Sophia Loren said Sex appeal is fifty percent what you’ve got and fifty percent what people think you’ve got. This same perception is true for successful guitar busking.
Just as sex appeal is defined by the attractiveness of the look, so is busk appeal defined by the attractiveness of the look. To have the look, you must be aware of three necessary components: location, dynamics, and cap-a-pie.
Where you are is where it’s at. This is the busker creed. Really, you can set up anywhere, but when it comes to making money, it is location, location, location that is important. The best locations for busking must have lots of foot traffic. As a rule, there needs to be continual traffic of pedestrians to make boodles of coin.
One good reason places of high foot traffic work for me is because at such places I’m never intrusive. I’m never intrusive because I never play near captive audiences (e.g., an outdoor café, e.g., a line at a movie theatre). If I did so, I would definitely be intrusive.
Some of the best locations are in front of main door entrances. Any opportunity I can position myself near the front door of any vendor; I am very likely to attract paying consumers.
For some examples, I love busking right at the main entrance of the Value Village shopping mall; I love busking at the front door of Shoppers Drugs on Broad; I love busking near the only entrance of the brand new Independent grocery store on Broadway; I love busking at the front door of the Italian Star confectionary on Victoria. These are my regular haunts.
Over time, I’ve come to determine the peak times for foot traffic at these buskspots. Saturdays, from noon to 3 o’clock, is when I busk at Value Village. At Shoppers I take my stand between 4:30 0 and 6 o’clock, the same times (but not the same days) I busk at Independent. At the Italian Star I busk over the noon hour. For my busking, these times are the best of times, the times of the most foot traffic.
Randomly, a couple times each week I sling my guitar over my shoulder and go downtown to busk either at the Fredrick W. Hill mall, or near the Regina Cenotaph in the heart of Victoria Park. For these two places in particular, noon hours are the best times to busk.
I only love these locations because they work for me. Over the years I’ve experimented with different locations at different times, and these are the schedules I’ve decided for my mercenary mien.
Are you lofty or low-slung? Are you rakish or rotund? Are you hirsute or hairless? This look, in whatever regard you were born with, is called the static look. Your static look is your fixed look, but as a busker, you can adapt some flexibility. To enhance the look of your busker alterity, it is certainly not necessary to abdicate your original look. Please keep in mind that your birthday suit does not have to be your forever suit.
On a public stage are you algid or a-go-go? Are you a stick or a bandersnatch? You need not the handsomeness of a matinee idol, nor the figure of a beauty pageant queen; you need not the crocodile moves of a heavy metal rocker, nor the comedic lines of a stand-up, to be a sexy and successful busker. What you do need is the desire and determination to present a dynamic signature style. You do need the look.
First, to get that look, you must exhibit passion. You need to strum and thrum with fervor and panache. You need a twinkle in your eye and a smile across your visage. To attract consumers you need to exhibit that you are a busking commodity.
As a commodity (this sounds so business-like because … busking is a business) you need the right habiliments. Let us begin at the top.
Do you like to wear a hat or cap? On bright and sunny days (to avoid sunstroke) I’ve a couple of cowboy hats, a black one and a white, and a Brixton tiller, an urban cowboy hat, which I wear frequently. For evening busks, I’ve also a collection of tams, silver, green, and multi-colored, which I wear on occasion. On chilly days I wear a black toque – I love my black toque!
On regular days I am bare-headed.
On my face on sunny, sunny days I wear sunglasses. Though considered a no-no because your potential consumers cannot detect the twinkle in your eye, I wear them for reasons of eye safety. My eyes are green, and according to the medical literature, the eye color most sensitive to the sun. Health comes before wealth.
For shirts, in daytime I always wear white, usually long-sleeved with a collar. On muggy days I do wear white t’s, and cool days I don a Canadian tuxedo (jean jacket).
I’m a jean guy for pants, long shorts on hot summer days.
I’m a work boot guy for walking the sidewalks, but when I’m wearing short pants and hot summer days I wear sandals, though sometimes, hiking boots.
As I describe my busking attire I do not mean to set myself as the quintessential busker having that perfect look. I’m merely describing my look, the look that works for me. If duck costumes and unicycles are your shtick, by all means employ them for your look.
Okay then, you’ve got the right location; you’ve got the right attitude; you’ve got the right cap-a-pie.
U got the look!
A few people who marched in my CHAUCERIAN PARADE this week are worthy of mention.
- Duncan is a former ski instructor at Lake Louise and Grouse Mountain
He’s an exceptionally good looking fellow, tall and well-built. He showed Drummer and me the long scar across the side of his head. Duncan is a sufferer a from brain injury.
Suffering epilepsy as a child, as an adult he was in an horrific automobile accident, afterward spending considerable years in rehabilitation.
Finally, he says, he is functioning again socially. He plans to attend university this fall in the field of Social Work. Duncan’s dream is to become a corrections worker within the Canadian prison system.
It so happened that was given a violin at four years of age from his aunt, and is still playing the best therapy there is, he says
- The Hillbilly Chronicler, I met at the Farmers’ Market some years ago. He was selling jewelry; I was busking with my banjitar. He is still a vendor at the Farmers’ Market; for political reasons, I no longer busk there. On this particular busking day my hillbilly acquaintance convinced me that the market climate is not as caustic as it was, and that I should return.
My hillbilly friend said that he now has a Face Book page called the Hillbilly Chronicles. He certainly looks the part. He dons a wide-brimmed leather self-styled cowboy hat, has a full handlebar mustache, and wears the overall kind of garb and suspenders suitable for the stereotypical hillbilly.
- And there is Nelson, my frequent friendly consumer from Standing Buffalo First Nation. Nelson and his family come to Regina every Saturday for shopping. (I’ve written about Nelson in a previous blog.) Nelson once told me his uncle attended a residential school, and that his uncle benefitted greatly from the music program that was offered there.
- Last, there is the Mystery Busker. A thirty-something fellow approached me, asking several questions on busking. After such inquisition, he announced that he, too, was a busker.
Are you a local? I asked.
It’s really none of your business, he replied.
It’s really none of your business, he replied.
Just last evening I saw him busking with his guitar and harmonica in front of a downtown liquor store. He’s an excellent musician (I hate to admit), and I tossed him a tooney, resisting the urge to identify myself and reciprocate his unfriendly non-consumerism manner. And he is no longer a mystery.