honest sometimes and go with your gut, ya know? These kids were very dark skinned. Not ‘latte’, ‘mocha’ or ‘cappuccino’. more like full blown ‘espresso’. I thought back through all of my schooling and all of the ways I could think of to suggest different tones in black and white artwork. What came to mind was…

Slowly I began drawing the features of the first boy’s face. When I got most of the way done with the line drawing, I started putting darker lines around the lines I had just drawn. That didn’t quite do it. DUDE WAS DARK. Sitting in the shadows around the bridge I thought about the lighter shades I could see and I decided to draw him as dark as possible and add highlights. Maybe show that contrast… Yes. About 5 minutes into the drawing I had decided to draw his face entirely black and add the highlights around the lines I had just drawn.

I colored in most of his face black with a dumb ass, faded, sharpie marker before I realized I could not pull off what I intended to do. At all. It looked horrible and the other kids actually said something. I was starting to sweat and the old, chewed up marker I was using ran out and I had to start in with another one that was fresher and go back over some parts of it again. I was no where near being capable of the artistic craftsmanship it would take to pull off a stunt like this, let alone the flaccid and feeble attempt of a drawing of this child that I had ruined this shitty, cheap piece of paper with. I don’t remember exactly what they said. I know their mouths were hanging open and their lower lips dangled in disbelief, but I was kinda too embarrassed to look at them. Guessing, I would say they were all between 10 and 13. Luckily, their parents weren’t there to witness it… After about 5 more excruciatingly awkward minutes of trying to color in the blackness to a somewhat uniform tone, I gave up when the second marker ran out -And all of those young kids just about crapped their pants they were laughing so hard.

The kid I was drawing looked at it for a second, said something cruelly appropriate, crumpled it up got on his bike and rode away without paying. I was a little bit surprised I didn’t get decked, but one of the other kids watching wanted one now. Obviously because I must be a clown and they wanted to laugh at me some more.

Laughing, I told him I just didn’t know how to draw black people as it was my first time, and I had never tried to draw a black person before in ink. There was no middle tone. Just black and white. I did mention that they were so dark too, hoping to get the sympathy vote from him and the other 2. It actually worked! They were cool about it, and they even acknowledged that they were hella dark too and that they might be hard to draw because of that. They told me that basically just give them big lips and noses and stuff. I said I didn’t know many black people, but I was pretty sure they didn’t like being drawn with large, stereotypical features and I didn’t want to offend them by drawing them that way and they laughed again. “Duh, we got big lips and noses and stuff though!” is what he said. I asked them if they had ever seen another artist draw a black person and they all said no, so I started again from scratch.

This time I thought instead of going all ‘contrasty’, maybe I would use some cross hatching… Holy shit. Yes. I. did. If you thought I was embarrassed when they laughed at me for trying to draw the one kid entirely black, imagine how stupid I felt drawing straight black sharpie lines clean across the other kid’s face -for like 8 minutes. TOTAL FAILURE. LOL! THESE KIDS WERE LAUGHING HYSTERICALLY AT ME NOW!

The other kid’s mouths just hung open and when I handed it to him he said that doing that was probably NOT the right thing to do to it either and laughed at it/me. He was pretty cool about it though, considering. They all were. I was lucky. My stupidity didn’t seem offend them much, if at all. I wasn’t trying to be offensive in the least. I just had no effing clue what I was doing!

In hindsight, I’m really glad it was those kids and not somebody who would have taken greater offense. It could have went very badly for me! After that drawing they suggested again that maybe I try to draw them with big lips and noses and concentrate on the size and shape of the features instead of the tone of their skin. I thought about it, and decided to try that next time. Not surprisingly, neither of the other two wanted one. Lol! I discovered that not only was my mistake trying a drawing style that I was clearly incapable of pulling off, but I was drawing them with caucasian features and thought that merely changing the tone of their faces would make them look like black people. Their features were completely different than caucasian features, and after all, it was them who had pointed out that they HAD big lips and big noses so it must be something they’re comfortable with and I figured whatever I drew probably wouldn’t be as offensive as drawing them all in black or cross hatching over their faces!!

