29 May 2017
Recently I’ve been fascinated by a series of “day in the life” videos from a street performing/YouTuber magician named Steven Bridges. In each 9-minute video, he takes the audience through the experience of busking (street performing) in the UK.
As I watched the fourth video in this series (all four are highly recommended viewing, though I’d suggest starting with the first), I realized that there are startling commonalities between busking and crowdfunding. You’ll recognize some of these lessons from my blog, but there are also some fresh perspectives here.
- Tell people in advance when you’re starting the show. Steven has 5 minutes to set up his show. The first thing he does is turn on his speakers to tell people that a show will soon begin. This helps build anticipation and lets people know when they should tune in.
- Build the crowd in advance. Part of the advance notice is that Steven is trying to draw at least a small crowd before the show begins. He’s found that he’s much more likely to end up with a big crowd if he starts with a few people there, just like day one of a Kickstarter project. It’s pretty amazing to see Steven start a show with 3 people, and by the end of a performance there are hundreds gathered around him.
- Connect with individual people. Steven starts his show by walking over to one onlooker, handing them a prop, and learning their name. This is a powerful moment, as it breaks down the wall between the creator and the audience and sets a precedent for engagement. In Steven’s performances, he’s constantly engaging the crowd, making them feel invested in the show.
- Provide good sound quality. This is a logistical thing, but it has a huge impact. Steven and other successful buskers have high quality speakers to project their voices to the crowd. For Kickstarter videos, the audio is more important than the visual elements.
- Be respectful and aware of other creators. In Leicester Square, where Steven performs, the buskers have a daily sign-up sheet to ensure that they’re not shouting over each other. This was the intent of the start/end date Google Doc I created a while ago for my fellow tabletop game creators.
- The crowd responds best when you make it about them. There’s a certain energy when a crowd applauds, and Steven does something cool to generate that energy: He frequently asks his audience to applaud random volunteers. This is so much more effective than him saying, “Clap for me!”
- If you’re going to have an emotional breakdown, wait until after the show. A fellow street performer gives this advice to Steven during one of the videos. It may seem obvious, but I really like the idea that we’re all human and we’re going to have huge moments of vulnerability, especially when we’re exposing our passions to the world. But sometimes being able to control those emotions when everything is at stake can make or break a campaign.
- Draw a clear line for participation. In some of Steven’s shows, he places a rope on the ground in a semicircle about 20 feet away from him. This sets a clear division between the audience and him, as he says that if people don’t understand the boundary between performer and audience member, it can ruin the show for everyone. I think crowdfunders can do the same thing in making it clear that certain elements of the product/project are up for discussion, while others are set in stone.
- Practice makes perfect: Steven has been performing the same show for about a year now, and it runs like a well-oiled machine. He recently announced that he’ll soon start testing a new show, and he fully expects it to not go well for a while. How can a crowdfunder practice? Create content, engage people online, playtest your game, pitch your product to different people…look at all the skills you’ll need during a Kickstarter campaign and work on them before it matters most.
- Ask for what you want. At the end of a 20-minute show, Steven asks people to pay for the entertainment they just received. He isn’t pushy about it–he says it once and leaves it at that. A specific call to action like this can be quite powerful.
What’s the most memorable street performance you’ve ever seen? Is there anything you experienced from it that applies to Kickstarter creators?