~ The Checkerboard Guy's Blog ~

Archive for April, 2009

Dealing with “THE PILE”

2009-04-30Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

It’s been an interesting week… I always have to deal with “THE PILE” when I get home from a trip, and by “THE PILE” I mean the stack of stuff that’s collected on my desk while I’ve been away, phone messages, bills, letters, what have you, the stuff that I’ve brought home from the trip that needs to be dealt with, accounting, thank you letters and general admin stuff, but then also things like unpacking, laundry, general care and feeding of props etc. – I roll all of this into one convenient term “The PILE.”

Dealing with “THE PILE” it typically my first order of business when I get home from a trip. Once I get through the fairly mundane tasks I feel like I can more comfortably settle into my daily routine at home. This time around, although I’ve been making steady progress on dealing with “THE PILE” it’s taking far longer and somehow seems like less of a priority than it usually is when I get back from trips. I think that this in part because I came home from Oklahoma having picked up some sort of bug which has had me more or less house ridden for the week. I did get out to visit the walk-in clinic on Tuesday, but there’s been a lot of time just spent letting my body fight the bug (ie crashed out on bed)… Oh… The added complication of my young son Owen getting his pinky smashed in a door jam and needing extra TLC this week has also mean a complete shift in priorities, and a general slowing to the pace at which I typically attacked “THE PILE.”

I think on some level I’ve always sort of looked at dealing with “THE PILE” a bit like the fight between the Rebel Alliance and the Evil Galactic Empire in STAR WARS… “THE PILE” representing a menacing threat to the freedom of my day which must be FORCE-ably dealt with with a one minded focus and determination. Even after the destruction of the DEATH STAR-like workload associated with this trip to Oklahoma, I know that the Empire will Strike Back with it’s same old tricks on the next journey I take to entertain the masses and bring mirth to the world…

OK, so maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but come on… If you can’t make it fun, then it really does become just a fairly mundane set of tasks that aren’t nearly as much fun as stepping out in front of an audience and feeling the waves of laughter… Find the fun in even the mundane and the journey becomes that much more enjoyable..

Respect the Venue

2009-04-292Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I have very vivid memories of a conversation I had with Andre Vincent about twenty years ago about the importance of giving due respect to the venue you’re playing in. We were performing at the Edmonton Street Performer’s Festival together and we got to talking about the various venues a variety performer could play at. At that time I’d already been performing for about eight years or so and mentioned that I though that perhaps I’d move on to trying my hand at Film and Television. It was then that he stopped me dead in my tracks and made a point that has stuck with me ever since.

The Street is just as valid a performance venue as the screen (be it the large screen or the small screen) or the stage and treating it with anything other than the respect it deserves does a disservice to both you and your audience.

Something in the tone of his voice, the focus look he had as he said this to me and the deliberate nature of the show that he performed on the street really left a huge impression on me and it’s something I’ve passed on to many other young performers who might perhaps be looking at ‘Street Performing’ as a stepping stone to ‘Bigger Things.’ That term ‘Bigger Things’ is all in the eye of the beholder. It may well be that ‘Street Performers’ are considered by some as second-class citizens in the world of variety artists, but wasn’t it a small band of street performers in Quebec who founded the Cirque du Soleil? The imagination and ingenuity it takes to make it on the street attracts a special bread of performer and I can say from experience that they are some of the most interesting and innovative performers I’ve ever met. Well the ones who treat the venue with the respect it deserves.

There’s no doubt that it’s not the venue for everyone, and I’ve certainly had my share of dabbling with other venues (Cruise Ships, Trade Shows, Theaters) but this past week of performing at the Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts reinforced how great a venue the Street is. Being able to create something where there was nothing, to take a open sheet of concrete or asphalt and craft it into a performance venue, one where people are lined up to see what the excitement is all about – there’s a magic in that that’s beyond compare.



2009-04-28Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m a product of both of my parents. The DNA footprint that they left on me sometimes drives me crazy, but as I get older I think I’m mellowing into acceptance instead of resistance. From my Father I get a tendency towards perfectionism from my Mother I hope I managed to acquire the ability to set a deadline and do the best job I can up until that deadline – this isn’t always easy if I feel like with just a couple of extra hours or days I could make a project better, but the ability to set a deadline and do my best to stick with it allows me to do the best job I can, then move on.

