Love them or tolerate them, buskers are an established part of any inner-city soundscape. I find that I can’t walk along a town high street these days without coming across a few performers, whether they’re all acoustic with just guitar and vocals, or come with a full band behind them. Believe it or not though, busking not only benefits the musicians themselves but also the community around them. Let’s take a look at how this happens and uncover some top tips along the way for getting started as a busker yourself.
For the musician, busking is a great opportunity to practice performing in front of an audience. If you don’t have much experience, then it can be a great confidence builder. Once you’ve dealt with the local teenagers heckling you and someone’s grandpa making a guest appearance, you really will be ready for anything. Cultivating the skill of being able to think on your feet and being prepared for (literally) anything to happen will serve you well when it comes to gigging in proper venues. And in the meantime, it provides plenty of entertainment for passing shoppers!
Performing in front of a fresh and varied audience every day also has the added benefit of stimulating honest feedback on new material. If I’m not quite sure whether I’ve paced my set correctly, or whether my newly penned ballad will go down well live, I try it on the street first and then listen to the feedback I get there. You tend to find that audiences who haven’t paid to see you and who aren’t already familiar with your work will be more willing to offer genuine criticism. As in, they won’t be too shy to let you know how they feel! This criticism can be constructive or otherwise, so be prepared for both, but at the end of the day any opinion given will help you to build your act towards something bigger and better.
Also, the more people who listen to you, the bigger your fan base becomes. With the advent of smart technology, a lot more of us have ready access to cameras for taking photos or videos of interesting things we come across whilst we’re out and about. That something could be you! These snapshots of your set will then get posted on social media or sent to friends, connecting people and spreading the word about the music far and wide. I love the fact that sharing a gift for music with people on the street raises my own profile but also allows me to give back to the community that I’m a part of. Everybody and anybody can come together and enjoy music. Whether people just want to appreciate the talent on display, have a cheeky dance or chat about it with their mates, busking only adds to the community spirit.
Now it may seem counterproductive at first, but it is important to factor breaks into your busking schedule. Without the occasional rest from playing I find myself becoming fatigued and then I’m not on top form whilst performing. Some of my favourite ways to relax in between sets are browsing through Instagram for inspiration, playing a few games at PokerStarsCasino, or capturing a moment of calm with Headspace. In my experience, busking can be a full-on profession and one which requires lots of face-to-face social interaction. It’s nice to occasionally take a bit of private time to yourself to unwind and summon the energy to get back out there by doing something you enjoy. I like to use entertainment on my phone as it’s quick, easy and can be picked up or put back down again in seconds. Perfect for the unpredictable schedule of a day busking!
Once you’ve spent a bit of time perfecting your set, it can be a good idea to approach local businesses and see if they’re interested in a partnership. Having a regular slot booked outside a local restaurant not only guarantees that you have at least x number of hours per day to busk, but also drums up business for the people you’re liaising with. The restaurant can welcome your audience in for food and drink, whilst your audience size grows due to the restaurant’s endorsement (and tasty snacks!) It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved and means you’ll feel the benefits of being actively included in the local area.
Being out there busking every day that you can is great exposure for any up and coming artist, or indeed any established ones with new work to plug. But whilst you might be benefitting through increased gigging opportunities, earning a bit of money in donations and meeting like-minded musicians like yourself, it can feel good to give back a bit more. You could use your new hobby to raise money for a worthy cause, or to promote good work in the community. I find that people are more likely to come up and speak to you if they’ve enjoyed your music than they would be to approach a charity worker on the street. Through busking, you’re given a unique opportunity to connect with a wide cross-section of society – so why not use your voice to raise the voices of others?
Last, but certainly not least, busking puts a smile on people’s faces. My favourite thing about it is that it gets you out and about, enjoying the outside air, and encourages you to connect with all kinds of different people that you may not meet otherwise. Who knows what lucky break might come your way if you make the leap into busking? If nothing else, it gives you a reason to practice harder and pursue your dream, which is worth a few heckles any day of the week!