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.

New Album on the Horizon!

Performing at McNally's Pub in Regina
Performing at McNally’s Pub in Regina

Yes the title says it all! I am dreaming, planning and working towards recording another album! As many of you know I released my debut album Free Child in April 2012. I have come along way musically since then. I have been attending the community music program at Pacific Life Bible College for 3+ years now. I have learned a lot about music,songwriting, life, love, travel and all things in-between since then. This new album will be a glimpse and snapshot in time of where I’ve been and where I am musically.

I have changed a lot since the release of “Free Child.” I would love to release an album that captures those changes. I plan to record sometime this spring/summer 2016 at White Water Studios with Roy Salmond. I was pleased to work with him earlier this year as part of one of my music classes at school. I got to record the song “Word’s Can’t Express” with him and loved the final result. Things have been coming together and I want to continue recording and working with Roy at his studio.

The new album will feature a collection of songs on travel, art, adventure, beauty and the creative process. I am working on getting funding through FACTOR. As many of you know FACTOR is a Canadian organization that helps fund musicians with their recordings, tours, music videos, etc. I plan to go for either the demo or full length recording grant. If I can’t get the grant my next plan is to crowd fund my album. If I go the crowd funding route I plan to play many shows early this year to get out there and make some noise about my new album project.

Next year is going to be exciting! Stay with me and come along for this exciting journey!

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 Highlights and Update

Wow!! Its hard to believe that July is almost over. Soon I will be returning home to Vancouver and the tour will be coming to a close. I have one last show in Regina (I’m currently staying in Regina at the moment) this Saturday night at the Cathedral Freehouse. Soon it will be time to go back to work, school and life as I know it.

I would love to share some highlights of the tour as well as somethings that were challenging. First off it has been a great experience taking the train across Canada and seeing the country. One city I really enjoyed was Toronto. Toronto has one of the best music scenes in Canada. There are several places for musicians to perform at. I got to perform at The Central, The Painted Lady and the Tranzac club. I really enjoyed sharing a show with my friend Caroline Chojnacki aka Lovely Caro. She is working really hard on her own music and getting her name out there. After our show at the Central, Caroline took me to the Painted Lady where I got to perform with a full band. I performed my songs “Free Child” and “Words Can’t Express.” Playing with the band really helped my songs to come to life. That night, between performing at the Central and the Painted Lady, I met several people in the Toronto music scene. It made me wish that I had more time to be in Toronto and get to know the scene. My five short days were only just a taste.

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Joey and Caroline performing at The Central in Toronto.
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Caroline and I together before our show at the Central.

Another highlight of the tour was when I performed at Cafe Shaika in Montreal. I met this man who has traveled in India for 5 months. He really enjoyed the music and bought some of my merch. Making these small connections along the way is what keeps a musician going. I was able to give him one of my business cards.  Also at my shows and performances I had several people come up to me and give me positive feedback. They told me I was talented and that I had a beautiful voice. They told me to keep going with music. It was these people that I need to remember when I’m having a touch day with the music journey.

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Performing at Cafe Shaika in Montreal

Now I will share some of the tough stuff. Some of the challenges. Let me tell you that pursuing music and going on a music tour is not glamorous! There were a few times where I was playing to an almost empty room. There was the one show I did in Toronto at the Tranzac Club. I had to fight the whole time during my performance to keep my confidence up. The audience was pretty much my boyfriend Ken and the staff. During my second set a few guys came in and watched the show which helped a bit. The staff were really kind to me. Two of them had done the music thing. One guys said that him and his band were playing a tough show. They were basically playing to an empty room. Just when they felt like calling the night quits a huge crowd of about 60 people came into the venue. The night really picked up from there.

During the tour I fought with a lot self doubt. Why was I doing this music thing? What was the point of playing some shows where there were only a handful of people and I was basically playing for free. Did I really love this music thing enough to keep doing it?

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Performing at McNally’s in Regina

Sometimes we are not going to know all of the answers or why we are doing something. Sometimes we just have to go on faith. We have to keep moving forward despite the obstacles. Success doesn’t happen overnight. When I look back on this tour I am going to remember all the people that gave me encouraging words. I am going to remember the time I got up on stage at the Painted Lady with the band and really rocked it.  As my friend Chelsey likes to say “never underestimate small beginnings.” This was a humble and small little music tour but I will never forget some of the memories I’ve made.

Music Product Reviews – Things I will be Taking With Me on the Road

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Well it won’t be long before I go on my Cross Canada Tour. Things are coming along great as I have 6 shows in 3 different cities. I would like to take this time to talk about some of the products and music gear that I use. Click on the highlighted text to view these products.

On  my Simon and Patrick folk guitar I use Elixir Acoustic Guitar Strings. I find these strings to be very easy on the fingers and they sounds great. They also last 3 to 5 times longer than the standard brand of guitar strings. They are a little more pricey but well worth it in the end as you get more playing out of them. I highly recommend them. Click on the link above and you can get them cheaper online than you would in the store.

Another product I love to use is the Snark Tuner. It clamps on the the head of your guitar and is very accurate. I love to to take it in my guitar case and use it at gigs. I have found this one to be the best of all the tuners that I’ve had.

For acoustic guitars I am a big fan of Godin Guitars. They are made in Canada and are so easy to play. I just bought a Simon and Patrick which is under the Godin Guitar umbrella. My Simon and Patrick will be coming on the road with me this July and it all maintained and ready to go. Godin guitars are good quality and affordable.

These are all musical products I personally love and use. I have used many of these products frequently and have been very satisfied. Let me know what you think if you choose to purchase any of them yourself.

Just a Post to Say Thank-you

Today I am feeling very grateful. We need to be grateful everyday but today I am especially grateful. I had some pretty awesome people come out to my house concert. I’ve got a lot of people in my life that love me. I am loved. I need to remind myself that I’m loved each and everyday.

The show went well. Stephanie Ratcliff did an awesome job of opening the show. Several people bought her CD’s and she totally shone up there as she performed. I was so grateful to have her come open for me. Then I did my set along with Steve Britten my band mate. Many jokes were told, stories shared and encouraging words given. I raised a bit of money through donations and merch sales to help fund my tour. Apart from raising a few funds the best thing was the support and encouraging words from the people who come out. I am truly blessed. I made a video to express my gratitude.

So July 2nd I will be heading out on tour. I have 5 shows in 3 cities. Apart from the shows I hope that I can make more connections as I travel from city to city. I feel like this summer I will be doing what I’m called and what I was born to do. It’s a great feeling.

Let me tell you the prep for the tour hasn’t all been easy. There was a lot of challenges that came my way. Most of the challenges came through my own self doubt. But to have the house concert and get all the support from the people who came out gave life to this tour. All my hard work of booking the shows, planning and fighting to believe in myself is starting to pay off.

Folks sometimes obstacles get in the way of our dreams and things we’re called to do in life. I’m here to say “Don’t give up!” Each of you is a beautiful soul and has something unique to offer the world. Once again thanks for the love and support!