- Cash donations are down 48%. Capture digital payments seamlessly for more impressive returns.
- Funnel your audience with social media tags. Offer free videos of your performance that funnel into your merchandise and paid media.
- Use Patreon or “Buy Me A Coffee” to attract monthly subscribers and benefactors. This ensures a steady income!
I use to feel sorry for street performers. They work so hard at their craft. Yet, tips and audience attention spans are dwindling because most of us do not carry cash the same way as before and our phones provide instant entertainment but there’s a subset of entertainers who flip this script so it will work in their favor. The following are advanced techniques from performers who use new marketing tools to capitalize on their skills.
Capture The Whale
Buskers, as some street performers like to call themselves, rarely make a living off of tips and donations anymore. Today’s top earners know that they have to capture a few whales to make every performance day worthwhile. What is a whale? It’s that one person who becomes so excited by your performance, that they are willing to purchase or subscribe to a product or service that relates to your form of entertainment.
Street performers are starting to use standalone placards, business cards or clothing that have their web address or QR Code that will guide someone to their online paid lessons to teach admires how to play a similar instrument or learn a particular magic trick they performed. I interviewed a violinist earlier this year, whose placard funneled people to all of his video lessons for just $49. He told me on a bad day, he’ll make $25 in tips and get 2 purchases online from a whale. During the festival season, he may get even fewer tips but capture 18 or more wales a day that purchases his lessons. That’s more than $500 daily! This brings me to the next tool I just mention, the Funnel.
Funnel Your Audience
As I said before, donations and tips from audiences are harder to get. We live in a credit and debit card-carrying world with very little change and single bills available to give. This is why more sophisticated performers have websites that funnel visitors to their free videos, music downloads, and social media that eventually funnel admirers to paid downloads of music, performances, and lessons which are way more lucrative than open hat donations.
Drop The Mic
Every physical performance should have a “drop the mic” moment. Magicians seem to fail, only to have trick redeemed with an astonishing surprise. Musicians start with a light solo then break out in song and add a chorus or impromptu sing-a-long with the audience with more volume and vigor. Changing the pace of your performance halfway or two-thirds into your act interrupts the flow of expectation. Speeding up or changing the pitch of your speech after a short pause shakes up and excites even the passerby audience. Action and horror films used this technique for years because it works so well and makes one’s performance stick out in a world full of distractions.
Grab The Goose
Right after you “Drop The Mic”, the audience is primed for your pitch to following your performance online. This is called “Grabbing The Goose”. Your audience has just been wowed by your performance! It’s time to funnel them to your site or social media account. Announce your website. Point to it or your QR Code on your placard or your clothing with the information on it. Invite people to take pictures of your website info and let them know what they saw was only a glimpse of your talent.
Ride The Wave
If your city or county permit allows it, position yourself close to a sporting event or near an entry to a festival. Here, you are riding the wave of the event since people are excited about where they are going with the elevated expectation of fun. Crowds are more accepting of street performers and it’s a two-for-one when it comes to parents trying to entertain their kids. Tips are higher but the amount of whales willing to follow you online for themselves as well as their kids is astronomical compared to a busy road during rush hour in a major city.
Keep in mind, it’s not about location as much as it’s about timing. A busker can make thousands of dollars more in Canton Ohio using these tools than blindly performing anywhere in New York City. Research the flow of traffic and festivals and you might forge a great living in a small or large town as a street performer.