busking

busking

Hi everyone. Any other buskers out there? I live in a crappy busking area. its freezing out right now and the best place we can go is right by an assisted living place so we make like a dollar every 3 hours we go. (divided by 3) St.paul and milwauke irish fests were good for us but otherwise not a whole lot of luck.Still lots of fun tho. Anyone else have better luck? if so how do you go about it.

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Trolling festivals and tourist spots used to work well. Winter is pointless unless you’re allowed to play in the subways, which you normally aren’t.

Most cities are increasingly hostile buskers. Even Galway (which has a perfect little busking paradise in the middle, in case you’ve never been) was trying to pass some controversial legislation to force buskers to buy expensive permits or some such nonsense. Don’t know how that turned out. Anyone?

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i started a thread many moons ago with a similar question:
https://thesession.org/discussions/1823/

i plan on busking for the fun of it all over ireland next time i get up there. strangely enough, i anticipate my first adventure in busking will be in mexico. there is a little town called san miguel de allende, which is a gringo expatriot artists colony located not too far from mexico city, which would work well. i mostly would just like to get connected to the music scene, which i hear is good, and busking would probably a good way in. athough that is not to say that i would object to disabusing a few fellow gringos of their dinero…

i’ll let you know what happens, assuming i dont end up in a mexican prison…

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Brendan! Hope all is well in sunny Mexico…

In Denver, you have to have a license, even for the annual busker’s festival, when downtown is full up with buskers all over the streets…

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"Most cities are increasingly hostile buskers" should read "… increasingly hostile TO buskers."

lol. Although I’m sure there’s some metaphorical truth to the other statement somehow…

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Speaking of crappy busking places - move to Calgary! The outside temperature is around -28 C. right now, and you’d make more money than you do in Summer, just because people would feel sorry for you. In the summer, they just look at you as if you’re pond life. This is the only place I’ve ever busked where (for the most part) people are genuinely confused about why you’d be sitting outside playing a few tunes and hoping they’d buy you a beer.

But really, this is just an excuse to tell you about my Aussie friend’s "Busker’s Helper": He made a little fiddle-playing marionnette that hung off the end of his fiddle, with a policeman whose billy was attached to the bow, so that as he played the copper would be thumping the busker. Guaranteed to bring in extra contributions!!

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HAHAHAHAHA! Omigod, that’s funny…!

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Used to busk a lot many moons ago. Used to be great for making money on the continent, and even in the south of England. All those cathedral towns with their shopping precincts.
Did it in Edinburgh for awhile, too, when I first got here. It’s a great way to be found by local musicians who are into the same things as you. Now, I believe it’s mostly a good way to be found by professional syndicated beggars who want ot beat you up.

Another trip down memory lane with Kris…..

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But what about that lovely, world renowned haven of busking: Eau Claire Market, Gzeg? Indoors and all!

Ah, Calgary. A city that doesn’t even need legislation hostile to buskers because the population is hostile enough to make hostile laws un-necessary.

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Yeah, I busk all the time. Been doing it for at least 20 years, all up and down the American east coast. I’ve even been an official busker of my city. Like a busker laureate or something. The mayor once heard that I’d been harrassed by a street person and came out of city hall to make sure I was ok and tell me to let her know if I needed any help. She didn’t want me to go away. A pretty far cry from being hustled off by the cops (and that’s only happened to me once, and they were actually very nice about it).

I spent January 2 busking outdoors in NYC, can you believe it? it was over 50 degrees. I turned into a bit of a real tourist attraction, dozens of people taking my picture, some of them insisting on posing with me. The nutball in the black trench coat, safari hat, 6 foot scarf and cable knit sweater in Washington Square Park in January.

Made money too. Money is good.

You can busk in the subways so long as you stay acoustic.

It can be a tough racket. Once I spent two hours and took in thirty five cents… and a potato. No, I’m not making that up. A potato. Another time I was left a religious audio tape, but *in* a walkman, so that worked out ok.

On the other hand I’ve made over seven hundred bucks in just over an hour. I’m reasonably good at what I do.

Weather’s crap here right now. 30 F and freezing rain, but it’s supposed to be over 50 tomorrow, and over 60 in NYC. I’ve figured I could make some decent money in the city tomorrow (four hour drive from me), again, just on the novelty factor, but the catalytic converter on my car snaped in half on the way to the grocery store and I just might end up spending the day in the muffler shop and out a few hundred bucks.

But you never know. Any of youse out there in the NYC area tomorrow check out the park for a guy in a black trench coat playing guitar and whistle. He might be smoking a Peterson Bulldog at the same time he’s playing the whistle.

That’ll be me.

