No matter how experienced you are as a musician, performing on the streets of Hong Kong will always be more enjoyable if you have superior knowledge on the art form and how you can be successful at it. So here are a few things before you go out and do your thing.
1. It goes without saying that a good show calls for audience participation. Be it giving a kid a go with the maracas, or simply smiling at your audience, people will stick around longer to listen.
2. Be prepared to play long sets (About an hour to an hour and a half would do) if you plan on busking by restaurants. If you’re going to stick yourself outside of a seafront bar and play the same four songs over and over again, it’s not going to work out well.
3. Try out different places in Hong Kong, such as Cheung Chau, Stanley or Lamma to name a few less popular areas. Not only does this make busking more interesting, but it also gives you a chance to compare the size of your hat to other spots at the end of the day.
You can’t receive “donations” at the avenue of stars. This means that a security guard will ask you to pack up and move somewhere else not long after setting up.
5. Often, the stranger the instrument or sound, the better. From Violin duos to fully-fledged brass bands, Erhu’s to didgeridoos and techno beats, Hong Kong has it all. If you want to stand out, you’re going to have to really try.
6. Playing up-beat, happy songs, especially pop songs, is basically what people want to hear 90% of the time. That said, if you can’t enjoy playing those songs, it’s perfectly fine to play something more “you.” As long as you accept that you will likely earn a considerably smaller hat at the end of the day.
7. Setting up in front of a wall, like with Jim here, helps to amplify your sound and improves your acoustics. This is especially useful if you don’t plan on performing with an amplifier.
8. It makes everything easier to set up somewhere near a bathroom and bring along snacks, water and spare batteries. In doing so you can avoid a hassle and wasting time.
9. Try to dress nice. You can keep it casual but people will respect you a bit more if you’re dressed to rule.
10. If you’re using an amp and performing with a friend, before you go ahead and play, remember to stand away from the amp and listen to the sound quality so that you can make adjustments and get the best out of it.
11. Before actually earning any money, buskers will often put “sweeteners” into their hat before going ahead to perform. This just ensures that your audience understands that you’re accepting tips from the start.
12. If you have a Facebook page, business card, or any form of media, go ahead and promote yourself. Hong Kong’s a small place, display your name and how people can contact you, and after a while people will probably start to recognize you, and maybe even support the music that your making.
13. Lastly, the most important thing to remember when you’re busking is not to be disheartened if no one is listening or tipping. Just keep on playing and practicing and it’s bound to improve.
Written by Ryan Harling
Credits goes to KK Leung photography and Hong Kong relief for the third and sixth photos.