This is a pretty long post....
I am in, on this Thursday night, after having seen how slow it was last night.
I might have made 10 bucks last night.
Any one could have been a 20.
I had brand new strings, and was basically just practicing all night (2 hours) in preparation for recording my originals.
At certain points, I thought that I should be home recording, rather than playing for parked cars and a couple, who sat across the street on Alan's stoop.
I thought they might have been listening, and I played "better" for a while, until it became apparent that they were most likely just sitting there for some reason other than me, and weren't going to cross over when I took a break and tip me well, saying that they had enjoyed the past hour of music.
The Numbers Game Of Busking
I had a chance to think about the "numbers game' that busking is, to a degree.
The basic question was: How many people, out of a thousand (arbitrarily) are likely to throw any tip at all.
After much thinking on the subject, I estimated this figure to be 75, for myself.
Any individual tourist carries a 7.5% chance of tipping. Sounds about right...
Tips range from, at the very bottom, a business card, bible tract, flower, Mardi Gras trinket, half sandwich, alcoholic drink, or a "sounds good.." and nothing else, to the top end, or, the guy who likes your sound, is a record producer, invites you to the hotel where you hang out and meet a young artist whose song the producer wants your sound on. The song becomes the next "Bubble Butt," and you live the rest of your days in style.
In order to follow a more bell shaped curve, I think the phrase is, I must, like the teacher who is scaling grades; throw out the highest and lowest tippers, so that a more standard deviation can be divined.
So, with that in mind, I will crop the record producer from the top, and the guy who shoots you in the head and steals your money and guitar from the bottom.
Now that I have a more manageable list, the next step would be breaking down those "75 per thousand" into subcategories, based upon what they throw; one dollar tippers, up to 100 dollars plus tippers.
I will reiterate that, I have nullified the kid who gave me the Takamine guitar, and the Italian mafioso type who gave me 175 dollars once, telling me that he had enjoyed my music very much and that he would be back to break my legs if, upon that return, I showed no signs of having come up in the world, pursuant to his investing in me, etc.
After painstakingly estimating off the top of my head, and based upon my "doing this" for almost 5 years at my spot, I have boiled things down to a few figure. I love figures and charts:
- I get a tip out of every 13.3 people who hear me. (based upon the 7.5% figure).
- I have to entertain approximately 10,666 people in between being thrown 100 dollar bills.
$100 bills: 1 from every 10,666 people who hear me (1 out of every 800 tips)
$50 bills: 1 from every 6,000 people (1 out of every 450 tips)
$20 bills: 1 from every 267 people (1 out of every 20 tips)
$10 bills: 1 from every 200 who hear me (1 out of every 15 tips)
$5 bills: 1 from every 133 people (1 out of every 10 tips)
$2 - $4: 1 from every 47 people (1 out of every 3.5 tips)
$1 bills- 1 from every 28 people (1 of every 2.12 things that hit the jar)
EXAMPLE: On a night when 200 tourists walk past me, the likelihood is that I will have gotten 15 tips, because 7.5% of them will tip.
Odds would be even, on 15 tips, that there is a 10 in there. So, on this theoretical night let's say, I've made one ten dollar bill.
Odds would be slightly less than even (more like 3 to 4) that there will be a 20 in there, so I will add 3/4 of that, or $15.00 to my theoretic total.
I think in the real world of big time mathematics, this would be called something like "Factoring in the probabilities," or something...
The 100 dollar bill that comes every 800 tips, for example, pulls the average of the 799 tips in between up 12.5 cents Likewise, the Ulyses S. Grant every 450 customers pulls it up 11 cents.
But, to get back to the example and, after accounting for and factoring in each denomination, I came up with $50.74 as the average total on a night when 200 tourists walk past me..
This pretty much jives with the fact that, I would have to have 66 walk past me to make 18 dollars, which is what I have been steadily averaging per hour; and that seems just about right for the average hour.
So, some simple arithmetic on the above yields such knowledge that I make $3,380.00 off of every thousand tourists that tip me; but 13,333 have to walk by before that many do so.
13,333 tourists, with a skeezer alongside each one of 'em, yikes!
And, my average tip is $3.38
I can look at every tourist and see 25 cents (not quite a cigarette) on each of their heads since, between more than 13 of them, I get the $3.38.
So, given 1,000 people at the Lilly Pad, and I will bring home $253 bucks, according to my painstakingly thought-out estimates. This sounds like it should be my goal for each week; to play for 1,000 people.
More Trivia: In between 100 dollar tips, I average $1,971.00 from all other sources. So, yeah, "big tippers" account for a bit less than 5% of my living.
When It Doesn't Rain, It Doesn't Pour
Last night, there were very probably only about 50 tourists that walked by me, and I took home just short of the $12.67 that my math would indicate I should have. This is, to some degree, a result of the "ripple effect," I will call it.
It has to do with the fact that, when it is very busy, the tip totals are padded by the fact that there is a monkey see, monkey do effect whereby people nearby will match the tips of their counterparts, if only as a way of remaining upon equal footing with them in some regard.
When it is slow, the tourists are spaced too far apart for any such monkey business to go down...
I had some fun re-arranging equations to yield things like, on a typical $50 night (i.e. one that wasn't the result of a rogue 50 dollar tip) I am probably passed by about 250 tourists, out of which 19 tip me.
My "best night ever," $213.86, should have required 62 tips to get me to that point, and 843 people walking past, but there was a 100 dollar bill in the jar, which did "the work" of 400 tourists, so it was probably more like 450. Again, that sounds about right...about 150 tourists per hour...
This is what I thought about as I pedaled home after Wednesday night.
