FW: [Dixielandjazz] Street Music 101

Elazar Brandt jazzmin at actcom.net.il
Sat Apr 10 01:33:41 PDT 2004

Hi Russ,

I'll give you a few of our informal guidelines. In Jerusalem there is a
pedestrian mall area that covers several blocks of downtown. No cars, so it's
relatively quiet, and usually a lot of people walking around. There are other
places to play, both here and in other cities and towns. Here's how we try to

******** Street Performing 101 (a bit long, hopefully helpful) ********

1. Pick a location that lends itself to becoming a "stage". Preferably with
something behind you, like a wall, closed store, tree, street sign, lamp post.

2. Never block the entrance or display windows, etc., of any business or

3. There should be space for an audience to gather without disrupting traffic
flow too much.

4. Know the law: If you need a permit... get one!

5. Know the law: Are there hours when noise is restricted? Are amps permitted?
Do not play when or where you can be legally required to shut down.

6. Courtesy: Set up far enough away from other musicians/performers so as not to
disturb their act if they were there first.

7. Courtesy: Avoid playing directly towards the doors of shops so as not to
drive the people inside crazy.

8. Courtesy: Don't play in the same spot for too long or too often. Pedestrians
will enjoy your act; shopkeepers will grow to hate you. Give them a rest.

9. Courtesy: Take breaks and allow the air to clear. Maybe alternate with
another performer such as a juggler, magician or balloon artist who makes less

10. Demand courtesy in return. Nobody owns the street. There is no such thing as
"my spot". The early birds get the best spots. If someone sets up too close to
you or otherwise steps on your act, first request politely that he move. If he
refuses, then become his worst nightmare so he won't do it to you again. Under
no circumstances allow him to profit from upstaging you, or soon you will find
yourself playing on the road out of town. BUT, never get physical with him or
his equipment. Just get in his way.

11. Know your rights. There is one in every crowd, a shopkeeper who will
complain, a local resident who rents a flat on the busiest downtown street and
then expects it to be quiet in the afternoon and evening, etc. If you are
observing the law and normal courtesy and someone still complains, try to make
them laugh. They usually won't, but you can at least enjoy the scene. My rule
is, I will move if the police tell me to move. Otherwise, I tell the complainer
that he is also bothering ME. By the way, the police have NEVER told me to move.
If a policeman does ask you to move, ask if you are breaking the law. If not,
politely insist on your own right to continue your legal activity. They
generally will let you. [I have been known to produce a complaint form, or a
roll of numbered tickets, and when someone comes to complain, I tell him to take
a number and fill out the form and we will process it and respond within 60
days. You could be obnoxious and ask for a processing fee. Of course, they won't
think it's funny, but have a camera ready to catch the expression on their faces
when they realize what you're doing to them. It's priceless.]

12. Don't just play songs; put on a show. If you don't have a costume, or
uniforms for multi-piece acts, wear something colorful or an unusual hat, or all
wear the same color shirts or the same ties, or anything that will let people
know you're not a bunch of strangers waiting for a bus. The show begins when you
arrive, and ends when you leave. Carry balloons or wrapped candies or little
trinkets to give to kids while you're setting up. Talk to the crowd, let kids
see and hear your instruments, tell jokes, get people involved in your act.

13. Play to the crowd. Look into people's eyes. Get them to smile. Talk to them.
Sing to them. If you have a washboard or rattle or anything percussion they can
play along with you, let someone do it now and then.

14. Money and promo. You're not there for your health. Put a tasteful,
interesting, funny or cute receptacle for people to put money into. (It helps if
it's one-way, and people cannot see how much money is inside, or easily get
money out. Watch for bills that could be blown away by wind.) Don't be ashamed.
Be creative. Don't just open your case. It's only begging if YOU think it's
begging. Put business cards where people can see them and take them. Tell them
who you are. Tell them it's OK to put money into the hat. Tell them there is
plenty of room in the hat, and if it should fill up, you'll MAKE room for them.
Tell them you can be hired for their parties and events. Believe it or not, this
often does not occur to people. Usually you can't charge a fixed price. You take
what people give you. But you can cajole them into being more generous. Ask
where they're from and play a song from/about their home town. Pick songs that
somehow identify with someone who is there, or passing by. Encourage people to
sing along. If you have CDs, band T-shirts, or other merchandise, display them
prominently and sell them (be sure it's legal to do that). When you're done
playing, pack up, go somewhere else, and count the money. Better not to do it
where you performed.

15. Watch out for upstagers. Real artists will ask if they can join you, or give
you some indication that they have something to offer, and then let you invite
them to join in. Idiots will just barge into your space and start dancing,
singing, or doing their thing. Don't give them what they're trying to take from
you -- attention. Finish your current song, take a break for 5 minutes, then
continue. This will lose most people of this type. Drunks or other persistent
annoyances, keep the energy level low. Don't get into a pissing contest with
them. Try to gently steer them out of your way. Get help from police if you need
it, but discreetly, quietly. Don't let a situation escalate and get out of hand.
Use your judgment. If it's just someone blowing off steam for a few seconds, let
it pass. Otherwise, take the spotlight off them, some of you work the crowd
while others gently handle the problem. Most of the time, stopping the show
briefly will do the job.

Whew! Hope that's enough to get some of you started. Any questions, please
address them to Tom Wiggins or Steve Barbone. I did my part.  :-)

Misrad HaJazz
Doctor Jazz Band
Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: +972-2-679-2537

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Russ Guarino [mailto:russg at redshift.com]
> Sent: Friday, April 09, 2004 7:54 PM
> To: jazzmin at actcom.net.il
> Subject: Re: FW: [Dixielandjazz] Street Corner Music
> Elezar,
> You are amazing!!!
> How do you pick your street corner?  I would like some guidance.
> Maybe I can do the
> same someplace in Monterey, California.
> Russ Guarino

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