Not only do I set myself deadlines, I usually try and finish a project before the deadline as it gives me an bit of extra time to recheck things and feel confident that yes indeed this is the best I can do given the time I’ve allowed myself. I derive a certain comfort in having enough time to recheck things fairly thoroughly and give myself this time when ever possible. There are of course times when I don’t have this luxury, but it’s my preferred working style if I can swing it.

This isn’t for everyone I know…

There are those for whom the deadline is just an arbitrary date set by someone else that has little or no barring on the current task at hand… This quote always makes me crack up in fact –

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

–Douglas Adams, English humorist & science fiction novelist (1952 – 2001)

Perhaps its as a result of the DNA I was born with, perhaps it’s my own particular take on the world, but deadlines seem to suit me quite well. Sure they play well to my control freak nature, but there’s also a level of respect involved for me that comes into it as well. Being able to set a deadline and keep it means that you have a certain respect for how you manage your own time and how the way you manage your time effects other people. In business, this sort of respect seems to go a long way.


Perform A Lot!

2009-04-27Where in the world am I today?: Oklahoma City in the morning/North Vancouver in the Evening

I just finished up with performances at the Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts. Started doing shows last Tuesday and it was one of those three shows a day sort of gigs which can at times feel like a bit of a grind. I’m pleased to report that this time around it was more fun than it was a grind except for the last two days when something I ate decided to make my stomach do summersaults. Thankfully I didn’t miss a show though I was feeling a bit wobbly at times. Apart from the wobbliness it was a nice run with lots of shows. I always find my show gets much sharper after doing it multiple times a day over a multi-day event.

So what’s this got to do with Marketing… Mondays are supposed to be about Marketing… Well it’s like this. Not only did the exercise of doing my show a lot help me polish up my performance a bit, it also exposed me to a lot more people than had I been brought in to do just a single show. I’d never performed in Oklahoma before and I was amazed by the fact that when I arrived no one knew who I was, but over the course of the week, my audiences grew and grew. This might have also had something to do with the fact that the crowd sizes grew as we moved towards the weekend, but I had lots of people come up to me saying that they’d either heard the show was good and wanted to check it out, or had come back to see the show again.

All of this goes back to the very best type of advertising you could ever hope for – Word of Mouth. If you can create a buzz about your show, people will search you out and make a point of coming to see you. Every time you step on stage, be it on a cruise ship, at a festival or on a street corner, you’ve got a chance to leave a great first impression, so take advantage of that. The more great first impressions you make the greater the chance will be that you’ll have the opportunity to leave another be it the second, third, fourth, etc.

You never know who might be watching the show. One show might be populated with preschoolers, but one of their guardians might be connected to a community group who could bring you in for another job, or might have friends who are looking for just the right sort of entertainer for their next corporate event. There’s no excuse for just dialing it in. You owe it not only to the audience, but also to yourself to give your very best when you walk out on stage because it might just lead to your next pay cheque.

Be awesome and more work will come your way guaranteed!


Frank Zappa – Quoted

2009-04-25Where in the world am I today?: Oklahoma City, OK, USA

“Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.”

–Frank Zappa, US musician, singer, & songwriter (1940 – 1993)


“Convincing people to buy it, that’s perhaps the trickiest part of the craft”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

I distinctly remember my Aunt Jean (who used to own an art gallery) telling me once that Picasso was a better salesman than he was an artist. His contributions to the art world were many, but his ability to sell his work allowed him to live a very comfortable lifestyle. Sometimes I worry too much about the sales pitch and not enough about the ‘Art.’ In the end though, by convincing enough people to buy in to the something from nothing that I’m selling, the more chances I have of exploring different sorts of nothing in the hopes of creating more interesting somethings… Well at least more interesting to me.


