6 Tips for Successful Busking and Street Performing

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Busking on Lonsdale Street in North Vancouver

I love busking! It’s great way to practice your performance skills, to build your set list and interact with people. There are some tips that I have learned along the ways as I have been busking on an off for the past 10 years. Here they are for you for you in 6 easy steps;

  1. LOCATION – Where you busk makes all the difference of how much tips you will make and how people passing by will react. Make a list of places in your city or town where you know a lot of people will be passing by. If you stand on a quiet street corner chances are you won’t get as much of a response. If you stand in one of the central locations of your city or town you will have a better chance of attracting more people to your music. Also some beaches and sea walk areas can be great places to busk as people are generally in a calm mood walking by the ocean. I have known buskers that busk on a sea walk area and get a good response. Better than on a busy street as many people are in a hurry. Make a list of s0me great locations where you have seen buskers before and give them all a try

   2. BUSKING LICENCE –  Many large cities require buskers to have a licence to perform      on the street. You could alway pretend you didn’t know but then you risk finding out the hard way. Go to city hall in your area to inquire about where you need a licence. Where I’m from in Vancouver there are some areas where you don’t need a licence to busk but several where you do. I know in other cities like Toronto, Canada buskers are required to audition and then get a licence. Where I tend to busk in North Vancouver you are not allowed to use an amplifier. Check with the local city hall.

3. EQUIPTMENT – Make sure you get together the right equipment. You can purchase special battery powered busking amps from the local music store. I have a small Trainer amp from Long and McQuade. If you are singing you will need a microphone. I use a Sure 58 dynamic mic which I purchased from Long and MqQuade. You will need a XLR microphone cable and then the appropriate cables for your instrument(s) Are you busking as a group? Make sure you get the right amp/PA system to fit your needs. Also like I mentioned above check to make sure amplification is allowed in the area you are busking. And if you want to keep it simple them go unplugged. I generally don’t use any amplification. Just me and my guitar. The only down side to this is that not everyone can hear you especially if you are close to a busy street. If you plan to take public transit with your equipment make sure you get yourself a small cart or dolly to carry your amp. mic stand, cables etc. Be mindful of peak times where the transit will be busy – not fun to cart your stuff around at those times. What ever way you chose to go about it is up to you.

4.SET LIST-  Your set list is very important when you are busking. You want to connect with the people walking by in a way that will be meaningful to them. If you are a person who writes your own music be sure to mix it with some cover tunes. Choose covers that fit your genre and style. People love hearing songs they are familiar with. Once you have someone’s attention with a cover song they love then introduce them to some of your originals. IMPORTANT! Don’t play the same 5 songs over and over again! Make sure you have enough material to make your performance interesting. My suggestion is have least 2 – 3 hrs worth of different songs if not more. Nothing annoys the local merchants in the area more than hearing the same songs 10 times! It will be good for your own self to have variety. There is nothing wrong with playing the same song over again especially if you are busking for the whole day. Just make sure there is a significant amount of time in-between.

5. Your Performance – Make your performance lively and engaging. Get your body into it, move with the music. Smile and make eye contact with people walking by. Even if someone doesn’t look at you or return your smile keep doing it. Many people will walk by and not pay attention but several people will smile, put money in your case, buy a CD and some will interrupt you and talk your ear off!  People love to see you having fun and connecting with the music. Don’t slump, have your head down or look disengaged. When someone puts money in your case or hat say a quick thank-you or give them a nod. Many people are lonely and want connection. Maybe you smiling, making eye contact and playing for them is the highlight of their day.

6. OTHER NEAR BY BUSKERS, PANHANDLERS AND SOLICITERS – When you are out busking you are usually not alone. You share the street with many other people. Panhandlers and people selling/promoting products are among who you will find sharing the street with you. The general unwritten rule is don’t stand too close to someone else who is busking, selling etc. You want to be courteous to others. If another busker, soliciter or panhandler starts to invade your space(and believe me this does happen) then you need to take action. Kindly yet firmly let them know that are busking and need your space at the moment. If they are rude and refuse to move then the best thing to do is change locations.  If they threaten you then call the police. Your safety and enjoyment is of utmost importance while you busk. I have been lucky in all my years of busking to never have been threatened. I have had instances where people have been rude and invading my space. I found politely asking them to move helped.

Remember busking and performing your music is an art. No one has the right to belittle what you do. Go out there and have fun and make connections. Busking for me has opened many doors. I have met some good friends and landed some gigs through busking. Get yourself out there!! It’s worth it!

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Taking Back Creative Ground

I am happy to say that I have won some small creative victories in the past week or so. Last Tuesday I got to perform at the Railway Club. I shared the night with songwriters Zulu Panda and Zach Saunders. We each did a set. I got to perform with a band. My friend Tony Lum was on drums and my friend Randall Barnettson on base guitar. Leading up to the show there was a lot of challenges. I was battling with all those ugly lies in my head. Lies I’ve explained before in other posts. All those lies melted away as I took to the stage with Randall and Tony. I felt alive on stage. I felt like things came easy. I was relaxed and in the moment. I think it adds a whole other dimension to have a band come perform with you. Solo is good but I love performing with others. I believe music is meant to be shared and I feel alive when I get to make music with others.

On topic of my new album. I am looking to get into the studio again in February. I have a few songs that are ready to go. I have some funds set aside but I’m looking into possibly doing some crowd funding. I am looking forward to the process of creating something too. I’m also planning to book some more shows in Vancouver this year too. I love this journey and its alway the small victories along the way that make all the difference.

Fall Seven, Stand Up Eight

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Life has dealt some pretty tough cards for me the past while. I keep hitting head on with resistance coming against me with all my music and creative dreams. I keep wrestling with feelings of not being good enough, not having what it takes, not having the strength, not having the funds and the list goes on. All the doubts and fears keep knocking around in my head trying to pull me down to that desperate place. That desperate place of not being able to break free.

You know something all those yucky feeling can shut the frick up!!! I am beautiful, talented, worthy, called. I have a passion, a talent, a vision. I’m not quite where I need to be but I’m further than I was before. There is a divine plan and purpose for my life.

Have you every felt like giving up on something? Do you have a dream or a vision  for your life? Keep fighting! Keep persevering! There will be loses, set backs, failures, a few embarrassments. There will be moments where you feel so vulnerable and where you feel you are putting your soul on the line. But dear one “Don’t give up!”

Greater Things to Come – Stay Tuned

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This picture basically says it all. I’m in a season pondering and dreaming new things. I am finishing up my music diploma at Pacific Life Bible College. I have lots of ideas swimming around my mind about my music and creative pursuits. Like the title of this post, greater things are yet to come!  Stay with me. I won’t reveal all I’m planning yet. But in time new dreams, ideas and projects will be documented on here. Stay tuned!

Cross Canada Tour Update/Sometimes We Just Need to Keep Fighting For What We Love

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Help me go on tour this summer! Click below to donate;

https://www.indiegogo.com/project/kara-lockwood-s-cross-canada-july-2015-music-tour/embedded/1559548

I was just looking back at my post from February 2 of this year. I was talking about how I wanted to go on a Cross Canada Tour this summer. I wanted to combine music with travel and apply for the Via Rail “Artists on Board Program.” Well the good news is I am going on a music tour this summer.  It will soon be happening in less than a month. In less than a month I will be heading to Halifax with my boyfriend. So far I have 2 shows in Montreal and 2 in Regina. I’m waiting to confirm one in Toronto on the 13th of July. Well this has been my first attempt at going on a music tour. I can’t say I’ve done it it all perfectly. It many ways is a real humble little makeshift music tour. I had this vision of traveling across Canada and sharing my music both at venues in cities along the way and on the Canadian Via Rail trains. As I wrote in my earlier post that Via Rail has an Artist on Board Program where you can ride the train for free in exchange for live performances. My vision was to get on that program so I could ride the train for free and share my music. I applied for the Artist on Board Program but unfortunately did get accepted.

Let me tell you guys when you have a vision and a calling for your life sometimes things can get hard. Sometimes the opposite of what you hope, dream and plan happens. There are road blocks along the way to your dream and your vision. But I want to tell you not to give up! Sometimes even the people closest to us don’t agree with what we are doing with our lives. Often we have to keep going no matter what is thrown against us. We have to be willing not to quit. Yeah there have been times where I’ve wanted to not go through with this tour. I’ve had some rejection, some set backs, some people not quite getting what I’m doing and the biggest thing is that I’ve struggled with my own self doubt. But I have to make a choice, I have to stay true to the vision I committed myself to this summer. I have to keep going when the pressure is on. And believe me the pressure can come on quite strong. I want to encourage you guys not to give up. Make it your goal to pursue what you love relentlessly. Your life may not look like what everyone else’s does but you are a unique individual.

So the latest with me? I will be putting on a house concert next Saturday June 13 at 7:30pm in my buildings common room. I will be taking donations at the door and will have some artwork and crafts for sale too.  There will be free food and drinks with some great live music. Stephanie Ratcilff a local Vancouver musician will be there performing too. It will be a great night.

I am still going to go on my tour. You can check my “Shows” page for details. I plan to update on my blog as I go this summer. I also have a Crowd Funding Campaign that I put together. If you want to donate to my tour that would be awesome. For your donation you can claim “perks.” Click on the link above to support the tour.
 Happy dreaming, creating and doing what you love to do,

Got to Record a New Song at the Studio

Recording the vocal tracks to my song "Words Can't Express."
Recording the vocal tracks to my song “Words Can’t Express.”