I didn’t immediately follow their advice unfortunately and did some other stupid mistakes but quickly got the hang of it. It took me years to finally let go and learn that emphasizing the most stereotypical features on ethnic people is the best (and funniest) outcome in this situation. Afterall, a humorously exaggerated likeness IS the point of a caricature.

A good way to practice drawing caricatures is to draw yourself in a mirror. (a better way is to draw some one else from a still on a DVD- but I’m getting ahead of myself) Many newbie caricature artists use this practice as a crutch. They learn how to draw THEIR nose satisfactorily, and don’t realize that they unsatisfactorily draw their nose on every person’s face that they draw from then on. Everybody does it. You can tell the care an artist puts into his craftsmanship by the different ways he can draw other people’s features. (but again, I get ahead…) In short, it takes some skill and time to discover a repertoire of different and acceptable ways to draw different people’s features and then use those standards relative to each individual.

We’re allowed to make mistakes. We all do it. It’s part of learning how to do something the right way. Understanding, identifying and learning the proper ways to communicate a person’s ethnicity (or any other defining feature) visually and aesthetically (and yes, in fact, exaggerating some stereotypical features) is very important in communicating a good likeness no matter what the ethnicity of the person you’re drawing. Political correctness has no place in the caricature world. That said, personality stereotypes are stupid. Just as important in my opinion is learning not to judge people based on personality stereotypes. Each person is an individual and if you look objectively at each person as such, and treat them like you want to be treated you can do no wrong. I don’t tolerate hateful intolerance and I don’t tolerate mistaking sincere objectivity for hatred.

All rights reserved on all content. Copyright, Adam Pate 2013

A Guy Walks Into a Bar- (Continued…)

(Walk By Busking Continued)

There are several other things to be considered when setting up your novelty entertainment busking set up in the street to attract walk by business… The street is less than ideal in the vulnerability department. You will want to set up near someplace that has a street, shop or ATM camera and logistically makes sense for your needs. (i.e. Restroom, water, food, parking, security, phone, loading-unloading, making a quick exit, visibility, clear view of your surroundings, etc…) If you have a tip bucket or some kind of contraption to collect money, it will likely get pilfered or stolen outright at some point. Kids and thugs have many, many ways to get your goodies if they want them. (More on this later) For a number of reasons, I prefer to open my hand to collect tips and put the money directly into my pocket. (I have a VERY DEEP pocket I have sewn into my pants to prevent pickpocketing- which I will also go over later…) Keep in mind that you will also be encumbered by your props, easel, signs, jacket, book bag, dog, etc… Whatever you have with you. Should you have to get up to use the restroom, get a drink or whathaveyou you will need to bring all of your things along with you, lock them up, stash them somewhere, have somebody else watch them for you or test your faith in humanity by leaving it alone for a few minutes. This is something to consider if you are vacillating about whether to work on public or private property.

Physical abuse may also be something to seriously give consideration to if you are a woman or are a man of slight build. (or even if you are a giant stud muffin like myself, who might be hassled because they are big and might pose a challenge to a punk kid looking to start a fight with somebody- yes, it happens.) I suggest ANYONE who busks in a walk by environment to carry pepper spray at the very least. A whistle and/or a knife are good too. A flashlight or a small stick is also an excellent idea for protection and do not draw attention Learn how to use these tools for defense along with basic moves to throw off the hands of an attacker in close quarters, you’ll be amazed at what you can do with a small stick, marker, pencil, keychain, etc… I wouldn’t bring a gun with me but that is just me. Personally, if I thought I would need a gun where I was going, I might reconsider my priorities.

You might consider having a few cache spots too. Someplace you can keep money or bring periodic drops to that is secure so you don’t have to walk around with a lot of money in your pocket all day. That way if you DO get robbed, you won’t be out everything you made the entire day. If you work long days and have a lot of $1 bills taking up room in your pocket, you can free up some space by ditching the wad and be more comfortable too. The first cache spot to consider is where you first put the money when it is given to you. Your POCKET.

