I raise the Harmonica to my lips. My palms are so sweaty the harp nearly slides out. My eyes survey the potential audience, a few old ladies meandering by and a homeless guy on an adjacent bench. I can see all the notes and my brain knows exactly how to play them. I exhale into the first key of the French National Anthem.
Wan……wan…wan.wan, the note pitters out like a dying cat. Not a single revolutionary even managed to pick up a rifle.
I sink back into the apartment stoop and glance around hoping no one noticed. A few minutes pass and I decide to give it another go. I slow my breathing. Hey chest, relax. I close my eyes. Hey eyes, don’t worry about those people.
My mind goes blank, until, suddenly, the jam is ready…harmonica beat box freestyle time!
Bam bam, boom cha, wika cha, boom cha.
My body moves to the beat box beat. My eyes remain calmly closed. The longer I play the more the rhythm relaxes and the more the beat rules the world. A grin spreads so wide that my cheeks push against the bottom of my sunglasses.
Thud! A Euro coin enters my medium sized McDonalds cup. A few minutes pass. Clank! Another coin keeps the first coin company.
Why Perform On The Street?
Street performing is one of the most terrifying and simultaneously terrific things you can do on the road. It thrusts you into the spot light and forces you to confront your fears of rejection. It helps you connect with your outgoing side and also with locals. It reminds you of the importance of being humble and enables compassion towards other street performers. And by the end of the day, even if you’re told off a few times, you’ll be full of content and hopefully have a cup full of money too.
How To Make Money Street Preforming
Making actual money is predicated on one vital concept, letting things flow. You could be a crap harmonica player, a beat-deaf dancer or a singer that makes Simon Cowell cringe. You could tell lame jokes or juggle rotting oranges. But as long as you commit to your act, have fun with it and spread good vibes, you’re going to make money. You might not make a lot, but you won’t walk away with nothing.
How To let Things Flow
Like most daunting endeavors in life, you just need to ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Sure you could be completely ignored, asked to stop or even mocked but is that really all that bad? It feels crappy for a minute but you’ll get over it quick. Besides, there’s always at least someone who’ll appreciate you and your act.
Street Performing For Musicians
If you’re already a musician then you know what it’s like to perform. But there are a few fairly obvious yet often overlooked aspects essential to street performing that you should keep in mind. First, you want to make sure you pick a good location. The best spots are those with a lot of foot traffic and the least noise from actual traffic. Performing in parks, in subway stations, and in foot tunnels are good choices. Second, if you don’t have a remarkably unique or original sound, you should play songs that people know. Playing classical songs on non classical instruments never fail to impress. Playing a national anthem isn’t a bad idea either. Finally, consider writing a brief description of about yourself and your journey, a kind of ‘call to action.’ “Support a New Yorker on a quest to travel around the world.” For more tips and tricks on street performing for musicians definitely check out Tom from Tune Up & Travel.
Street Act Ideas For Talentless Backpackers
If you’re totally talentless, the more ridiculous the act the better. I remember one beatnik backpacker out in California who simply juggled oranges while singing the US national anthem and smiling. Half the people simply smirked contempteously and walked on, but the other half commended his efforts and humility with coinage.
If singing and juggling isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other more low key ways to make a few coins. Instead of offering free hugs, you could offer your hugs at a premium. Write something clever on a piece of cardboard like “Holistic hugs that will make your worries melt away for 25 cents.” And then joke with people about how your hugs are so much better than all those ‘low life’ free huggers out there.
Another option is to offer ‘pay what you’d like’ compliments or jokes. For compliments, look up and memorize a couple of Ancient Greek or Shakespearean quotes on beauty. For jokes, google extremely dumb knock knock jokes. They’re easy to remember and always get a smile. “Knock Knock…Who’s there?…Olive…Olive who?…Olive you.”
You don’t need to be a musician to make money on the street. In fact, you don’t need to be much of a performer at all. All you need to do is have fun, smile, and go with the flow. Your fellow humans will feel it and one of them will throw a coin your way. Not only will you make some money but chances are you’ll make a few friends as well.
Safe travels and break a leg,
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