Special guest blog by StreetJelly performer: Rewind.
SJ Busking Blog – Basement Busking Advice.
Years ago I used to busk on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado. It was a great way to get my music in front of a wider audience as well as make some extra money. Some days I would earn just a few bucks, and others I would come home with a lot more. StreetJelly is the closest thing to an online version of busking I have found. Call it basement busking. I learned a lot of performance tips during my time busking, and many of those are relevant to online busking from the basement. We recently had the chance to take StreetJelly on the road and travel to Asheville, NC to talk with the Asheville Busker’s Collective. I thought it would be a good time to go ahead and publish a blog post on some of these basement busking tips I learned from my Pearl Street days.
• Be prepared. I would never think of playing a song in front of a group of people while busking if I didn’t know the song well. Learn the lyrics if it’s a cover song and know which key you are going to play the song in. Bring a cheat sheet as a backup. If you know you are going to play a song that you need a cheat sheet for in advance, look it up online and keep a separate window open on your computer that you can quickly switch to. Have a set list planned out in advance. It’s not a problem to stray from your set list, but it can help you if you get stuck trying to remember what the heck you were going to play.
• Minimize the time you spend in between each song. If you have a story to tell about the song, that’s fine, but it’s best to keep it brief. When you’re busking, most people are walking by, and you have a short stretch of time to catch their attention. This is true of basement busking, too. If someone pops into your show, and you are tuning for a long time or spending lots of time figuring out what song to do next, chances are good that person will leave your show and go check out something else.
• Don’t wait for requests. It’s human nature that people connect to songs they already know and like, so lots of musicians throw cover songs into their set to maintain crowd interest. You can ask your audience if they have any requests. But if they don’t answer quickly, don’t wait around until they do. Chances are good you won’t know it, and most of the time the viewers just want to hear whatever you want to play.
• Location, location, location. For anyone who has ever busked outside, you know how crucial location can be. With online busking, your location is often wherever in your house you set up; basement, living room, garage, and so on. Before you broadcast, look at how your performance will look to your viewers. Is the lighting good? You’d be amazed at what a lamp or a shop light duct taped to a mic stand can do. Is there a bunch of junk in the background that distracts from your performance? Maybe change locations or put up a backdrop. I made a cheap frame out of PVC pipe and hung a blanket over it when I had to broadcast from a room that had a lot of other stuff going on.
If you have any other basement busking tips, share them in the comments section below.