You might keep a dummy pocket so if you are asked to give an assailant your money you can pull out everything from a partially full pocket, meanwhile you have several other partially full pockets that they don’t know about, or maybe stash your larger bills ($20, $50, $100’s) in a pocket you don’t use very often. When you have a lot of money in a wad in your pocket, you would be surprised how easy it is to accidentally pull out more money than you intended and accidentally drop it. Keep your bigger bills in a pocket (sock, shoe, bra, etc…) you are not likely to use. Better you drop a $1 looking for change than a $50. You’ll find that shallow, wide pockets easily bunch up on you and it is easy for that bunching movement to push some bills up and out also. I like to use only pockets on one side of my body to store cash. I am very comfortable with people watching me work from over my shoulder or standing on one side of me but if someone is standing on the side I put my money into I am very aware of them being there. I jiggle around subtly so that if they have slipped a hand into my pocket they cannot rely on getting it back out without being noticed. Still it is best to keep honest people honest and try to put yourself in a position within your environment where there is a wall, a table, a chair, etc… something on that side so you don’t have to worry about anyone being over there to begin with. Be weary of people bumping into you also. Classic pickpocket trick… The special pocket I have sewn into my work pants is a tube that goes down to my knee and I can push money way, way down there and make a big fat wad and nobody can see it! it is wide at the bottom and very narrow at the top so that it is very difficult to get a hand in there and even harder to get it out. Yes it is harder to get the money out to stash it but I would generally do that somewhere private.

Something to consider is that a mugger or a pickpocket will stealthily check you out for a while before making a move and you WILL NOT know they’re there. While you are busy working and doing your thing all of the people you see and meet will become a blur, but you will stick out like a sore thumb to them. If there is a thief around they WILL notice you and all of the loot you’re putting into your pocket. The best defense against them is to simply go on about your business being aware of your surroundings and making it hard for them to find a vulnerable point at which to take advantage of you. They will be watching you yes, but they will also be noticing the steps you are taking to protect yourself, that you are conscious of your surroundings and see that you smarter than the average bear. By simply taking the simple precautions mentioned above, (that will quickly become second nature for you) they will most likely determine that their chances of success is so low that it will not be worth it to attempt anything and they will likely just move on leaving you none the wiser.

(FYI- This might be a good time to point out that I THINK I have been pick pocketed twice and I have never been robbed or beat up in the 20 years I have been busking. (knock on wood!))

A cache/hiding spot in your car is a wise idea too, maybe a small, secret spot behind a rock in a parking garage? An excellent suggestion if it’s possible is to make a friend nearby. A friendly business owner or employee who you can visit to deter a creeper for instance, if there is somebody who makes you nervous. This last bit is a great idea as that person can keep an eye on you, scout the creeper for you over your shoulder while you talk, call the cops if needed and may even let you leave your cache with them. You can keep a weapon of some sort in your cache spots too. A stick in your pocket for instance… or some mace.

One of the prerequisites of busking almost unanimously in any environment is that you can’t have anything permanently set up and must move somewhere else if asked to by a nearby shopkeeper or cop. Especially if you are blocking traffic on the sidewalk, street or business front where you are set up. This means you have to load all of your stuff in to begin and out at the end of the day which can also be a pain but a lot of vendors do this. There is no end to the creativity used to solve the problem of moving props here and there! (Again, I will describe my cart in a later chapter.)

Another problem to inspire creativity is called “dipping”. Dipping is when it LOOKS like somebody is putting their hand in to give you a tip but sneaks something out instead. Any number of ingenius contraptions can be invented to ensure that earnings go in and not out of your bucket, bottle, jar or whatever. It is a fact that you will be more likely to be targeted for a crime since you (more than likely would be alone,) would be in the same general place at the same times and even park your car in the same place every day. Buskers are unfortunately easy prey for muggers… That’s not to say that they often get mugged… Good old fashioned street smarts and following your gut is extremely underrated.

