Playing Music Live On The Street Myth or Reality?


The Myth: Buskers play live on the street and people throw money into their hats.

The Reality: The busker is a recording artist who plays a CD or MP3 player to which he is dancing or lip syncing.

Now, if you believe this myth, I have a bridge to sell you.

This myth is surprisingly common in the world of non-profit fundraising. It’s so common that it even has it’s own catchy name: “The Busker” (also known as “The Hat”).

The Busker is basically a person who does some kind of activity – usually playing an instrument or singing – while holding his hat out for donations.

Here he is in action:

Picture courtesy of Michael Coghlan (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

And here are some others:

Picture courtesy of Guillaume Paumier (CC BY 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Picture courtesy of Sarah Williams (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Now, if you’ve ever seen a real busker playing live on the street, this should sound pretty familiar to you: there’s just one problem with it. This technique doesn’t work when you’re actually busking! In reality, people don’t just walk

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether playing music live on the street is really such a bad idea. I started out in rock bands and I played live music for years. I’d go to garage sales and buy used trombones and guitars, then sell them online and make a little money.

The thing that makes me wonder is that if you have any talent at all and you’re willing to put in the time, it seems like there’s no reason why you can’t do it. I think the real question is whether or not anyone will come to see you play your music.

But that’s an interesting question because it brings up the whole issue of how much effort you should put into promoting your music. If you’re just starting out, and your goal is to make money from playing live music, then you don’t have to be famous or popular or anything like that. You just need to find a way to get people to come hear you play, which means doing things like making posters, handing out flyers, posting on social media, etc.

If you’re already famous and popular then maybe it makes sense not to bother with promoting yourself because people will already know who you are and they’ll come see you anyway. But if not… then

Here’s a question for you: Do you remember the last time you saw a busker playing music on the street? For most people, it’s been quite a while.

But this is not necessarily because there are fewer of them than before. I believe it’s simply because we aren’t aware of them.

In fact, if you pay attention to your surroundings, you will notice that buskers are still out there, playing their hearts out and hoping to be noticed.

This blog is about these amazing musicians!

I was recently having a conversation with a friend about busking, or playing music on the street.

I asked him if he thought it would be possible for me to make $100 in one day playing violin on the street. He laughed, “No way!

If you could do that you would have done it already.”

I’m not sure if I agree with him. Of course I have never tried to make $100 in one day playing violin on the street.

But I also have never tried to make $100 in one day doing anything before. And clearly there are people who are making more than that.

In fact one of my favorite buskers is making more than $100 per hour.

The other day, I was riding on a bus in the city and I noticed something amazing. A man sitting a few seats behind me was playing the saxophone. He was pretty good, too! If you’ve ever been on a bus in the city before, you know that it’s not exactly the most pleasant place to be. It’s cramped, loud, and smells like old socks. But for some reason, this guy changed my entire mood!

I couldn’t help but smile. I was impressed by his talent and thought it was great that he played so well in such a terrible environment. After he got off the bus, I started thinking about how much money he must have made from all of us who were riding that day. Even though nobody gave him money directly (you can’t really get up while you’re riding on the bus), surely he must have gotten tips at the next stop or two when people got off to change buses right?

As it turns out, street performers are called buskers – at least in North America (in Europe they may be called “buskers” or “street musicians”). They are professional musicians who perform live music publicly in high traffic areas

I’ve been noticing a lot of really amazing buskers in the last few years. There are so many good ones that I’m starting to feel like the world is a better place.

This guy, for example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gC6Uw-6U-a0

(I can’t believe this guy has only 9 likes.)

And this girl:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3lh5ZDlNxo

The videos I see seem to be taken in France, Ireland, or England. Why these places and not others? Do people there have more respect for performers? Are there better performing locations? Do you need a permit to busk or something? I never see any good buskers in LA or New York, although those are the places with the most cool people who would do that sort of thing if it weren’t for some complicating factor (like needing a permit).

I was in Portland visiting a friend who was at a convention. I got bored and took the train downtown to wander around for a few hours. I walked for awhile, checked out some shops, ate lunch, and then I started looking for some entertainment. My eyes scanned the streets for people with guitars. No luck.

I decided to head back to the train station and go back to my friend’s place. As I was walking along a busy street, waiting to cross over, I heard music. It had that distinct sound of a harmonica being played. My ears perked up and I looked around trying to find the source of the music. As soon as I found it, my mouth dropped open and my eyes grew wide in disbelief.

The musician was sitting on the ground on this little piece of cardboard playing the harmonica; he wasn’t doing anything else but playing some slow blues on his harmonica while wearing this plastic mask of an old man with big glasses and white hair. The mask itself was pretty creepy, but that wasn’t what made me stop in my tracks; it was how well he could play with that mask on!

He could actually play quite well-and it sounded like there were two different people playing because he would move the harmonica


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *