Saturday 16 September 2023

Busking - not me

You do get some of your character from your parents, so it's no surprise that my three kids are all musical. My boy has played the sax for many years, currently on a second hand tenor sax, quite a nice tone, not lacquered so it has that vintage look. He's played in all the school bands for years, has had one-on-one lessons for years, he is quite good for a youngster. A few months back my wife and I were listening to him practise for an exam - he lines up a backing track on his phone and pumps it through a blue tooth speaker to play along with. There is a sheet for the main theme/riffs, but he improvises the majority of it. And while he quite often shreds too many notes, his improv skills are really coming along...waaay better than mine, that's for sure!

So much so that I said "You need to get out and earn some money with this. People will pay to hear this." That's a rule that I mention here on this blog fairly regularly, "you need to play to audiences". He does already play in school bands - but he's a teenager with no job, so if he could get paid to play music, that's a win win.

I got in contact with Hillarys marina which is a twelve minute drive from us. There is live music there from time to time, it's a big place, lots of foot traffic. They wanted a video audition to get started, fair enough. That was an interesting experience in itself...I set up two mics at a distance to capture the sax in a similar way to capturing my guitar, I made him listen to the backing track through headphones, and then I sync'd it all up in post mix. I came out alright, but next time I will try mic'ing up the horn right at the bell, with the gain set really low. Or, get a sax mounted microphone...hmmm... (for interest, this was one of the audition videos

The Hillarys management were happy for him to come down, passed the audition, we went out and met the lady running the admin, to find out where we could setup and all that. They don't seem to get many buskers, because you book in morning or afternoon slots and the coming weekend was completely open. So I booked him in for Saturday.

In the meantime, busking...and coins/ a post cov-id world. Do people actually have cash to throw to buskers? I didn't know! But luckily has your back. It's a not for profit organisation to promote busking, like a social advocate for good, and they provide tech in the way of cashless payments setups so with a QR code people can easily tip some cash via Google/Apple pay or Paypal. I set him up and tested it out, nice, works well!

So Saturday comes around, and I push him just crash into it, an experiment, let's just see what happens! We went armed with a small battery bluetooth speaker, his music stand with QR code on it and his reference sheets and his tenor sax. We parked up in a spot on the boardwalk and I sat down and watched. He was a bit nervous, but I didn't really give him the chance to think about it. That's the key, just go, think about it afterwards. It's not like he didn't have the musical chops.

We had two issues, the first being that there was no shade, so he was cooking in the sun in half an hour. The other was the bluetooth speaker was slightly underpowered. Just needed a few more watts. But from a busking point of view, it was ace! In that 30 minutes he had $27 in coins put into his case, and a $3 online tip. He was quite happy with that!

Now we just need to work on the gear, time of day and where to stand - smoothing out the process.  He also worked out that the ballad he played was the money maker, even though he likes to play the jazzier stuff! He needs a money-making busking setlist!

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