Friday, 4 May 2012

Busking Tips

I thought I'd write a blog and share some of my experiences of busking. Hopefully it's good advice and will help people who are thinking of going busking for the first time. After Uni I went busking for a couple of years with Kristyna Myles to make a living, and now we're travelling around the U.K. raising money for the charity Centrepoint

  1.  There's no point in busking without amplification. -  Unless you're playing a saxophone or another instrument with a lot of natural volume, it can be very difficult to be heard in a busy city. When we first started out Kristyna and I tried busking unamplified in the Manchester Christmas Markets and couldn't be heard from just a few feet away. We barely made enough money to cover the parking.
  2. Get a car battery- Although you can get some battery powered amplifiers, most of these seem to run out of power quickly and sound distorted. We used a car battery attached to an inverter, which converts DC to AC. The best type of car battery is a gel leisure battery which are used for golf buggies etc. If you use a normal car battery the acid will soon burn little holes in all of your clothes. For an amplifier, I can't recommend the Roland AC30 highly enough. It has two channels, one for a guitar and one for a microphone.
  3. Other useful gear- A compact camping stool means that you can sit anywhere and don't need to rely on finding a bench. A trolley is important for carting all the gear around as it can weigh quite a lot. A battery charger for obvious reasons. If you're planning on reading music, take some pegs so that the wind doesn't blow it away. Fingerless gloves can help with guitar playing in icy conditions. A bag to store the money in afterwards can be useful.
  4. Check the weather forecast- There's no point setting out if there's going to be torrential rain all day. Unless you can find some cover to busk under, but even then people are likely to be wet, miserable and less generous.
  5. Two's company- Busking on your own has the advantage that you don't have to split the money. But if you go with two or more people it means one person can watch the gear while the other can buy food/drinks and take a toilet break, especially if you're making a day of it. It also makes you less vulnerable if there are more of you. 
  6. Be safe- Keep all your gear where you can see it. Empty the money out of the guitar case every now and again and hide it away. Busking at night can be more intimidating as people have had a few drinks and can be a bit 'lively'. We never had anything too serious happen to us. Kids threw sweets at our heads. Someone crept up to me and shouted 'BOO' in my ear which made me jump out of my skin, much to the amusement of the crowd that had built up. Occasionally people would make as if they were putting money in but actually slyly take money out. But generally the good outweighs the bad. And if you're busking in a busy town centre there will be a lot of people around if anything serious does happen. Click JUMP to read on

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Press Launch

Had a great day in London last week, at a Press Launch with Kristyna Myles. I didn't really have any idea what a press launch involved, so I wasn't too sure what to expect. We arrived at about 10 in the morning to meet up with everyone : the guys from Centrepoint, a singer called Tres B, and Kristyna's management and press team. Basically, the press launch involved running around all day having photos taken in cool places while the press team pieced together a story to put on 'the wire'. The wire, as far as i could tell, is a sort of private internet stream that all the newspapers subscribe to so they can see which stories are breaking. 

The rain poured down all day, during what was apparently the wettest drought since records began. Luckily we had some nice big Centrepoint umbrellas to keep us dry. 

The first couple of locations for photos were a cool looking alley and Tottenham Court Road, a road with a rich musical heritage as Pink Floyd used to gig there and The Kinks mention it in a song. There were also many guitar shops but no time to look in them. Torture. We did a spot of busking while the pictures were taken. When Kristyna and I finished Uni we busked for a couple of years to make a living. Now we're busking again, around the country to raise money for the charity Centrepoint which helps support the homeless. You can make a donation here

The next location was the famous Abbey Road zebra crossing. I was particularly excited about this, being a bit of a Beatles fanatic, and having had a big poster of the famous album cover on my wall when I was growing up. On the way to Abbey Road, Kristyna's manager Perry Hughes jumped out of the black cab, ran into Habitat, and came out 5 minutes later with a bright pink table to use as a prop for the shoot. That's thinking on your feet.

Click jump to read on