Yes, the walk by method definitely has it’s disadvantages and leaves you vulnerable if you are on public property, but not just to muggers. You may be hassled by homeless people, panhandlers, drunks, cops, mother nature, parking restrictions, lighting problems and just general harassment from passers by and business owners. Not to mention the hood rats that may come talk your ear off because there’s nothing better to do than to watch you work. (They’re cute at first but they will turn on you as soon as you stop paying attention to them then they can become troublesome…) Now that you’re all scared…

Next up… Circle Busking.

(All content belongs to Adam Pate. Copyright 2013)

A Guy Walks Into a Bar (Continued…. MASSIVE INFO DUMP!)


Most styles of busking can be performed both on public or private property. The most common style of street performing is known as, “Walk by busking”. This is where the entertainer stays in one place and performs for people walking by hoping that they will stop and throw something in their tip jar or guitar case. Many musicians choose to perform in the walk by style because it’s easy, versatile, laid back, non-agressive and you can stay in the same place all day if you want to. Hopefully, people will stop for a song or two, give you some money and move on. Generally the artists set up far away from each other so they are not competing noise wise, playing for the same demographic group or block around a particular store or attraction.

It is definitely possible to set up and do caricatures or other forms of entertainment artwork (balloon twisting, face painting, hair wraps, henna, etc…), also known as “novelty entertainment” busking in the walk by style. You want to be sure that you have the means to move or pack up quickly if asked. (Personally, I use a cart -which I will describe later) It is very similar to doing retail caricatures at a fair where you have to be there all day every day and there are only a few busy times during the day with the rest of the business coming in trickles throughout the day. It is more or less steady business, depending on your expectations.

There are several advantages to busking in the street rather than paying for a retail spot at a fair. For the most part, you will have the freedom to busk virtually wherever you like, any time you like without having to pay a fee to anyone for the spot, worrying about bringing a bunch of stuff to set up like a tent, signs, etc… You will not be forced by your obligations to stay in a poor location, nor will you be stuck outside in bad weather or the hot sun, etc… You will not have to worry about “breaking even” or even make much of an investment at all in your business. You will not need any insurance, fire extinguisher, employees, etc.. you will not need a vendor’s license or pay sales tax either. Chances are if you are on private property you will need insurance and they will want to keep track of your success in some way, maybe requiring you to become a retail vendor in which case- you are not a busker. The freedom, availability of your location, hours of operation and even specifics about your general appearance may also be up to the management but you will have added security and possibly a place to store your belongings. Maybe even a stipend if you are lucky.

About sales tax… Technically, this is where I should tell you that the federal government and many state and city laws will require you to report and pay taxes on any tips you receive. Some state and city laws may require you to collect, report and pay a sales tax as well, even on ‘entertainment services’. (I don’t believe the IRS gives a damn about sales tax-but you can ask your accountant.) I think it is safe to say however that there are not many buskers (if any at all) who have ever reported any cash transactions whatsoever since there does not seem to be any standard that deals with freely given “gratuities” for those who are self employed. I have asked many, many organizations many, many times and have never ever gotten the same answer twice. In short, do what you gotta do. I’m not your lawyer or your CPA. If you keep receipts for tax purposes though, you will have to report something for sure.

Certain times and locations will definitely be more worthwhile than others and sitting around waiting for somebody to come to you to get a drawing definitely sucks no matter what… Doing novelty entertainment this way leaves you having to hustle more than you are likely to be comfortable with and you will certainly have to “bark” at people- or yell out to people as they pass by and try to talk them into stopping to get a drawing if you are not already drawing someone. People will stop to look for a moment and then move on. If there is nothing to look at they will probably not stop. When people are moving by you quickly, it is very difficult to get their attention, much more difficult to get them to stop and give you a moment of their time, even if they are expecting entertainment.

