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Let the Spark Ignite

In one week, an idea was born and came to life. A few days in Edinburgh watching street theatre are planned. The week before I read the book ‘The Art of Asking’ where Amanda Palmer describes how she gradually realised her passion: to give live performances with people. They developed into fans, and Amanda can sustain her choices because they express their appreciation with payment.

I can feel a sparkle of warm mutual appreciative contact, which I miss in all marketing and sales talk. If I could let my clients feel this sparkle in contact with their fans, much more would happen in business.

I participated in a street theatre group for some years during my student days. Jo King lives near me, who started out as a street musician, he is now a professional portrait artist.

These separate stories come together in one unit.

Five chapters

  • Nine lessons for entrepreneurs

  • The path of the sparkling connection

  • Jo King

  • Connect and ask

  • Interview with an entrepreneur

Nine lessons for Entrepreneurs

  • Perform to the best of your ability from the first moment. Give it your all, with every ounce of power and knowledge. Keep doing this: each performance is a top performance.

  • Alternate top performances with rest periods to recharge you. Do not exhaust yourself, or you will have nothing left.

  • Contact between you and your customer is personal. Only personal attention and personal value can create a connection.

  • Improve and renew yourself in between times. Each subsequent presentation will be richer and better than the previous one. Clients who you know will return, because what you offer is good for them and they are also hoping for something new.

  • Innovate constantly. Maintain direct contact with your clients. Exchange, give, connect yourself from the first moment.

  • Provide, perform before you question, and ask for immediate valuation and connect personally with everyone who shows appreciation. Make a gesture.

  • Ask for valuation: I am performing, give me what you think I am worth.

  • Build contact with the people you appreciate personally. Give your whole person and maintain it personally. Pay attention to who connects with you. Cherish your fan club.

  • Based on your fan club, you can develop further: they give you more and they will support you in your new projects, services.

How did I come by these lessons?

These are generalisations of successful and less successful lives of street performers. Musicians, actors, acrobats, living statues. There is no introduction: you stand there as a street performer. Direct contact with your audience, everything you do forms part of your performance from the first moment in the open space.

Building space, tools, appliances. It is all your performance. People who watch, remain there and want to continue connecting with you. You talk, you move. Everything you do has to be captivating. High tempo, a lot of variety: it looks very well thought out, the performance of every action is perfect, and expectation grows. People stand, give their time, organise themselves. What will it be? If there is an onlooker, speak to them and engage others. They form an active listening, watching group. Everything is in direct interaction. Something happens every second: a word, a gesture, an action. Intensely and fascinatingly surprising, always different. High tempo. You are acting and talking, making connections, engaging. You are energising and engaging customers, alternating images, performances calling for 'oh' from your audience, applause.

The path of the sparkling connection: the business path.

How do many performers see the business path? They and their customers determine their summit. Everyone chooses his top spot; the steps are very similar.

  • You prepare yourself as well as possible, but further development is only possible with direct feedback from the public. Are you afraid of their reactions? Overcome the fear, but remember that you are vulnerable. That goes with it, that is a risk. Learn to deal with it, it is unavoidable.

  • You show yourself, go directly to the contact and pay attention to all feedback details. What works well and what works less well? I saw beautiful living statues, with no interaction with the audience. People did not stay to watch, people gave little money. I saw performers making jokes at the expense of people from their audience, people ran away and the performers’ caps were empty.

  • Processes all feedback directly into your next performance

  • You want to live from it: so you should ask for money. What works best, when, and for which audience? Putting a cap on the ground, without pointing to it or asking questions directly? What works best? Immediately ask: "I provide a service, you have enjoyed it. I expect respect and recognition. This is how I make my living; you can make it easier for me by giving me what you think worthy of your experience”.

  • Find places with audiences where you are most likely to get appreciation and cash. Strive for increasingly good performances. Top performances.

  • Move to places where they invite you to put on a performance.

