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Advice about busking tours?

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Marion 17 Jun 03 - 12:46 PM
alanabit 17 Jun 03 - 02:11 PM
greg stephens 17 Jun 03 - 06:25 PM
Marion 19 Jun 03 - 04:25 PM
alanabit 19 Jun 03 - 06:30 PM
greg stephens 19 Jun 03 - 07:27 PM
alanabit 20 Jun 03 - 04:32 AM
Willie-O 20 Jun 03 - 06:28 AM
Marion 07 Jul 03 - 06:53 PM
GUEST,MickyMan 01 Jan 04 - 10:31 AM
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Subject: Advice about busking tours?
From: Marion
Date: 17 Jun 03 - 12:46 PM

Hi gang. I know some of you have done lots of busking while travelling; my busking experiences have been almost entirely in the places I've lived. So as I'm planning this long busking tour (see "Hey Americans, can Marion visit you?"), there are a few things I'm wondering about.

Do you think it's worthwhile to find out ahead of time what the local bylaws are for each town, or do you just start playing and see what happens? On the one hand, trying to communicate with city bureaucracies is a pain, and I've found that even if you're technically supposed to have a licence, you don't really need one if nobody cares enough to enforce it. On the other hand, since I'll be in a foreign country most of the time, I'm a tiny bit concerned that a chat with the cops might turn into a chat with the INS.

How do you choose which towns to go to? My plan is just to aim for towns that are the same size as towns I've had good luck in before - or where I have some reason of my own to be interested in the town. Do you think it's worthwhile to try to time your arrival with local special events? And do you have any tips on finding a good spot in a strange town as efficiently as possible?

How do you manage your time when you need to busk to raise funds, but have ground to cover and touristing to do too? Do you find yourself some kind of normal daily rhythm (like busk in the morning, have fun in the afternoon, drive to next town in the evening?) Or would you stay in one place as long as the sun was shining, then travel as long as the rain was falling? Obviously the timing strategy will vary significantly from person to person, but I'd be very interested to hear how other people have done it.

Anything else that you think I should know about touring as busker would be welcome, of course. For what it's worth, I'm a solo, unamplified fiddler. I don't do banter or a bottling routine, I just stand there and play tunes.

Thanks, Marion

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Subject: RE: Advice about busking tours?
From: alanabit
Date: 17 Jun 03 - 02:11 PM

Ah. You were bound to hear from me on this one Marion!
Step one is to get a good, reliable bus. Then kit it out for sleeping and eating the way you like it. It will pay for itself within the first few weeks. You may even be able to sell it afterwards. You will never see your bus and train fare money again. You will never see hotel/hostel money again. Even if you only take breakfast in your bus, it will save you a considerable amount of money within days. Public transport runs to suit the needs of the local citizenry rather than visiting buskers. Time is money as much to a busker as it is to any other self employed person. I have been on the road without a bus and I swear by all your gods that I will never do it again. The most important thing you should do when you get to a town is to play straight away. If you have to worry about finding a bed for the night or look for a place to eat nearby, you have already lost time. If the town proves unplayable, you get get on your way to the next buskable town. Bearing in mind that North America is far larger than the area where I busk, the logistics must be even tougher. I'll post more later. PM me by all means.

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Subject: RE: Advice about busking tours?
From: greg stephens
Date: 17 Jun 03 - 06:25 PM

My golden rule(which I see youre on to anyway)is always get to the town the night before, so you can be up and playing when people hit the streets. Which is 10ish in the countries I know,though I admit I havent tried the USA. I've always found you make your money between 10 and 12.30. give or take.
   Do tell us of your experiences.Good luck.

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Subject: RE: Advice about busking tours?
From: Marion
Date: 19 Jun 03 - 04:25 PM

Thanks gentlemen, and I did indeed know that I'd be hearing from you.   In fact, I probably wouldn't have hatched this plan if I hadn't talked to Alanabit and seen Greg's video...

Alan, I would love to use a car, but to buy and insure one would cost more than I have. And the suggestion of me sleeping alone in a car every night raises my family's level of objection to this trip several notches (they're still unhappy about it, and I'm still going anyway, but the degree of anxiety is less than it would be). So buses and hostels it is - and if I'm really miserable, I can always call it off early.

Greg, to tell you the truth, I'm never up on time to start busking at 10 (I've heard many of the subway buskers here often start at 7 or 8 to get the early commute crowd, poor things). My most profitable time is usually 4:30 to 6:30 pm as people are going home from work, especially on Fridays. I occasionally will busk Friday or Saturday evenings when people are going out - but I find that as it gets later (after 8 or so) I get a lot more men bothering me, so it's not a favourite time though profitable.

Cheers, Marion

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Subject: RE: Advice about busking tours?
From: alanabit
Date: 19 Jun 03 - 06:30 PM

You will do what you want to anyway Marion. If your family can't change your mind, I won't! In case anyone else is reading this though, I should add that having a bus doesn't necessarily mean you intend to sleep in it every night. What it does mean is that your first priority on entering a new town is neither feeding yourself nor accommodation. You can get on and play straight away. I don't know whether age and health will ever permit me to do another busking tour (let alone my family), but if I ever do it again I will be well prepared. I would be tempted to wait another year and get together a show which worked consistently, a good bus and proper insurance. I guess that's the sort of advice you will always get from boring old men! Good luck anyway Marion. Tell us about it when you get back.

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Subject: RE: Advice about busking tours?
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Jun 03 - 07:27 PM

What video of mine have you ever seen, Marion?I'm intrigued. The Boat Band boating round Scotland? Maybe I sent you one, and Ive forgotten, I havent got as many brain cells as I used to have.

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Subject: RE: Advice about busking tours?
From: alanabit
Date: 20 Jun 03 - 04:32 AM

Marion visited me in Köln, Greg. So I showed it to her then.

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Subject: RE: Advice about busking tours?
From: Willie-O
Date: 20 Jun 03 - 06:28 AM

I'd say plan your weekends to be in a good-sized city. Find out where the pedestrian action is for Friday, and where the market is for Saturday.   Be there pretty early on Friday, by mid-afternoon or before, and set yourself up at the most likely "pedestrian action" it until the evening ends.

Then if you can, force yourself to get up early just for Saturday mornings, and get to that market by 7:30 or so. By mid-morning, noon at the latest, you will have taken care of business, and are free to tour around or leave town, whatever strikes your fancy.

I once did $240 (noon Friday to noon Saturday) following this concept in Toronto. The pedestrian place was Yonge Street around the Eaton Centre, and the St. Lawrence Market on Saturday.

If it's the end of the day and you're in a jam for cash, there's not much to be had at supper hour (OK, my experience is the opposite of yours in this regard). Find out if there are any decent-sized concerts on in town and go busk the lineup. Fast $$.

Places: Montreal is fun, La Vieux Montreal (the Old City) is the place. Boston is OK. I found Charleston, S.C. a lot of fun (well, I was there on St Patty's Day).

In Vancouver, where I first busked, it always seemed that I was regarded as a variety of bum on the street. Can't get no respect. Granville Island Market is OK though, but crowded.

If you make it to San Francisco, my experience (mid-70's) was things are pretty loose, but that may have changed. There was lot of highly skilled competition and you really needed a theatrical style to make it.   

Have fun and keep us posted. What direction are you striking out in?

stayin right here

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Subject: RE: Advice about busking tours?
From: Marion
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 06:53 PM

Alanabit said: You will do what you want to anyway Marion I don't want you to think that I'm not open to your advice; I am! But what I'm most interested in is advice on matters that I haven't settled yet, or that I haven't considered. And as for "boring old men"... I'm hoping that this trip will get me closer to being as cool as you are someday.

I did in fact think seriously about postponing the trip to raise money to get a car. But there are some personal circumstances that make this the right time for me to go... also, I kind of doubt I'll ever have enough money at one time to get a car.

Greg, as Alan said, I saw the Boat Band video when I was in Cologne and was very impressed with your adventurousness.

Willie-O, my plan is to head out to Montreal, then New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, then head into New England and down the east coast, then cross the south in the winter, then come up the west coast in the spring. BTW, have you considered busking in Perth? I recently made $220 in five hours (playing hours, that is, not including breaks) at the strip mall.

I'd still be interested to hear how other people handle not knowing the local bylaws. Do you try to stay totally legal, or totally guerrilla, or is there some practical middle ground you've found?

Thanks, Marion

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Subject: RE: Busking Tour from a boat?
From: GUEST,MickyMan
Date: 01 Jan 04 - 10:31 AM

How about busking off a boat? On the same thread...My friends and I did very well in the seaside resorts of New England USA during the summer. If somebody has access to a friend with a boat it's lots of fun for everybody involved to talk your friend into taking you along while they cruise the coast. I'll bet there are even boater's websites where you could hook up with boat-owners that are planning cruises. (Anybody know any?) We did the Connecticut and Long Island coast and having a musician on board ship immediately started a party at every Marina. The wealthy people (or not so wealthy wanna-bees)who hang out at marina docks are bored and looking for human contact. They are also quite generous with tipping. Several places that come to mind are East Haddam and Essex CT on the river, Mystic CT and Greenport, Long Island. Very appreciative audiences with the time to interact, and that's part of the reason why I busk anyway

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