|Rule number one for aspiring musicians is what? Anyone? Practice makes perfect? Well… yes, but what kind of practice? I’ll spell it out for you. You need to… no; you MUST practice playing live, in front of an audience! I know this sounds obvious and many people before me have preached this truth so… why aren’t you doing it? I can hear the frustrated moans of many of you saying, “I can’t get a gig to use as practice!” Well my young friends, this is simply not true. If this is your excuse, then I want to take this opportunity to crush it once and for all. There is a way you can get a gig any day of the week. It is the underutilized practice of performing on the ‘streets’.
No more excuses!
Any person, or band, can play on the street. True, it is easier if you are a solo acoustic performer, but with the advancement of battery powered amplifiers (and even PA’s) the old excuses of, “But I play electric guitar” or “What about our bass player?” just don’t hold any weight anymore. I would suggest that your band play an acoustic set (just for the ease of set up) but, if you must play electric, get yourself battery powered immediately (also, small gas powered electric generators are very quiet and inexpensive these days).
Where should I play?
The options here are endless. Really, anywhere there are a large number of people! The best spots, however, seemed to be areas where people are seeking entertainment and have money in their pockets. If your town has a cool entertainment district or just an area where the popular clubs and restaurants are located, by all means pick a corner there. If there is a part of town that has outdoor cafes, set up within ear shot of them. In my town, for example, there is a commercial development that has a movie theater right next to row of bars, restaurants and shops. People in these types of areas will be more open to listening to your music, plus they will have money in their pockets which, hopefully, they will use to tip you or to purchase your CD (which you WILL have prominently displayed next to you). You can even set up on a corner next to an arena where a national band (that fits your genre of music) is playing and swipe some of their fans. There are hundreds of possibilities; use your head and come up with some new ideas. Where do you hang out? Where do your potential fans hang out?
What to watch out for!
Two things you need to be wary of; cops and criminals. Call your local police department or city hall to check on the city’s laws for street performances. For example, some cities do not allow performers on certain types of city owned property, etc. Although they would probably just ask you to leave, you don’t want to risk getting a ticket. You also need to be careful and avoid the ‘shadier’ parts of town. Don’t tempt some crook into taking your hard earned tip money. Stay in well lit areas. Play only in high traffic locations. Use your common sense here. You don’t want to be standing by yourself, late at night, on a dark street with $100 in small bills lying at your feet. Don’t make yourself an easy target for a robbery.
Get out there and enjoy the secret benefit!
Beside the obvious benefits of earning tip money, making CD sales and getting valuable ‘live’ practice, there is another benefit that will surprise you. That is the incredible boost in self confidence you get after your first street performance. Let’s face it; playing out in an ‘unknown’ environment may seem a little frightening at first. But once you sing that first note and get that first tip you will be on cloud nine! Once you’ve mastered playing on the street, you will be able to play anywhere with complete confidence. Now, get out there and play!
©2003 Kevin Minihan
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