  • Show where you can invite people to a performance. Always value every contact. Value is always you and your performance. You make a living from the money. Mutual awareness creates new opportunities.

  • Refresh your repertoire constantly. Always add something new. Indulge with acclaimed performances and surprise with new. Jo King began with four Frank Sinatra songs, then five, then six. After a period of time he had two shows available of an hour and a half each.

  • Remember every fan. Give fans the opportunity to keep in touch with you: a website, .... Show what you have to offer: new songs, new stories, personal experiences. This is a daily connection and draw for your fan club.

  • Keep your fans up to date with all your activities. Show your tryouts. Let them see into your kitchen, in the production, manufacture, development. Give the little hints about what is to come. Ask them to support you, to come to performances, to buy.

  • Expand your performance with CD’s, videos, t-shirts, hats. Write a book. Put a performance on Youtube. Give a TED talk. Keep your fans aware of your development. People will love you for what you give them.

  • Ask them to fund your projects. Directly or through Kickstarter, or, ... and .... Ask your fans directly for any support, large or small.

  • Create a platform that allows your fans to support you, ensuring that you have a regular income. Patronage.

  • Add a store of precious gems to your site. Customise it with your new developments. Keep them current and surprising.

Jo King

He began with a partner in the 1980’s. He on guitar, the other on clarinet and both also singing. In Amsterdam on the Dam, from Kalverstraat to the Leidseplein, relocating every half hour. During the summer holidays they sang together for money to pay their way. On the street, an open guitar case where listeners could put money. Eye contact to thank people who were giving.

Full focus on playing as well as possible. It is very strenuous to constantly keep on top of your performance, your voice and contact. You are completely present from the first moment. It takes a great deal of strength to recharge yourself physically each time. These are top performances. Rest well in between. Put a full day at the beginning, but not later. Rest and make things perfect after every performance. Besides playing we danced with the crowd: rock and roll. We were invited to play and dance in pubs.

That went well. We had fun and went on to Rome and the south of France. Pubs bring in more money than just playing on the street, still more on the terraces, where we walked in and spoke and sang directly to the public. This was more personal and captivating than the permanent band on the terrace. I travelled round England with a 4-piece band for years (Swervy World). Brighton and other festivals. Always be somewhere early to get the best place. I earned an average of £200 per week, enough for my wife and two children. In 2002, we moved to Spain. Street performances and hotels, but then bookings took off.

The Frank Sinatra Show

Then I developed my Frank Sinatra show. It started with four songs under a lamppost on the first night. I added a new song every other day, until I had material for about 3 hours non-stop. In Granada I earned €80 for three hours, and three times as much on the coast. That was enough for my family.

On the street, it makes a big difference whether you make direct contact. There is a lot to do: talking, singing, telling stories, jokes from my own life, conversations, singing and dancing together. Cafes invited me to perform. That is always a more anonymous performance.

And I could earn more by selling CDs that I recorded myself. A website, ‘Absolutely Frank’. Many videos, photographs, posters. Stories about himself.

New Sparks

When traveling around cafes in Spain and England, he was often in the same places and noticed that there were two groups of fans; some came especially for him, and new people would also come. He always brought something new for the fans. An hour and a half for familiar songs, an hour and a half for new ones. That puts you under pressure to learn something new. Spain was a financial success: three months working very hard to then live for the rest of the year in Spain. But there was a change: the cafes wanted only flamenco music. Back to the street? No, he did not want that anymore.

Back to England. Years of street shows and performances in pubs and other venues, with the Frank Sinatra show. You have to keep working on your performance, your voice, to your movement. Learning new songs and new arrangements with Alexi. Performances are good for voice development, sufficient strength, but not too much. Articulation, stress and relaxation, every night.

What else? Painting!

So performance is only possible if you have an amount of tension. Physical and mental tension, or else you cannot spark the fire in the listeners. But we discovered that I was running a great risk. I had an aneurysm, which made the necessary tension for performances dangerous for me. I had to stop. I started painting as it had always one of my activities and is now my source of income.