You will realize after a few short hours that barking gets repetitive and is a PITA (Pain In The Ass)… So you will want to switch up your methods to make it interesting! An experienced barker will often make funny comments or try to yell out a one liner that might prompt the passersby to laugh or come back and start up a conversation or at least stand around and watch other people get barked at. There’s a fine line between barking and heckling. You don’t want to be too harsh. As a caricature artist, part of your job is to determine how much hilarity somebody can take. Push it to be funny, but if it’s not funny to them, you’re just wasting your time… If you do choose to bust somebody’s chops a little, be prepared to be heckled right back. Try to keep it friendly. (What’s funny about being cruel to someone?) This is good practice for when you get heckled while performing. Once you get the hang of it you will have learned a few zingers to keep you in control of the conversation and keep it upbeat. Heckling happens a lot with busking and sometimes it can be fun, as long as it’s good natured. Don’t get too personal. Keep it clean and family friendly if you want to have a good experience. A smile and a friendly laugh will help you make friends rather than enemies. Most of the time when somebody heckles you and you zing them right back they will laugh and you will have gained their respect. (Though admittedly, it will try your nerves after a while…) I can only assume it works the same for females, though clearly they may have different opinions on this matter than men. If you are on private property, remember every thing you do or say will likely come back to you in one way or another. It might even be recorded.

No matter how awesome your act is, take into consideration what all goes into barking at passersby one at a time all day to perform your service for them… You will have to convince people to 1. Slow down or stop, 2. Watch and listen, 3. Justify carrying out a financial transaction with you, 4. Commission your services for a period of time, 5. Compensate you handsomely of their own free will because your handiwork was the best they’ve ever seen and 6. (Very important)- stick around long enough to help you attract other passersby so you don’t have to stand around and bark someone else in. The best advertisement is a group of people standing around watching you work. They will already be convinced and the only barking you’ll need to do then is yell, “NEXT!!”

Just to give you an idea of what it’s like to be an extremely talented “walk by” street performer, consider this Washington Post article about famous violinist, Joshua Bell playing in the subway:


At the end of the article above, Mr. Bell says that the hardest part of the experience was not feeling any sense of accomplishment after he finished a piece. There was no applause, no fanfare …and virtually no money in his tip bucket. At the end of his time playing someone recognized him and put a $20 in his tip jar, bringing his total earnings up to $36.50. He had hoped to make a lot more money but said that he realized in the end that if he worked steadily throughout the day and collected an hourly wage equal to what he had made playing for that 45 minutes in the subway (counting quarters as well as $20 bills both), it would actually be worth his while to sit there all day and play. It is easy to lose that perspective however… I don’t foresee him playing his million dollar Stradivarius in the subway again any time soon.

If you have expectations of being busy, but have just a trickle of business throughout the day it’s easy to get bored and anxious. You may eventually sound desperate to the passersby and deter them rather than attract them. You may be barking to people because you are trying to get some work, but you will appear to be barking AT them in anger for not taking you up on your offer… Remember, your job is to entertain them, not the other way around. They’re just going about their regular business having a nice day… If you find yourself losing perspective, one of the most glorious things ever about busking is that you have low overhead and it is entirely possible to guiltlessly pack up, go home or go out to the pub and get a drink, chill out, take the rest of the day off or come back later when your spirits improve. Ain’t nobody got time for that crazy stuff!

This is a fun job. If you’re not having fun you’re doing it wrong. I recommend approaching people in a way that sounds like you have a secret you want to tell them or a gift you want to give to them. Try it sometime and see how it sounds. One of the best words of advice I ever got came from a telemarketing scammer who dicked me over… He was an unscrupulous asshole but he was a hell of a salesman. He said, “If you get someone on the phone who clearly isn’t interested in the offer, just hang up on em. Don’t let them waste another second of your time. There are plenty of people out there who would LOVE to hear all about it. Why waste your time arguing with the people who have already made up their mind that they aren’t interested? The time you waste trying in vain to talk them into it could be better spent with one of the people who IS INTERESTED!” I have been much happier since I took it to heart.

