You can be confronted with two basic reactions telling people that you are busking and making your living out of it. First, they can think that you are crazy, asocial, don’t want to work and in that case, they will probably even think that you are too unstable to have a job. Well that’s quite about right. The other one is seemingly a bit different but in the end is just different intepretation of unstable and not having a job. Namely: people think that you are so alternative, courageous and that you are probably an interesting person. In that second case you already have a conversation. It’s always sort of a test for me – if someone doesn’t like the fact that I’m a busker – even though I could probably accommodate to his view of the world slightly, I don’t want to deal with the guy more than I have to. Like many other things, it reflects a basic attitude towards life and it is not that mine is better – it s simply different but it doesn’t change anything.
But at the same time, there are many myths about busking and I can tell you right now that what you are probably thinking about that guy playing guitar at the corner of the nearest street is not correct.
1)Busking is not profitable
Many people think that buskers are beggars and that they do something like that simply because of lack of other options. I can see that in some cases it’s true but quite often, busking is actually far more profitable than a part-time or even a full- time job.(Or even your current job! haha in your face buddy!)
Of course it really depends where are you, how good are you, what instrument you play, how good and numerous is the local competition and many other things, but in general – it’s really unlikely that you will make less money than these waiters from the restaurant next door who give you these scolding looks. From my experience even with a basic skill, in the right place you can reach a stable income of 15-20 Euros per hour, at least if you are motivated enough.
2)Busking is for fun
For those of you who imagined a romantic soul sharing his music with people on the street I have to say that you cannot be less wrong. It’s difficult to imagine for me why someone would go playing for an hour or two simply because he “wants to”. Besides preparing everything (finding a spot, getting there, practicing your repertoire) I can promise you that playing the same 10 (or even 20!) pieces over and over again after few days is going to be boring as hell and hearing them on the radio you will be turning it off.
Even then, I have to confess that I’ve heard some stories of jaguar owners who play accordion on the street simply because they got already bored with everything. Nevertheless throughout my long and painful busking career – I didn’t meet many people, for whom the major reason to stand out there wouldn’t be getting some money and avoiding having a job.
3)Buskers are cool
Although as I said at the beginning – certainly not everybody will think in this way, that’s the next impression of people who suspect all these guys with guitars of having an artistic soul. It sometimes happens, mostly for young travelers, but in general buskers are bums what can be easily discovered by talking to some of them. The same thing goes to all street performers. Sometimes especially standing statues and performances which don’t require much skill, are performed by homeless-like creatures. Once some homeless-looking guy asked me for some change – having a good day I gave him a euro and since I was waiting for someone, we talked and it came out that he is a fellow busker himself, only his guitar broke recently! You can say that he was probably lying and I know how it looks but having met many buskers already I can totally believe that. I even met people doing it who were clearly having mental disorders. It happened that seeing a guy I was thinking “what a bum!” seeing a drunk agressive look coming out of a jungle of dirty hair but then at some other place I saw him busking.
4)Buskers like when you talk to them
Asking for the name of some strange looking instrument, played by a muscular guy with tattoos sitting on the sidewalk is the last thing you should do. Even if the guy doesn’t look so aggressive, then I have to say that interrupting is never nice. Usually a person who is doing such thing is enough embarrassed and concentrated on what he is doing so obviously or not – he wants to avoid talking to anybody. Frankly said, there is anyway a really little chance that the approaching man will say something creative and something what you ‘ve never heard before. Usually people say: “You play classics?”, “where are you from?”, “what is the name of this song” blablaba. Of course they are just in a good mood and would like to talk to you – but well – usually it’s nothing specially interesting.
Once an innocent looking young woman asked me whether I need any food or shelter. She was average looking but wasn’t ugly.Totally embarrassed I rejected the offer saying that I’m not really a hobo. Looking back I have to say that it was a big mistake and only for the sake of doing that I could let her take me to the nearest Mcdonald’s to buy some super expensive Big Mac, making up stories about sleeping on the street to soften her heart.
5)Buskers like when you listen to their music
Ahhh that’s the worst thing ever and sometimes a teenage girl who for some unknown reason seems to be hating you, can stand in front of you for 10 minutes waiting until you make a mistake, then, gives you a contemptuous look and walks away. That’s paradoxical but quite often people who listen dont give you money – they smile after a while saying – “well played mate” and then they simply walk away, or even worse – they try to talk to you.
Next time seeing a busker – remember – he is not poor, not that cool and probably he is not that good in playing as it may seem during these 15 seconds when you are passing by. You can ask yourself then: Why am I actually giving him my money?