A Guy Walks Into a Bar, continued…

STANDING YOUR GROUND AND ACCEPTED FORMS OF PAYMENT FOR A BUSKER

When you ask for permission from the establishment’s management, be as brief as possible. Say you would like to entertain guests/visitors with caricatures for tips only. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES LET THEM TALK YOU INTO GIVING THEM A CUT OF YOUR EARNINGS OR MAKING AN EXCLUSIVE AGREEMENT TO ONLY BUSK IN THEIR BUSIINESS (EVEN IF THEY OFFER TO PAY YOU). You are performing an entertaining service to their customers/guests/visitors. Free free for you, free for the bar and you’re free to roam if you want to. They don’t need to pay you and you don’t need to pay them.

Sometimes they will be concerned that you might take money from their earnings or those of the staff, but if they have an ATM machine you might point it out if they suggest that you might be cutting into their profits. Customers will simply use the ATM or a credit card at their establishment if they run out of cash. Cash is necessary for you to accept tips, though it is possible for you to accept credit cards.

Square Up, PayPal and there are many other smart phone apps that are much easier to use in public than you would suspect and the fees are minimal as long as you don’t use them excessively. They have done an excellent job marketing them so that even the crustiest old southern bikers have heard of it and know that it’s legit. Just remember to keep a record of it so A. You will remember how much you actually made that day and B. the Tax Man will need to know. This is certainly another advantage that the one-on-one busker has over the street performer entertaining large groups of people and passing around a hat at the end.

Oh, that reminds me! IF YOU LIKE THE BUSKING BLOG, HAVE LEARNED SOMETHING THAT YOU CONSIDER VALUABLE AND WOULD LIKE TO ‘TIP’ ME, YOU CAN DO THAT BY GOING TO http://www.adampate.com/connect and clicking on the pay pal link. 😉

Adam Pate 2013 All rights reserved.

A Guy Walks Into a Bar (Continued)

CIRCLE BUSKING

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.

NEXT: CAFE BUSKING AND STROLLING!

(COPYRIGHT ADAM PATE 2013, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

A Guy Walks Into a Bar- (Continued…)

(Walk By Busking Continued)
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT OPERATIONAL SECURITY

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)

SO A GUY WALKS INTO A BAR…

(Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…)

Chapter 1: An overview of “busking”.

Busking is a word that describes an entertainer, artist or musician of some kind performing for an individual or a crowd of random people, unbidden, in hopes of collecting tips, rewards or gratuities from the crowd based on the success of their performance. Larger tips are generally given according to popularity, skill level, comfort level and of course how good the performer is at collecting the tips.

People have been busking since Roman times. Recountours, Jongleurs, storytellers, bards, jesters, street artists, no matter what you want to call them, they’ve always been the counter-cultural stuntmen of society. Trying out unique tricks, artwork, music, stunts, poetry, dance, acrobatics, comedy, tragedy and everything in between (yes, even caricatures) for everybody from the unwashed masses to noblemen, politicians and clerics. Some of pop culture’s most famous performing icons started out busking: Simon and Garfunkel, Santana, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Buffett, Louis Armstrong, Penn and Teller, Bob Hope, Cirque Du Soliel and The Blue Man Group, just to name a few…

As an entertainer, any time you can perform your particular brand of entertainment in public and get an immediate response it’s a great opportunity to learn, practice and get that much closer to becoming a master. If what you do has merit, you will do well. If the pay off is not to your liking you can try new things and discover what works best for you. Yes, that’s right- you can get paid to practice doing something fun! The money you make while busking is some of the hardest and most rewarding money you will ever make, because it is an immediate reward for your successful effort and the amount of the compensation for your effort is based directly on how worthy of reward random people have judged that effort to be. Busking can be a full time job, a useful skill, a way to meet girls, or just something fun to do with your friends in your spare time. In any case you will never go hungry once you’ve got the hang of it!

(Interesting note: It is widely regarded that a female will earn 3 ½ times more than a male doing the same exact performance.)

(An excerpt from the first chapter of “Successful Caricature Busking”, by Adam Pate, copyright, 2013)

Howdy…

I’m Adam Pate. Drawing caricatures for tips in bars in college is what first motivated me to draw quickly. It didn’t take long to discover that drawing faster meant I could draw more people and more drawings of course, meant -MORE TIPS! Being a poor, starving artist, I needed money and stuff, so I decided to concentrate on trying to draw as fast as I possibly could. Improved speed meant more practice, which naturally led to better drawings. It meant I had more opportunities to challenge myself, improve my skills as an artist, invent new ways to draw the features of the people sitting for their caricatures and try new things. -and better drawings also meant BIGGER TIPS!- So there you go!! I’ve been constantly, decidedly, motivated to draw as fast and as well as I can for about 20 years. I do this while strolling through rowdy crowds of people in low lighting conditions. The kind of environment that most caricature artists have nightmares about… I am now proud to say that I am widely considered the fastest, friendliest and most versatile caricature artist in the world by my peers in the international caricature community. (Yes, there is one! We even have CONVENTIONS!!) That’s what I do, I’m good at it and for better or for worse, that’s who I am… I tell you this so you have a background to relate to the rest of this post.

They say every single person in the world knows at least 3 things that you’d like to know… This does not occur to most people. To most people I’m just some 40-something-artist-guy, but from time to time it occurs to me that one or two people might actually be interested in what I know and how I know it. In this blog, I will relate some helpful and educational tips for artists who want to improve their speed, skill (and income), some worthwhile news, and some fun and noteworthy war stories from clubs, gigs and other experiences I have had related to caricature art. I realize that the life and interests of the average caricature artist might sound dull to pretty much everybody on earth… But, I’m here to tell you people… – WE HAVE STORIES. Oh yes we do. We are a fun, spontaneous, surly, goofy, hedonistic, intense bunch of hustlers, characters and visionaries and we certainly see life a little differently than most people!

So, my CHALLENGE is to offer you -the reader- the kind of entertaining, educational and engaging content that will make you go “Hmmm”, occasionally cause your thoughts wander off dreamily, and might make you stay up at night insecurely obsessing  about the secret lives of us caricature artists… (and maybe even want to grow up to be one! Mwah ha ha ha!)

I’m hoping this blog will push me to write down and record the stories I have been collecting and telling people over the years and hopefully one day compile them into a book or two or three…