Yesterday I got to record a new song at White Water Studios in Surrey, B.C. This recording session was a part of one of the courses I’ve been taking at school. The course was a song writing lab. Each of us in the class wrote 2 songs and these songs were workshopped by the class and instructor. I got some great feedback and input into my songs. I picked the song “Words Can’t Express” to get recorded in the studio yesterday. It was so great to be back in the studio after a couple of years. I got to work with Roy Salmond, the studio owner, producer and musician and Carolyn Arends. Caroline Arends is a seasoned performer and songwriter. She has released several albums and gone on tours all over North America. She lived in Nashville for a while. She is well known in the Christian Contemporary music world. I would classify her music as folk rock though.

It was such a treat to work with Carolyn and Roy. They did a good job working with me and making my song sound great. I put a good 8 1/2 hours in at the studio. One of my classmates Tyler, was recording his song “Nightmare.” I got to watch Carolyn and Roy work on his song. It was such a great experience.

I loved the experience so much that I asked Roy if he’d be willing to work with me further and help me record and produce a full length album. I have my EP “Free Child” but feel I’m due for a full length album soon. I just e-mailed Roy my vision for my album. He said he’d love to work with me when I’m ready. I would have to have a plan for funding the album. Recording and production can be an expensive process. I plan to have my song posted up soon on this website for you guys to listen to. For now here are some pictures from yesterday. Enjoy.

Roy working on adjusting the levels for my vocals.
Tyler chilling with Roy’s guitars.
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Roy adjusting the levels on my vocals
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Carolyn recording the guitar part for my song.
Another shot of me recording my vocals
Another shot of me recording my vocals

Sometimes Words Are Not Enough

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I have been thinking a lot more lately about music. As well I have been practicing a lot more. I have been thinking about music practice and songwriting and how much of a discipline it truly its.  Before music school I used to have this idea in my head that songwriting was all about inspiration. You had to wait for those moments when the song just “comes” to you.  I have found this not to be true. As my guitar teacher Mark Hildderbrand puts it “Often you have go chase creativity.” Yes we have to work for that song. Creativity is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Songwriting requires a lot of thought, input from others,  playing around with the chords and melodies and patience. I have learned that songwriting is a journey. I am not going to become a great songwriter and seasoned musician overnight. It requires work and dedication. I requires trying, working, failing and trying working and failing all over again.

Last night I had my songwriting class at school. This is a class where we are writing songs, performing them in front of the class and getting input from the class mates and teacher. With shaking hands I played my songs for the class. They didn’t sound as great as they did in my head. My guitar playing is a choppy and off the beat as I play some chords I don’t usually play. I stand there and graciously accept constructive criticism from the class and instructor. My songs my brain children, my creations and are picked apart. This is not my favourite part about music and songwriting but I’m learning it is essential. We need other people in our songwriting journey. Sometimes we need to face the truth that we are not as great as we think we are. We need constructive criticism so that we can grow and become better.

After class I felt a little discouraged. I felt like “Man 10 plus years of playing the guitar and I’m still not that great.” I also think to myself that I should have it by now. I should after over 10 years be a much better musician than I am. I wallow in a cloud of self pity of my transit ride back home from school. You know what, who cares if I’m not the best. Who cares if 10 plus years have gone by and I’ve made slower progress than a lot of other people. I still have many years ahead of me to get it right. Self pity you suck!!  But as artists we can get like this. We need to be gentle with ourselves. I have written before that in order to be a good artist we must first have the courage to be a bad artist. This is very freeing for me. It’s ok to suck for a while so that eventually I can be awesome. This inspires me to not give up!

I love the quote pictured above. Sometimes there just are no words only music and only a song. Music transcends barriers and reaches into the very core of one’s being. That’s my goal I want to become so good that my music reaches people’s very centre. I am a unique person with a unique voice and a unique message to share with the world. And you my friends are unique in your own way too. So let your originality shine and be your best self. Listen or play some of your favourite music today.

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

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I love this quote and find a lot of freedom in it. So often we get caught up in not being able to make decisions. We get paralyzed with fear. This quote frees us up to take chances. As on of my favourite speakers Joyce Meyer puts it “sometimes you need to step out and find out.” Is there a painting class you want to sign up for? A trip you want to take? Do you want to try you hand at some stand up comedy? Then go for it. Now do everything within reason. Don’t hurt anyone in the process and don’t jump off a bridge thinking you can fly. Do take positive risks though.

Here is a list of risks I would like to take;

1. Take time off work to travel – possibly to Australia and New Zealand

2. Record a full length album for my music and pay for it through crowd funding.

3 Move to a different area of town.

4 Do some more couch surfing.

5. Play a different instrument like the mandolin at an open mic or one of my shows(I usually play guitar)

What’s your list? What creative risks would you like to take? Fears aside you deserve to go for it!!