Jon Hicks • Interviews from the Inside

2009-04-24Where in the world am I today?: Oklahoma City, OK, USA

Prologue: I had my first opportunity to work alongside Jon Hicks while I was working at the Edmonton International Street Performer’s Festival the Summer of 2002. For some reason I recall a group of performers heading to the West Edmonton Mall because someone wanted to ride on the indoor Roller Coaster… I opted out so I could take a picture of the event from a strategic vantage point, but light was low, the coaster was fast and the image I captured was more blur than anything else… Ran into Jon again again at the Waterloo Busker’s Carnival (Summer of 2004) and Jon came out to Vancouver for the 2008 PNE Street Stars Program. It’s been really fun watching Jon’s show develop and his onstage character really come into it’s own. Great guy, great show, good times!


Name: Jon Hicks
Birthday: November 4, 1962
Place of Birth: Blackheath, London, UK
Started Performing/Working in the Industry: Started in the industry in 2000
Discipline: Artist in Action – started as a speed painting act, has developed to include all sorts including visual comedy, (see new Elephants show)
Websites: http://www.thejonhicks.com and http://www.artistinaction.co.uk
Video Link: http://www.thejonhicks.com/page2.htmhttp://www.thejonhicks.com/page3.htm and New show ‘Elephants’ – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBoYApwRjxg
Venues Worked: lots of street stuff, UK, Canada, Japan, New Zealand some of my favourites. Corporate gigs all over. Recently quite a bit of Variety/Cabaret in UK, there’s a boom, The Grand Theatre in Blackpool in February, which was home to many old variety music hall acts, very exciting.

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? Chocolate, because it’s the best, just an instinctive thing.
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great filmsBrassed Off
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? Not one, but liked action man, toy soldiers and my teddy bear toffee.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started?Rolf Harris ( a TV presenter/performer who did very quick paintings). Fraser Hooper as a contemporary street performer.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in?Not sure but always liked the Pink Panther cartoons.
  6. Name something that scares you.Getting too old to perform and play football (soccer).
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had.Scenic painter.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try?Go to Australia.
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer?Shopping centre Gigs when you travel miles, the people who booked you don’t care and there’s no changing room. but you are told you can use the toilet (bathroom).
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?Annie will be with you later and there’s a five a side football(soccer) game every day.

The Nugget:

Pick one nugget of wisdom you’ve picked up from your career in Show Business to share with the World.

“Walk your own path.

–Jon Hicks


Has-Beens and Wanna-Bes

2009-04-231Where in the world am I today?: Oklahoma City, OK, USA

I’m not entirely sure why this popped into my head recently, but years ago while performing at the Shizuoka Daidogei World Cup Street Performers Festival in Japan I distinctly remember having a conversation with Jean-Michel Pare of the Flying Dutchmen in which he claimed that as a performer you were either a ‘Has-Been’ or a ‘Wanna-Be.’ This thesis was supported by many examples of performers who were either climbing the ladder trying to get their show to where they wanted it (The Wanna-Bes) or had made it, succeeded and were on the way down (The Has-Beens). The way he described it, it didn’t feel as though you were given very much time at the apex between these two states – you were either on your way up or on your way down… When I asked which he was he laughed and said he figured he was a has-been which made me laugh as I’ve always loved watching him work no matter what he said.

This image has remained with me long after that original conversation and continues to push me to work on my show because, given a choice, I’d rather been on the ‘Wanna-Be’ side than the ‘Has-Been’ side. I still love what I do and would hate to feel as though my best work is over. Certainly a lot has changed over the years and my approach to performing and interacting with an audience has shifted as various other things in my life changed. Getting married, becoming a father, needing to pay a mortgage… All of these things had an effect on how I performed my show and how I handled myself both on and off stage.

I remember having conversations with basketball fans who followed Michael Jordan’s career and enjoyed watching as his career and game evolve from being all about doing amazing things with his body to being it being more of a thinking man’s game. This may well have been because as the years went by he could no longer perform at the same physical level that he had, but it may also have been because as he gained experience in the game he figured out ways to play smarter that wouldn’t be as hard on his body and allow him to extend his career for more years than had he tried to maintain the pace he established early in his career.

In much the same way I think for me, it’s becomes more about the thought process behind the show as opposed to just muscling my way through a performance with youthful exuberance. I miss those reckless youthful days sometimes, but have a lot now that I didn’t have then in terms of the way I perform my show and the way I live my life. This might make me a ‘Has-Been’ to some, but I very much still ‘Wanna-Be!’



