Ah, busking. What don't I owe this profession?
The very common misconception that it is any number (and more) of the following:
Lets break this down:
If anyone (or no one) reading this cares to add to this list - please do. One day, someone may gain some insight from it.. also if anyone wants to link to other busking blog posts or articles please do, I will be most appreciative and remember you in my prayers.
Moving on - I'd now like to tell you why I love busking and street art and performance so much.. and list the gifts the street has given me:
A lot of venues do not have the funds to pay for upcoming performers, and whilst open mike nights serve a purpose - your slot is limited, as is your audience.
I tell you now - once you have pulled a track together enough to play it reasonably well all the way through, you will NOT get better practice experience than whilst on the street. You get good - fast. And you get paid to do so. Please - I invite you to tell me how this is not winning?
Play in a small venue, as a novice, to an audience of 5 - 50 if you're lucky. If you're even luckier, and quirky, or just dem fine, then they might even listen. Well done! Some of them might even come up to thank you at the end, and offer you further encouragement.
In Sheffield , there is an average footfall of tens of thousands of people on a busy weekend. Yes - that's right. You busk for 2 - 4 hours and you've been seen and heard by thousands of people. Slightly larger reach than facebook fanpage posts or open mike nights. True - most of them will walk on by, but you WILL become recognisable if you are a regular, and memorable if you are a stand out performer. You never know who is watching and listening.
When you step out onto the street for the first time - your knees knock. You slip and stumble. Your voice wavers. Everything that sounded perfect in practice suddenly sounds too dry, the melodies too quiet, the mistakes painfully loud. If you are a street performer - you will drop your props. In no way shape or form, unless you are some kind of deviant or savant - you completely shit yourself.
You can say this happens with every beginners performance - however, on the street is hugely more challenging as your audience have not been invited to watch nor paid for a ticket. They are most certainly NOT your friends, or at least that's how it seems when you are throwing your heart into your performance, and people are walking on by without a nod.
Push past it. Keep at it. It's worth it. The first time you get a 'chink' as someone drops a nugget in your hat is worth every second of knee knocking nervous agony. Keep at it. Someone will, sooner or later, approach, maybe tentatively, and tell you how much they enjoyed that particular song. How it reminded them of a long lost loved one, or moment.
Keep at it. It's worth it. Over time you develop an invisible, almost impenetrable shield, which allows you cover whilst you slip into the performance zone.. that magical place where you can nod and smile as passers by thank you and drop funds into your hat - as you are purely sat within your art form, and where initially the hubbub of the street was overpowering and monstrous, is now but a hummingbird or branches blowing in the breeze, in full compliment with your work. Do this 100x and your confidence will ooze from your every pore in more ways than just your performance.
Life Lessons in Psychology and Social Behaviour
As someone on the autistic spectrum - I have long struggled with how to behave amongst the others who aren't. Being high functioning I have hid this well - but have lost many friends and lost confidence along the way. At certain points in my life I have been nothing more than recluse and hermit like, hiding behind the sofa when the doorbell rings and shuddering at a ringing telephone. The minefield of human socialisation on many occasions, became something I didn't want to engage with ever again.
Working the street as a performer has helped me with this, and so many other areas that I can't begin to describe - in leaps and bounds, and like nothing else. You realise that people are nowhere near as scary as you imagined. You hold court in your spot - you claim the stage. The audience - once you get it right - are but putty in your hands, waiting for your next breath, even if a lot of them pretend they don't see it or admit it. I'll let you into a secret - most of them are painfully shy. Sometimes this comes out with irritating, dismal comments, such as "Get a real job" et al ad infi-shite-um.. And sometimes it means they won't approach you, or they will freeze if you speak to them. Once you realise your position, which, simply by being there and exuding the confidence in you that the street has multiplied, you call the shots, and you can coax them out of shyness, and maybe make them see some form of beauty again.
Or you could be a twat and fuck with their heads - but that's up to you. Point is - I LOVE BUSKING and will vehemently withstand any move to restrict it.
More on this to come later.