Buskers Should Stay Grassroots

In Art, Know This, Life Around Me, Music, Musician, nashville, People that Rock, Singing, You HAVE to on December 10, 2009 at 10:44 am

On any given day, as you stroll Lower Broadway (Nashville, TN) the harmony of scratchy voices and out of tune guitars fills the air.  This pleasure is afforded virtually free of charge by the colorful individuals who are officially called “buskers.”  Busking is the practice of performing in public places for tips and gratuities.  Busking, or street performing can be just about anything that people find entertaining.   From acrobatics and card tricks to comedy, dance and even putting on a flea circus, buskers keep the streets of major towns unpredictably entertaining.

When was the last time you stopped to listen to these sometimes overlooked and under-appreciated  individuals?  Particularly in Nashville, buskers plays banjos, fiddles, cellos, guitars, harmonicas, and more; better than most people.  The confidence that street performers must have to get out there and artistically expose themselves is amazing.  Busking is most often considered the bottom rung of the entertainment industry.  However, some of the most famous groups and superstars started their careers as buskers; Joan Baez, The Blue Man Group, Pierce Brosnan, Jimmy Buffett, George Burns, Bob Dylan, Jewel, Simon and Garfunkel, and Robin Williams (just to name a few).

No doubt this holiday season people in major cities like Chicago and New York will be stopped by the “silver man.”  With shopping bags in hand they will pause to take smiling photographs with someone dressed and painted head to toe in silver.   These painted buskers brave the unpredictable climate on a daily basis and have no guarantee of income.  Why do they do it?  Most times the money is definitely the practical end to the performing means.  But bigger than the dollar, they have an insatiable need to exhibit their emotions and state of mind through song, dance, or some kind of artistic expression.

Derek Sivers, a marketing and musical master-mind, suggested this in a recent blog:

Put the street musician / busking process online.  A website where videos of street musicians are collected all in one place, each with a PayPal link so anyone watching can give some money directly to that musician.  See a great musician playing on the street in Cuba, Argentina, Egypt, India, or anywhere else?  Make the best recording you can with a video camera.  When they take a break, find out if they have a website and a PayPal address.  If so, write it down.  If not, set them up with one.  (If they don’t have email, set them up an email account first, then a PayPal account pointing to that email account, etc.  Write down the info for them.  Even if they can’t access it yet, they will some day.)

Then, with their permission, upload the video to YouTube with their name, exact location, and email in the metadata.  Then go to this website and make a page for them.  It only needs to ask a few things:

  • Performer’s name
  • Email address (linked to PayPal)
  • Exact location and date of performance
  • URLs where videos and photos can be found
  • Optional: text box for any other info you want to add

The site will automatically display the videos, and make a PayPal donate button that goes to the musician’s account.

This seems like an awful lot to do for such an organic act.  Kind of like a specific channel on youtube for the aspiring performer.  It couldn’t really be just one channel though, because singing is a lot different that live art (and they both draw very different crowds).  I guess if homeless guys can have a facebook and a blog – then buskers can go professional.  But wouldn’t that take the charm and authenticity out of it?  What are your thoughts?  Should busking remain grassroots or should it be promoted on the internet with modern technology? Leave your comments below…

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  1. Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter and musician who has been a major figure in music for five decades ::

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