2009-04-22Where in the world am I today?: Oklahoma City, OK, USA

Up until now I’ve really focused on trying to provide a variety of venues and options for work. These are all venues that I’ve worked and continue to work, but I thought I’d change tack a bit today and discuss the motivation behind taking certain gigs.

I currently find myself in Oklahoma City performing at their Festival of the Arts. It’s a fine arts festival that features a hundred and forty four artisans selling everything from Handbags to Sculpture to Ceramics to Framed Prints to Wooden Toys. The variety and quality of the arts that’s on display and for sale is great. Having performed at similar events in the past I was aware of the sort of thing to expect and walked in ready to play and have a great time.

Beyond just knowing the gig and enjoying the environment and settling upon a fee that seemed reasonable though, the chance to come to Oklahoma City meant a chance to enjoy some Good Old Southern US BBQ. Ever since my friend Geoff Cobb taught me the difference between ‘Grilling’ and ‘BBQing’ I’ve been hooked and the trip to Oklahoma meant a chance to experience some authentic smoked meats. I arrived here on Monday and found this place called the Rib Crib just down the street from the hotel. It was so good that I went back for all you can eat ribs on Tuesday… Not sure how many more times I’ll get there but I think there may be a bit more BBQ worth enjoying before my time in Oklahoma City is over.

BBQ is what did it for me on this particular trip. A visit to the Suntory Whisky Distillery near Osaka back in September of 2008 was the cherry on top of an already great experience in Japan. The chance to do a bit of Christmas shopping in Shanghai was the icing on the cake for my trip to the Nanjing Clown Carnival, Picking up vanilla in Mexico has been the extra motivation for taking some of the cruise gigs I’ve done over the years.

It doesn’t really matter what your reasons are for wanting to visit a certain place, but the fact that this line of work not only provides you with a source of income, but also allows you to visit some incredible places in the world and seek out the things that really appeal to you as an individual means that this is quite possibly the greatest job EVER! That or it’s gotta be right up there anyway…

Always wanted to visit Australia? I did, so I looked up a bunch of Festivals around the country and then hopped from one to the next just passing my hat for tips for three months and quite successfully managed to pay for the trip and have some amazing adventures along the way too.

What ever the motivation, where ever the destination, enjoy the adventure!



2009-04-21Where in the world am I today?: Oklahoma City, OK, USA

I recently got back from China and while I was there I bought three Remote Control Helicopters in part because I always sort of wanted one, but also because I’m working on a new show and am trying to figure out whether including some sort of flying RC device is going to be practical. The reality may well be that I opt to not include any sort of remote control device, but I gotta tell ya. I’m having a blast playing with it!

OK, so why three? well I got one for myself and knew that if I came home with only one my boys would kill me, so I got one for each of us and so far we’re all LOVING them!

I’ve been really interested to see how each member of the Aiken Family Helicopter Squadron handles his flight time and what it reflects about our personalities. My older son, Koji quickly earned the nickname ‘Crash’ and my younger son Owen showed off his more tentative yet deliberate side by not flying his helicopter headlong into oblivion like his older brother (I’m guessing his helicopter will last longer). I think I fall somewhere in between these two approaches but my desire to actual control the flight with some degree of predictability likely reflects my control-freak nature as well.

The bottom line for me though is that these little helicopters have rekindled a sense of fun in the pursuit of something new that I remember having when I first started to juggle. I did the bulk of my hard core practicing back when I was in high school. I lived next to the school and early on figured out how to nab two lockers – one for school related items and one (usually the one next door) for juggling props. I was involved in drama and the school band, but something clicked for me when I started to juggle – it was just a whole lot of FUN!

The result of the fact that I enjoyed the activity so much was that practicing was something I actually WANTED to do. I had fun getting better and it was never a struggle picking up the props and working on something new. I remember thinking at the time that I was destined to follow juggling not music because picking up a musical instrument never brought me the say joy as throwing a schwack of balls around.

