Assigned Street Performing Spots are Lame

A few weeks ago I was performing at a fair. I was doing street style shows and they gave me an assigned spot and assigned times. On paper this sounds like a good idea, however in practice it’s usually a horrible idea. 99% of the time the entertainment coordinator doesn’t walk the grounds at different times of the day to see where the shade is.

Here’s one of my assigned spots a few minutes before my assigned start time:

street magic show spot

I should mention it was over 90 degrees out and you’ll notice there’s no shade. If you look to the right, you’ll see my case is in the shade, but most of the case is in the sun. There’s zero usable shade at this spot and very few people will stand in the sun for more than a few minutes. I personally will stand in the sun as I’m getting paid, but I don’t expect an audience to do that.

However a little bit up the pathway there’s this spot:

street magic show spot

There’s plenty of shade and I decided to “go rogue” and do my magic show there with shade for the audience. I was able to get people to stop here and watch the show.

Personally I’m a “ask for permission” person and not a just do it and “ask for forgiveness” person. However this was a situation where it made sense and if anyone asked about it, I could simply show them the pictures and I think they’d agree with me. Also I’d probably walk that person into the full sun spot and then show them the pictures and talk for a long time and watch them get uncomfortable in the sun to emphasize my point.


Still Working On The Street Show…

One of the challenges of trying to relearn to do a street style show is trying to figure out what the show is. Is it a close up show or a bigger half circle show? I really love doing close up magic when roving at a fair, and I’m finding it hard to transition from building a crowd with close up to then turning that group into a circle show crowd.

Part of the challenge is “ego”, I’m finding that I have some fear of losing people and I need to get over that. I’m afraid of failure in this context. I’m pretty fearless on stage with taking risks and trying new things, so I’m not sure why this has gotten into my head. I’m afraid of people leaving. I know that people will filter in and out of the show and that’s just what it is, but I my mind can’t get over seeing people leave.

I did find when I went out to do my “roving” set, if I immediately put up my rope front row, that kept me from doing tabled close up magic, and really helped for me to just do the bigger stuff. I do need to make a judgement call based on how busy the areas that I’m assigned to are at my assigned times as to what will be more effective, close up magic or a half circle show. Sometimes there’s very little foot traffic and I think it feels strange trying to build a big show for the handful of people that walk through the area.

Hoping to get some of my fearlessness back soon!


Balls in Hat Routine!

The last couple of weeks I started working on a Balls In Hat routine that I learned from Jimmy Talksalot. It starts with two in the hand and one in the pocket and ends with a nine balls coming out of your hat! It’s a really solid routine!

You can see parts of it in this reel from the fair I was performing at:

@louiefoxx Magic at the @sanmateocountyfair! #magic#sanmateocountyfair #sanmateo #closeupmagic #magician #bayarea #countyfair #louiefoxx #magictricks #cardtrick ♬ original sound – Louie Foxx

There’s a ton of great info and routines on Jimmy’s Substack. There’s free info as well as stuff for subscribers. It’s $8 a month to subscribe and totally worth it to read and watch all the content he has up there. The magic and essays are focused on street magic, but there’s a lot to be learned there if you don’t do street magic.


Sometimes You Gotta Take a Leap of Faith!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about Busker Organs and mine finally showed up…after about a month in transit from Europe! This was a crazy transaction, the guy who made it only takes wire transfer which has no buyer protection and these organs aren’t cheap! I don’t know the guy or have any mutual friends with him, so it was a total leap of faith and I half expected the Busker Organ to never show up.

Well, as of Saturday I have it!

The wooden box it was shipped in was damaged in transit. It looked like it had been dropped, then was dragged across a warehouse! The top and bottom were taped on!

Getting it home to check it out, I got to check out the condition.

Opening the crate, my heart sank when I say most of the pipes were knocked out of place, and it look s like someone tried to put them back (incorrectly). The clips the hold the lid on and the decorative wood pieces on the front were broken off and there were gouges in the wood.

Luckily I had a picture of the organ before it was shipped an was able to use that as a reference to begin to replace the pipes.

Busker Organ

While it’s disappointing that the decorative pieces had broken off, it’s a pretty easy fix to glue them back on.

Then I had the task to tuning the organ, and I got to give it a crank!

Busker street organ seattle

It worked and sounded great! I just booked a gig for tonight at Magic Mondays in Seattle for an idea I have with it. It’s not magic, but should be fun, and thanks in advance to the Magic Monday’s crew for letting me try this!


Rough Street Pitch!

When I was in Mexico there were a lot of “ambient” street shows. Those are shows like a guitar player that you walk by, maybe watch for a song, and then move along. There were very few “circle” street shows that were longer presentations that built a crowd.

There’s a lot that goes into a circle show, like getting people to stop, uniting those people into an audience and getting them to commit to watching the whole thing.

One of the few circle shows that I saw in Mexico City was a dance/acrobalance group.

The challenge with the spot that they picked was that right in front of their performing area was a road. I understand that they needed a larger footprint for their show, so they were pretty limited to locations and they fit in this one.

The active street meant they could build maybe one row between them and the street. Then the second row of people would be across the street. I’m going to bet you’re not surprised that no one really watched from across the street.

