Build a stage: You could put a rope on the ground in a circle. This works very well for it gives the audience a *safe* place and a *not safe* place. It also puts you on stage and adds focus. Kids are usually very observant and do not cross the rope. Some buskers found that a simple thing like the rope/stage told people that they were the audience and here is the performer.
Get the first row: To encourage a tight audience IMMEDIATELY introduce yourself and TELL everyone to move up to the rope. The object of all this is to get a tight first row. If you can get a tight circle of people one or two bodies deep, others will see the well-formed group and investigate. It is important to give the audience a sense of identity from the start. Give them something in common. Tell the first group of people an inside joke. Let them in on something that the latecomers will have to be curious about.
Pass the Hat: Pass the “hat”; don’t toss it on the ground. People want to give YOU money, not some dusty old hat. When you finish the finale, take a moment to be honest and grateful to your audience. Let them know that you truly appreciate that they stayed and watched. This is the time to take a long, well earned bow, and let the audience see the person behind the performance. Take only a moment, because you have to keep performing until the last person drops the last bill into the hat. You have to be your funniest, cleverest, nicest, whatever during the hat pass. Be aggressive without being annoying. Learn a dozen or so hat lines. Keep the crowd entertained while you pass the hat and they won’t leave.
It’s easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission. However, Busking is new here and a lot of people don’t know how to respond to it. If you are busking on public property, NOT selling, but accepting donations/tips, then you are protected by ‘freedom of speech’. However, if they look like a cross between Arnold Schwartzeneger and Frankenstein, then it may be best just to leave. It’s best not to try to explain the difference between busking and vending; if they ask (or demand) that you stop or leave, just politely excuse yourself. You’re right, there’s no arguing, even if you are right. Simply move to another location. At this stage of Busking in Pittsburgh, that just may be the best course of action. We are working with City Council to legalize it.
It is bad form to ‘perform’ any place people pay an entrance fee unless you’re sanctioned by the sponsoring business.
Busking really keeps one sharp and is also great for trying out new material. If security does approach you, if possible, get the audience on your side. This makes it very embarrassing for the cop/guard to remove you. Otherwise, a good approach is “I am offering free entertainment and sometimes people tip me.”
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