I consider myself insanely lucky to have been able to make a career out of an activity that I enjoy so much but part of what has given me the success has been the fact that it’s been a really really really FUN ride. The hours I’ve devoted to this thing I do for a ‘job’ (I always have a hard time saying that with a straight face) have been a pleasure and I look forward to many many more years to come.

I’ve heard it said that you should find a job that you’d pay to do and eventually someone will pay you to do it. In my case these words are pretty much spot on!


Comparative Research!

2009-04-20Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver in the morning, Oklahoma City at Night.

As consultant for the Pacific National Exhibition’s Street Stars Program I’ve had the opportunity to look at a lot of performer promotional materials. People send me stuff hoping that the Fair will be interested in hiring them and the address that the information gets sent to is mine. The picture above is just one of several filing boxes I have that are full with performer promo. It’s a really interesting exercise to see how much of a variety of materials are out there and how wide the gap between the stuff that I consider to be really good, and the stuff that just doesn’t quite make the grade.

For what ever reason, be it earned or not, I seem to have developed the reputation for putting out quite decent promo. But how did I get my start with all of this? Well it sort of went like this… I didn’t really know what the ‘norm’ was when it came to producing materials for promoting myself, but I was lucky enough to have a festival producer show me what a couple of other performers had sent in. By looking at what others had done I could attempt to make my materials (at the very least) as good as the stuff I’d seen, and ideally better so that my material would stand out against the rest of the crowd.

These days it’s much easier to do comparative research on the web and see what various performers deem to be acceptable as far as on-line promotional materials are concerned. Better yet though is to find a local festival producer or talent booker who would be willing to let you come in and have a look at some of the materials that have been sent in to them. Offer to buy said person lunch perhaps and ask for their input as to what they like to see when a promotional kit crosses their desk.

I guarantee the investment in lunch will be well rewarded as you get the chance to compare the materials that you’re currently sending out with the best (and worst) of the stuff that a typical talent booker has collected over their years in the business. Knowing what’s out there means you can avoid some of the mistakes that others have made as well as find ways to make sure that your materials do in fact rise to the top. Making a positive first impression is the key that unlocks the door and allows you to develop what will hopefully become long term business relationships, so taking the time to make sure the first impression you deliver is the best it can possible be is well worth the time and effort.


Groucho Marx – Quoted

2009-04-18Where in the world am I today?: Beijing in the morning, North Vancouver in the Evening

“Money frees you from doing things you dislike. Since I dislike doing nearly everything, money is handy.”

–Groucho Marx, US comedian with Marx Brothers (1890 – 1977)


“Comes in handy for those things that you do like as well.”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

There’s a wonderful turn about in much of Groucho Marx’s comedy. Simple statement turned on it’s ear for the punch-line. I chose this one this particular quote because I sometimes feel like the pursuit of money comes at the expense of artistic pursuits. I’ve created a NUT for myself that requires me to sometimes take well paying jobs as opposed to pursuing more adventurous opportunities from which I might have grown more as an artist. Sure does come in handy to free you from the things you dislike and enable you to do the things you do though…


Glenn Singer • Interviews from the Inside

2009-04-17Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prologue: I always sort of joke that my buddy Glenn is a one trick pony because much of his success has been built on a hilarious routine with his mighty steed Sigfrido his wearable zebra costume, but I first met Glenn before he got involved in his equestrian antics. We both worked at the 1988 Halifax Busker’s Festival and I remember bumping into him a few times there, but it wasn’t until the following Summer that we spent some quality time hanging out together. Actually it was Glenn, myself and Derek Scott who hooked up like the three musketeers at the Waterloo Busker’s Carnival in 1989 and Glenn and I were happily driven around to cool spots where we went swimming and cliff jumping – Guy Stuff! Amazing to think all of that started over twenty years ago.