Ultimately with the challenges of this location, they only managed to pull a handful of people into their crowd.

street performing pitch

They were doing some cool stunts, but this is a good example of where soo much more goes into street performing than simply having a good show!


Busking in Sydney

Walking around the area where the cruise ships dock in Sydney, Australia, there are a good amount of street performers. Lots of ambient, music acts and a couple of them were cultural acts. I’ll talk a bit more about the acts in a bit, however the thing I noticed was all the acts with amplified sound used the Roland Street Cube EX. That’s the same one I use for my street show PA, so I guess I’m part of the “cool kids”.

One of the first acts we came across was this kid who was playing guitar. The sign he has in his case says that he’s deaf and he’s actually playing.

I’m not a guitar player, but to my untrained eye, his hands didn’t really match up with the sound. I could totally be wrong, but if I’m right, it’s a solid hustle!

Then there was this guy with the drum.

For the little while we watched him, he didn’t really do anything remarkable. I’m sure that he’s great, and that’s simply based on his sign boating about how many social media followers he has.

That’s the take away, signage is a lot more important now to busking than it was when I was a teenager and did it for money.

Then there were two cultural acts. The first one was just guy singing and making music.

It was really an ambient act with no engagement with people (that I saw).

However the second one was a group and the guy had some showman ship flair!

Of all the acts I saw, he was the only one that built a crowd. He did little talks and call and response things, like “we call this a ____…everyone say ____” and talked to the audience.

With a big cruise ship in town and it unloading and loading passengers, doing something cultural is smart. Ship passengers want to feel like they’re learning about where they’re visiting, and I think this was the act that connect with the audience the most because of that.

Also, while I’m not knocking the other cultural act that was using a percussion instrument, I’d bet 90% of the tourists want to see the digeridoo. Sure there’s a lot more to aboriginal culture, but honestly are you busking to teach people or make money? Yes, you can still teach people and if that’s in your heart, you absolutely should do what’s authentic to yourself and goals. However if you’re going to try to convince people to give you money, you need to figure out how to deliver that message in a way that will reach them (and their wallets).


To Lure With Spectacle…

To lure with spectacle by jimmy talksalot

A while ago I got the book To Lure With Spectacle by Jimmy Talksalot at the recommendation of my buddy Skip Banks. I was having an issue with my street show and he said the book might help me.

The issue I was having was mentally I was getting upset at people that would stick around for one trick and then leave. It’s a small percentage of the audience, and it really bugged me. In the book Jimmy writes about audiences “doing you a favor” by watching versus you doing the audience a favor by performing for them. This is a huge mental shift and really helped me out. I’m no stranger to performing for a transient audience, but sometimes you forget things and a refresher course is needed.

If you are thinking about street performing or want to make your street show better, I totally recommend this book. I don’t busk, I perform street style shows at fairs. The huge difference is at the end, I don’t ask for a tips. If you’re in the fair market, this book is also very worthwhile!


To Lure With Spectacle!

When I was performing in King City, CA a few weeks ago my buddy Skip Banks let me read his copy of To Lure With Spectacle by Jimmy Talksalot. I mentioned to Skip that there was a couple of things about my street show that I didn’t like and he brought in the book for me to read the next day.

To lure with spectacle by jimmy talksalot

I was a great read and it really helped me solve some of the problems I was having with my street show. I like it so much I bought one for myself!

The current edition looks different from the previous one, it’s got a lot less frills, but the same great information. If you’re interested in doing street shows, I highly recommend it!

When Not to Busk…

What’s wrong with some people. This was posted in a magicians group on Facebook:

I hope that the guy was just trolling and not serious. It’s insanely unethical, it’s like busking for tips in a hotel lobby or inside the gate at Disneyland.

Here’s my replies:

As for consequences, the cruise line can absolutely ask you to stop. If you don’t, they can disembark you any port. The bigger picture is that at the end of the every cruise passengers fill out comment cards and rate things like the entertainment. There could be some confusion as to whether or not the magician who decides to busk works for the cruise line, in which case they may mark the magician down or leave negative comments about the magician hustling tips. This isn’t good for the guy who got hired to work there.

If you’ve ever thought of doing this…don’t.

Extreme Street Performing…

In Seattle one of the spots that people street perform is at the Pike Place Market. The challenge there is there is a permit system and a lot of rules. However if you cross the street you are still in an area with high tourist traffic and there are no rules.

I was just down there and across the street from the Pike Place Market on the corner, there was a crazy set up for a band doing a street show!

The band didn’t even fit on the corner, they spilled out onto the street. The have their own power supply, five speakers and even a giant umbrella! This is some next level street performing, you can hear them blocks away!

One of the things with most street performers is the ability to be mobile. The time it takes to set up is time you could be performing, I’m going to imagine this set up is a pain to unload from the car and build before you start performing, then you have to take it down at the end of the day. Then you factor in that there are 3-4 people involved and everyone gets a piece of the hat. I’m curious how long they can do this and still be profitable AND how long before they get a ticket for being in the street. They’re set up at a busy intersection.

I do like that they’re doing what they need to do to bring their art to the people!