10 Tips For Street Performers

In our December 2010 year-end wrap–up issue, Music Connection cited singer-songwriter Andy Grammer as One of Our Favorite Signings of that year. It was an irresistible story: artist uses his wits and talent to catch the ear of record exec who happened to see him perform on a Los Angeles street corner. Hearing something special and engaging, the exec offered Grammer a record deal. Now, over one year later, this artist’s successes are stacking up: rated No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s Heatseekers chart, a gold-selling (nearly platinum) hit song “Keep Your Head Up,” a new single “Fine By Me” growing at radio and recently added in medium rotation on VH1, and a return engagement on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. And it all started with his hard-won knowledge about how to draw a crowd of complete strangers on a big city street corner.

By Andy Grammer

1) Work out a unique cover song, something that everyone on the street will know. It’s hard to grab attention with originals. If you can get passersby to stop, your chances of tips will double.

2) Once you have a crowd of 10+, make them cheer: “Okay folks, on the count of three, let’s all cheer to double this crowd!” People are attracted to cheering.

3) Location. Location. Location. Corners with a lot of traffic where you aren’t in competition with others. Lack of competition for singers is key.

4) Make a playful, inviting tip jar sign that encourages people to purchase CDs on their own while you’re playing: “Make change, I trust you :)”

5) Put love into your street stage. Small rug, stool, TV dinner table with tablecloth. Little touches make it seem more professional.

6) Make friends with those street performers (Break dancers, etc.) who are louder then you. When performers fight for attention it means everyone loses. Offer to split time.

7) Play shorter sets. Limit yourself to 15 minutes and stop to sell CDs/clear the crowd. Two-hour sets aren’t needed. Play your best four or five songs and move on.

8) Don’t beg. You will make more in the end creating demand based on quality. Begging sucks the magic out of the experience.

9) Get there early. The best spots go fast. You might have to hold a spot for up to four hours. It’s usually first come, first served.

10) It’s not them, it’s you. In other words, listen to what the crowds tell you. If your CDs aren’t selling, switch up your show. Trust the crowd. It’s a great focus group!

miniBIO: Singer, songwriter, musician and S-Curve artist Andy Grammer released a live EP, Andy Grammer—Live From L.A., exclusively on iTunes on March 13th. The songs were recorded in January 2012 at the legendary Village Studios in Los Angeles, CA, in front of a live audience and includes a special duet version of Grammer’s new charting single “Fine By Me” with Colbie Caillat and a unique cover of Rihanna’s “We Found Love” with string accompaniment. Check him out at http://andygrammer.com. Follow him on Twitter, #streetperformingtips.