Name: Glenn Singer
Birthday: November 2, 1957
Place of Birth: Boston, MA, USA
Started Performing/Working in the Industry: 1985
Discipline: Orchestrator of elaborate sight gags
Website: http://www.horseguy.com
Video Link: http://www.horseguy.com/video/index.html
Venues Worked: International Street Festivals, Schools, Theaters, Corporate Events, Hospitals, Cruise Ships, Weddings, basements…

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? You won’t believe this but if you want to know what my experience is eating ice cream, serve yourself up a nice bowl of your favorite flavor then let it sit at room temperature for an hour. Then try and eat it. It’s hard for me to get past what it’s going to be in my system: a bowl of elmers glue. I do like my friend Al’s homemade lime sorbet made in an ice cream maker with fresh limes, sugar and a little buttermilk. I might be an old man.
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great filmsAmalie
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? A Mighty Mouse Doll
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started?Avner Isenberg, Robert Nelson, Mr & Mrs. Jones on Holiday.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in?Chicken Hawk
  6. Name something that scares you.The Unknown. (I’ve learned to try to relax in the face of that thanks to Jonathan Kaye)
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had.Short order cook.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try?Tickertape
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer?The Paparazzi
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?What took you so long?

The Nugget:

Pick one nugget of wisdom you’ve picked up from your career in Show Business to share with the World.

“Avner told me that the show is just an interesting way to spend time while you’re waiting for what’s really going to happen. I still like that.”

–Glenn Singer


Taking a moment to enjoy it all…

2009-04-16Where in the world am I today?: Beijing, China

Being back in China again is a hoot! Actually being just anywhere in the world is a hoot if you take/make/create the time to look around and see/enjoy a bit of the place you’re visiting. I was talking to my neighbour who works in marketing a while back about how he often travels across the country or around the world only to go to business meetings in the conference room of the hotel that he’s staying at but never actually gets to see much of these great cities he’s visiting. That conference room could be any conference room in any hotel in any city around the world…

I think part of why I like what I do so much is that it has given me chances to travel to some pretty amazing places and experience some pretty amazing things apart from the actual performances. I don’t think I take advantage of this as much as I might… My friend Jon Hicks came out to Vancouver last year to perform at the PNE as part of the Street Stars Program and very deliberately extended his stay in Vancouver for a week beyond when the job had ended so that he and his wife could spend a week wandering around and exploring some of what Vancouver had to offer.

Jon bought a bicycle and borrowed one from us for his wife and they made a point of getting out and seeing something different every day and getting to know the city a bit. Wonderful! And if you’re given the opportunity to visit a new place, why not give yourself a bit of extra time if you can to see more than just the conference room of a hotel room or the venue where you happen to be performing.

I’ve been lucky over the years to have adventures present themselves to me on a number of occasions too. For what ever reason I’ll do a show and then someone will come up to me and offer to tour me around their town or I’ll run into a fellow performer at an event and they’ll suggest that, if work schedules permit it, we play hooky from the event we’re at and go exploring.

As we were arriving in Guangzhou a few days ago it was suggested that I spend some time wandering around the streets in the vicinity of the Hotel because of the number of interesting historic buildings, so I got up one morning and went for a bit of an explore. Sure I saw lots of cool buildings, but I also ran across this cool Ying/Yang symbol that was made from different colored stones that had been pressed into the concrete in a mosaic-like design. Very cool. It was also great to talk to a couple of people who wanted the opportunity to practice their English on me.

It wasn’t necessarily the most exotic little wander around the neighbourhood, but it got me a bit more connected with the place I happen to be and with the people who call this home and I can state with great confidence that it left more of an impression on my than the conference room of the hotel did.



2009-04-15Where in the world am I today?: Guangzhou in the morning, Beijing in the evening.

As a follow up to the post that I wrote on Monday where I talked about the importance of building strong relationship with clients, I thought I’d throw out another idea for how to keep really good clients happy.

Sometimes it’s a very good idea to not over saturate your show with a given client. The longevity of the relationship will benefit as a result because by spacing out your performances a bit you’ll have more time between shows to work on new material or for the client that’s hired you in the past enjoy seeing some of the same material again.

In the interim between when you perform for the client and when you do a repeat performance, why not offer your services as a consultant on who your client might be able to bring in to mix things up a bit. If you are able to locate talent for them who will deliver a great show then you’re value as an asset to that client will increase. Now how you choose to operate in your roll as consultant can take various forms some more profitable than others.