Once you do attract people’s attention and convince someone to make a transaction with you, you will find that there are many different types of tippers. I will go into that in detail later. One type of tipper that you wan to avoid that the walk by busker is particularly vulnerable to are families with small children. Not all of them are bad of course but at certain times and in certain locations they can be devastating… Again, not always, but they MAY pay with change and take up your time asking you to do multiple tasks for the same very low reward. You can always say no and run the risk of upsetting them, you can choose to work at a time when the low tippers are less likely to be around or a location where they are not as prevalent. If you are in private place though you might be stuck with them though… (Once again, females may have a different experience with this group.) You can fool them by “sweetening” your tip bucket by putting higher value bills on the top of the money in your tip bucket so that when somebody looks in stealthily to determine what the average tip people give you is, it will appear that most people are giving you higher value bills rather than change that will usually weigh down the bills if it is dropped on top of them. I always bring along a couple of fins especially for this purpose. Something to consider is that a person is more likely to give you a bigger tip if they have to hand it to you and watch you put in into the tip jar (or your pocket-recommended) yourself. Small children with nickels however are the kiss of death if their parents aren’t within earshot. THEY HAVE NO SHAME! Lol!

The reason I am posting more information that usual is because I want to get your ready for St. Pats!! If you are thinking about trying busking, this weekend is a perfect time to start!! Saint Patrick’s day is the weekend after next and it is on Sunday, so the entire weekend will be a good time to be out and about. Right now is the best time to scout a location and get in a little practice so that you are ready for the crazy crowds full of green beer! I’d like to hear your stories of busking if I’ve inspired you to get out there so take notes for me! 🙂

Next post on busking I will cover SECURITY. (might come in handy with all the drunks you’ll see on St. Pats)


A Guy Walks Into a Bar… (continued)


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)

A Guy Walks Into a Bar (Continued…)


YOU SHOULD KNOW: At least in America, cops have a right to stop you, ask you for your ID and ask you questions about whatever they feel like. They have NO RIGHT to search you or your belongings, take fluids from your body, touch you roughly or confiscate any of your property without probable cause or a warrant. You have a right to use your cell phone video camera or any other recording device to record them at any time.

You have a constitutional right to practice free speech in any PUBLIC place, you do not need to ask anybody’s permission. Be careful to make sure that it is a PUBLIC place and not PRIVATE PROPERTY. That is another story. Each and every kind of performer has a right to express themselves under FEDERAL LAW, which means -(in case it’s not absolutely clear to the city, county and state lawmakers AND COPS) -supercedes local laws. Your mileage may vary however by degree of how much the local law wants to harass you, what they think they can get away with and how far you want to push your luck by dissenting. If you do choose to dissent, a fantastic way to get the most out of this experience is to boldly hold up your cell phone video camera and recite your rights to the officers as they’re pushing your face into the ground and going through your pockets with your arms behind your back, kicking you in the stomach, pepper spraying you in the mouth and hitting you over the head with a stick. (flip them off, spit, cuss, fight back and kick the window of the squad car at your discretion)


“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Let me first say that most police officers are friendly and helpful. It is not the officer’s job to start trouble and harass people, but that certainly doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, …often. There’s a word for the type of person who wants a job where they can walk around/ride motorcycles around/cruise around in comfy cars …aimlessly, basically because they are hoping for a random person to ‘do something wrong’ so that they can dominate them with a stick, a gun or some handcuffs and a badge that gives them permission to do so. This word is “SOCIOPATH”. A friendly and helpful police officer does not get angry when they get through an entire day without having to stop some sort of trouble from happening. A sociopath however will go crazy if there’s nobody to bully…

They have bad days and sometimes they just get bored… If one of these pricks is eyeballing you, obviously the best idea is to stay out of their way. If they harass you or others around you, be quiet, leave, whatever it is they ask you to do. Just try to NOT get physically abused, taken into custody or arrested if you can help it so you can raise a harassment complaint against them to the city when you are some place safe. If going to the city about it is a dead end call the ACLU. 212-549-2500, http://www.ACLU.org (Trust me. I am a card carrying member. I have called them several times in this situation and I’m glad I did!) If you DO get harassed, remember where and when you were and make note of any shops or street lights with cameras on them if there wasn’t anybody close by to record the exchange first hand. If there is an altercation, get their badge number and name if possible.