Paintings by Jo King

Connect and ask

The acrobat says at the end of his acts in the large rectangle in a city square with three rows of people around as he stoops to put a hat on the ground, that his greatest fear is that when he has finished, and looks around, everyone has gone. You have enjoyed my show for seven minutes, I would like you to show me respect and reward me with what you want to give me.

Another acrobat asks after her act that the spectators reward her according to the pleasure they have been given, because that is how she makes a living

A statue of a fairy captures the eyes of anyone who looks at her and rewards them with a smile. Granting a wish with her wand. A bigger gesture to a child. An even bigger gesture to whomever gives her money.

Another statue gives a rose to anyone who gives money.

Yet another statue of a cyclist battling against strong wind, beautifully made, standing motionless to be beautiful, but in his hat is little money.

People just give?

Sometimes, but you have to ask. "If you do not ask, you do not get," says Jo King. Amanda Palmer writes: "I am doomed to get what I am asking for." Maria Popova writes: loving = donating. "I love my performances," writes Amanda Palmer and, "I love who I touch with my love." In my childhood I was taught: "If you ask, you will be missed out.”

Questions make you vulnerable.

You can get a ‘no’, be rejected. Albert Ellis, who developed Rational Emotive Therapy tells himself as a young man, he dared not ask a girl to speak with him because be being rejected seemed the biggest disaster that could happen to him, and he wanted to avoid that. Others told him that it could not be so bad, but he did not dare. They challenged him to face his fear: would the disaster be really so great? He went to Central Park in New York and asked a random woman on a date. No. And again, and again, and again, and again. No disaster happened to him. He went on to say more and ask in different ways. No disaster and the rejections were sometimes even charming.

Is 'asking' difficult?

Yes. Anyone who builds a machine knows you have to build control and feedback loops in order to keep the operation within acceptable limits. But imagine asking someone very directly for feedback about one of your actions, then there might be hesitation, or the feedback is harmlessly given in the annual general 360-degree feedback rounds, when you get general judgements which you can do nothing about, because they only reveal preferences of the other.

Management literature and training comes to say a lot about this: how do you ask for support if you do not know anything? How do you ask for help when something threatens to get out of hand? Everyone learns when to ask an open or a closed question. Sometimes you wish you had not asked an open question, because the narrator goes in all directions which you cannot follow. On the other hand, you only get what you ask for with closed questions, and discover nothing new.

Ask, ask, ask, ask.........................

Conversation with an entrepreneur.

He is the founder of an IT company that builds websites and platforms. He wants to work on meaningful, useful purposes. He has unique examples and his own platform language. Simple, useful, beautiful.

Who has an attractive, useful objective?

The focus in the conversations between clients and those who realise the project is concise. They want more commissions. More customers. They know the questions from the marketing books. But these do not spark a fire.

A few questions to show the strength of the connection

  • Is there a picture of the client in the project? With his name? Who spoke last to him? What does he think about you? Who has done anything with him?

  • Let this client know about your new discoveries in brief messages?

  • Who are your best fans? Where did they last hear anything from you?

  • What have you recently asked your fans?

  • Did you send the invoice and request payment on time?

  • When did you last go to the market positioned as a whole?

  • What do you write regularly about your beautiful work?

It remains quiet.

Good questions. What hinders you? Asking does not feel right. Selling myself does not feel right. He dehumanized the relationship between him and his clients to a practical exchange of goods and services. That blocks him. Perhaps make the bond more personal between him and those who can enjoy his performances? More like: appreciation is giving and I ask you to express your appreciation in a commission, or money.

Ton Voogt

2016 September

Read, watch and listen

Jo King


Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking, 2016

David Cohen & Ben Greenwood, The Buskers, a history of street entertainment, 1981

Edgar H. Schein, The Humble Inquiry, The gentle art of asking instead of telling, 2013

On Crowdfunding

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