There must be some watershed at which the odds of getting the 100 dollar tip would justify going out, riding the bike trail, alert for hoodlums with paint ball guns, and then playing, and debating internally over whether I might not be better served by being at home, putting the same music onto a CD that could then be sold, so that it might reach human ears, rather than taking the virginity of a set of strings solely for the edification of an empty street, even though a skeezer might be enjoying it from a nearby stoop.
If 50 people indeed heard me last night then, I stood once chance in 212 of getting a 100 dollar bill.
I would love to be a statistician. I would be into retrieving data like "Which NFL teams have the highest combined weight of players that wear jerseys numbering in the 70's?" or "What is the average size of the student body of the colleges attended by all the punters in the league, compared to that of the quarterbacks?" (a punter can come from some tiny school with a lousy football program and still kick the ball 75 yards for them...)
I concluded that a 1 in 212 chance of getting a 100 dollar bill was not an adequate trade off for the time that could otherwise be spent. This conclusion, I also drew, based upon mathematics. At that rate (i.e. nights like that one) I would get a hundred dollar tip every 7 months or so.
I decided to stay home this evening, catch up on the blog and other things, including the making of a recording of The Merry Men, out of the Mel Bay Book 1. I might just try to post it up here. If it's here, I did. In the future I think I will monitor my gains in the street music industry by keeping more of a tab on the number of people walking past, rather than the amount of time going by. This would have the side effect of forcing me to be more "aware" of the people in general; kind of a step in the direction, at least, of making eye contact and engaging people with some sort of patter.
18 Dollar Friday
57 Dollar Saturday
Addendum: Friday night, I went out and played from midnight until 3 AM and took home about 18 bucks...I would guess that only about 100 tourists (non skeezers, non prostitutes, non drug dealers, non employees of nearby businesses, non residents out walking their dogs in their bathrobes and slippers) went by me.
I heard from Colin the busker later on, that he too, had groups of them stop in front of him and dance a bit and sing along; and then walk off without leaving a tip. Some people are not "cosmopolitan" enough to know that the busker is trying to make money. I think some people think that we just want to play our music for people and that is an end in itself to us.
Sunday, March 26th, 2017 -5 AM
I just got back after a strange 57 dollar Saturday night, when I started playing at 10:32 PM, and finished at almost exactly 3 AM. I had stopped on the way in, and thrown 20 dollars on my plastic card and then turned around and spent 10 right back off of it in the same transaction. That is how I have to work around the 20 dollar minimum load on the card. That at least gives me a balance somewhere around the price of a decent harmonica.
It behooves me to set aside some cash in case Rose and Ed want to borrow any towards the end of the month (right now) to be paid back double. I already have floated a 7 dollar loan to them.
Last month, Rose called on the last day, wanting to borrow 30 bucks and pay me back 60 less than 12 hours later! But (d'oh!) I had just put 65 bucks on my plastic card, leaving me less than 10 bucks cash.
I think that is a carryover from the drinking days, a desire to protect the money from myself. I can remember the time that I counted out 10 one dollar bills to give to a guy that was selling me a dime of weed.
Later on, after searching my pockets, I deduced that a 50 dollar bill must have been folded up in between the ones, making it a 60 dollar dime of weed.
The problem arose from the fact that I had given the 50 dollar bill special treatment, having folded it differently than the rest of my bills, thinking, I guess that it would stay there, separate from them, and serve notice to me that I was down to less than 50 bucks if I had to break it. That, and having not put it on a plastic card instead of trying to carry it around.
So far, I've got about 40 bucks that I would gladly lend to Rose and Ed, to get back doubled a week from now. I might just go out and play tomorrow (Sunday) night, just for more "Rose and Ed" money..
I might put "a bug" in the ear of Rose, by calling tomorrow and letting her know that, by the way, if you need to borrow any cash, I've got some set aside for a harmonica but could wait another week before getting it... Especially since the harmonica that I would be getting a week later, given their extra 40 bucks, would most definitely be a Hohner Special 20, which is about 44 bucks here...
It does make me wonder, the fact that they are willing to pay back 100% interest... I don't think it is a reflection on their credit worthiness with others, because they seem to dispose of their debts right off the top of their monthly dole; I think it is in indication that, as a busker, I'm one of the very few people in the building with any cash on a 25th of the month day like today.
The dynamics of last (Saturday) evening were such that I made the 57 dollars off of perhaps 5 or 6 people, total.
There was a guy named Chris who hung out and, threw me 20 dollars and, got another guy, who was drunk and wanted one of my plastic sharks, to pay what turned out to be 14 dollars for it.
A Lone Shark
My busking business is trending more toward entertaining individuals who want to hang out with a busker, and maybe vicariously act out musically through him, who are very often "corporate" types , and very often speak of having "almost" thrown a guitar over their shoulder and hopped a train, once, or of how they sit behind their desk at their $million+ per year jobs and wonder what that would be like. And they are very often full of encouragement, insisting to you that what you are doing is very worthwhile life, and that they are going to go off, full of envy for you, back to their $million+ per year jobs in Houston or somewhere.
I am a lot like the tarot card reader, who might give readings for only 5 people on a given night, while the multitudes stroll past, oblivious to what is going on at the table; and who will try to engage them and keep them intigued and fascinated for such a stretch of time that the people feel like they have gotten at least a 50 dollar reading out of them.
The idea of bringing a milk crate home every night has been stuck on the senate floor, so to speak. With all the gear that I already have on me, the addition of a milk crate each night would really feel like more trouble than it's worth. I would be riding the bike one handed for 2 miles just to get one crate home. This would make it hard to drink a Monster Energy drink while I rode, or smoke a cigarette.
I do like the idea of coming in the apartment building every night carrying what is ostensibly the one milk crate that I own, while nobody notices that I never leave with one. I still want to make a sound baffle, I might try to buy milk crates.