Be advised: ALWAYS CARRY ID WITH YOU. IF YOU ARE HASSLED BY THE COPS AND DO NOT HAVE A VALID FORM OF ID, THAT IS CONSIDERED “PROBABLE CAUSE” AND THEY CAN LEGALLY TAKE YOU INTO CUSTODY AND HOLD YOU FOR UP TO 24 HOURS WITHOUT ACTUALLY ARRESTING YOU FOR NO REASON AT ALL. If this happens, they are still not allowed to rough you up. They will pat you down, put you in a squad car and hold you in a cell, but they are not able to go through bags, boxes or sealed compartments like the trunk of your car without a warrant. They may not take bodily fluids from you or cause you to breath into any apparatus either.

In order to avoid a confrontation, it is best to check out the pitch before attempting to busk there, verify that it is public property and if there are other entertainers around, ask them the protocol and if the fuzz is friendly or not. Once again, keep in mind that since you have a constitutional right to practice free speech in any public place, you do not need to ask anybody’s permission -however a little politeness goes a long way towards a pleasant busking experience. Therefore, a prudent performer may also choose to call ahead to the city clerk of courts, solicitor or controller (or go visit the chief of police in a pinch) to see what the official protocol is before performing wherever. In my experience, most performers have no idea of what their actual rights are (one of the reasons I’m writing this) so it’s best to ask the city, in my opinion, and then go from there. Either way, one would have an idea of what to expect when they start busking, for better or worse. The old adage that it is “easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission” does not ring true.

Incidentally if there is a concern about whether creating tangible, tactile, individual, physical artwork that can be taken away is covered by the first amendment, (caricatures, face paint, balloons, etc… anything that can be called a ‘souvenir’ so to speak) consider that the materials were not worth anything before being manipulated by the artist, and that entertaining manipulative service is done in exchange for a freely given donation/tip to the artist and not a stated amount of compensation. The artwork cannot be produced without the paper/balloon/paint/etc… so it is considered just another form of artistic expression that is freely given away and not a product that has an estimated value.

The only things I can think of that would be possibly at the city’s discretion are potentially dangerous or destructive materials or equipment, like fire, water, paints, certain chemicals, chainsaws, giant swords, heavy objects, wild animals, firearms, explosives, etc… I highly recommend getting the OK from the city before putting your thing down on the pitch with these materials in your act. I do not know who would be liable if there were an accident. Chances are it would be the city, which I believe would possibly give them a legal reason to deny you the right to practice your act in certain areas without some restrictions.

It is important to specify that BUSKING is covered under the 1st Amendment. Retail operations are something completely different, are not considered protected speech and I do not have any opinion whatsoever on the subject. If you are charging a set retail price for something, if your operation can not easily be picked up and moved or you are producing something that is meant to be consumed- you are not busking and you DO ACTUALLY NEED TO FIND OUT WHAT THE CITY’S RULES, FEES, PERMITS, ETC… ARE FOR WHAT YOU ARE DOING.


A Guy Walks Into a Bar… (Continued…)

In most cases the local performers will have a regular system worked out for how time is divided between performers on the popular pitches. Of course arguments between performers, local merchants or John Q. Public sometimes happen and when they do it brings undue attention from the local law enforcement agency and in some instances the city steps in to regulate the pitch for the performers if it happens often. The city will try to stop buskers from performing, sometimes force the participants to pay a fee or get a license or even hold try-outs for a particular pitch depending on the popularity of the pitch and how lenient the City chooses to be in the matter. The important thing to remember is that (at least in America) the first amendment protects your right to free speech, (that is, your ability to express yourself, via your performance, whatever that is, wherever you feel like doing so) making all of this regulation by the city, county or state ILLEGAL. Legal or not, sometimes there is a reason for the madness and it is best to just stick with the program that seems to work best. It keeps things friendly at least between the buskers and the local business owners and the cops. BUT SOMETIMES the cops just like to be dicks… and buskers are unfortunately easy targets for dicks…

In the next post I will go over your rights as a busker and some steps you can take to avoid confrontations with other performers, local merchants, cops and other forms of trouble that might pop up.

Copyright Adam Pate, 2013