Charge a consultant’s fee. This puts and money involved in an up front billing scenario. This is the nature of the relationship I’ve had with the Pacific National Exhibition and the Street Stars Program for the last five years or so. I’m brought in by the creative director of the fair who considers me an expert in the sphere of world class street performers. Over the years I’ve grown my files on various acts from around the world so that depending on what sort of acts will help realize a particular year’s vision for the event I’ve usually got a few different acts to suggest. I’m brought in, provide a service and also act as the liaison between the fair and the performers from the time I go in for the first meetings until the day the Fair opens. Now the PNE is a large enough event that the idea of paying a consultant fee for this service makes sense.

Act as the talent booker or agent. In this scenario you act as the representative for another performer and charge a commission for the service you provide. In this scenario the fee comes off the back end. The client pays a flat fee then you take your commission/finders fee out of that fee before the balance is delivered to the performer who actually does the show.

I set up a company years ago that acted as a tour organizer for performers and charge them a commission on the work that they did. I did it in part because people were coming to me saying things like –

“Dave, we see that you’ve got a great tour booked always seem to be working. Would you be able to set up a similar tour for me?”

I set up tours for people for a couple of years, but I always felt a bit weird taking money from my friends. Sure I was providing a service, but the idea of being an ‘agent’ who makes his living off of the hard word of artists seemed a bit off somehow. There’s a difference between being an ‘agent’ and being a ‘manager’ and I think I’d prefer the idea of helping guide someone’s career as a manager, but in the end I think I was happy enough just managing my own career with out having to babysit the careers of my friends.

But back to the concept of developing great long term relationships with clients… I’ve been lucky enough to do the corporate Christmas Parties for a few clients a number of times. Even if I love how the show went down and the client wants me back the following year I’ll often suggest that they hire someone else for the following year just to mix things up a bit. In this scenario I just provide a list of local acts who I’m confident will provide a great show and offer this information up as a free service.

This does two things. It makes life easy for that client which is great and it gives work to my friends. I’ll often send this list out as an email and then BCC all of the performers on the list just so that they know where the lead came from. My hope being that by being nice to them, they’ll turn around a be nice back and suggest me in a similar fashion. Perhaps this is a bit naive on my part, but it’s how I choose to do things.


Practice and Training!

2009-04-14Where in the world am I today?: Guangzhou, China

Back in February I posted on how email can turn into a huge time suck. Last week I posted about the Underground Circus and their 10 meter tall marionette. So how do these two things relate to the heading ‘Practice and Training?’ Let me elaborate…

I’m enormously impressed with Peter and Ninon’s (Founders of the Underground Circus) focus and discipline when it comes to committing time just about every day to training and improving their skills and craft. They’ve got a well established training space and their daily routine includes time spent at the gym either working on a specific routine or general strength training, or both.

When I’m at home I find that the huge time suck of email is enough distraction along with the wonderful attractions/distractions of being a father/husband that I haven’t established a practice/training routine when I’m at home that keeps pushing me forward with my skills.

When I leave home to perform I often find that I can make time in my daily routine to include some sort of training or practice. This seems particularly easy when I’m working on ships. The shot above shows me working on a five-ball bounce juggling pattern aboard the Star Princess last June. Ships are also great because they always have a reasonably well equipped gym where I can keep my body moving and exercising.

I was out walking around here in Guangzhou one morning earlier this week and was impressed to see so many people out in public spaces engaged in some sort of exercise. Everything from slow moving Tai Chi to badminton to a cool looking version of hacky-sack to what looked like some sort of ball room dancing. People’s daily routine included time spent engaged in physical activity which was awesome.

I guess the challenge for me is going to be to figure out how to incorporate some training/practice time into my daily routine when I’m at home and stick to it. In my fantasy world I envision building a workshop/studio space in a barn in my back yard and going to the space daily even if it was just something like daily from 9:30 – 11:30 for a couple of hours to work on my skills, write comedy, develop new routines, jam out new ideas and spend time everyday on my career that has nothing to do with my computer and especially that dreaded time-suck – email! It would likely be easier to find a space I could do that in that wasn’t a barn in my back yard, but I do like the idea of the barn. Hmmmm… Barn… A guy’s gotta have dreams right? Right!


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