KFG

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playing guitar AND whistle? And smoking? I’d pay to see that. I’m not even going to ask what you strum with…

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it sounds like my problem is living in the US. yeah i gotta get to ireland.

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I wonder if anyone else’s problem lives in the US. There’s a humungo problem living in the Whitehouse.

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Well Kerri, they may call it a harmonica holder, but, as it turns out, you can stick pretty much anything in there (although I make no guaruntees it won’t hurt).

In fact, you can get more than one whistle at once in there and get a little soprano drone thing going. I have to admit the kazoo is easier to solo on, although with open tunings and the Michael Hedges left hand thing going you actually can play a kind of acoustic trance music on guitar and whistle at the same time.

Not that I’m any good at that. But I’m workin’ on it. It’s the sort of silly parlour trick (playing two whistles at once is another. Non musicians think it’s hard) that brings in a few bucks, and once you toss them a parlour trick they’ll often be quite content to stick around and listen to other stuff for a while, and toss you a few more bucks when they leave.

KFG

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cheers to that jack. in fact right now it seems like evryone in the world except for rich republican white guys has a problem in the whitehouse.

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harmonic holders with two whistles eh? how do you go about fingering 2 whistles at once?

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Last summer, at an outdoor concert in Kilrush, I saw "Paddy", of the Japanese "Paddy and Bridget" music duo, play two whistles simultaneously. The music was obviously carefully arranged so that one whistle could accompany the other either in harmony or counterpoint. Given that the full complement of fingers was not available for each whistle, it was very well done, and musicaL
Trevor

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I just heard Margot Krimmel arfing around in Kolacny’s Music the other day, playing two harps at the same time, and it sounded REALLY cool…

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You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow. When doing it with the harmonica holder no fingers are involved. Think of it as a really weird bagpipe, with the guitar as the chanter.

With a whistle in each hand, of course, you’ve got five notes on each, although you have to take a certain amount of care not to drop them. A soprano and an alto recorder played together this way sounds really nice, although if you can do more than three notes on the alto you’re a better man than I.

Looks impressive. Sounds cool. That makes for a real crowd pleaser. The fact that it’s so simple a lobotomized monkey could do it is just the icing on the cake.

I admit I can’t play guitar at the same time while doing this though. Well, actually, I *can* (in this case I use the guitar as a drone, tuned like a mountain dulcimer), but not while standing up, or wearing shoes, and so far the results aren’t pretty. Some experiments fail. I didn’t want to be called "The Orangutan" anyway.

I have been toying with the idea of building a simple electronic pedal organ though. Take care of your 555 chips and your 555 chips will take care of you.

KFG

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Oh! My goodness! This thread brings back memories. Old haunts where the acoustics were phenomenal and the busking was heavenly. No gimmicks necessary. I have never professed to being any good at ITM, busking, or anything, but through busking I met friends I hadn’t seen for years, made friends among regular passers by, got a paid busking job (albeit short term as it transpired), got to play at a birthday party in the foyer of the National Library, was photographed with a bus load of Malaysian tourists, raised the money from busking to go to a Martin Hayes concert.

Recently went to see a low budget Aussie feature film called "Sommersault" set in Canberra and Jinderbyne, and there she was, the star, walking through my favourite busking haunt - gave me goosebumps to think someone else could see something creative in what is in reality just a delapidated tubular steel and cement footbridge to a bus Interchange.

Busking is great, but there is so much more than the money.

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Gzeg - No amount of money can replace fingers lost to frostbite. I’ve done my share of winter busking in Latvia, but I made a point of only going out on ‘warm’ days - about -2 C upwards.

The best busking I’ve done in Ireland was in Ennis (although partly because there were two of us. I can only speak for myself, but I always play better and consequently take more money when there are two or three of us). Bantry can be good on market day. Limerick as well. I’ve found that Galway is so overrun with buskers that it is hard to get a look in.

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Ya gotta sing like you don’t need the money. Oh, I take the money alright. Gotta eat, gotta put gas in the car. But I do it for the fun. I wouldn’t have been doing it for so long if I didn’t enjoy it. Working at Walmart might not be fun, but you’re out of the rain and cold and might even eat regular. Don’t necessarily have to sleep in a Ford Escort either (YMMV). I once gave an interview to a newspaper reporter doing a piece on street performers. She just wanted a five minute chat. She stayed for two hours listening to me go on about the art, philosophy and joys of busking, because we were having fun. We ended up in a pub.

In fact, I’d say if there’s any great trade secret to doing well at busking it’s having fun. Smile. Talk to people. Be a personality…and personable.

As for gimmicks the gimmick is that they aren’t really necessary, but here’s the thing, they make people happy. Happy people hooked in by a gimmick will quite contentedly stick around and listen to slow airs for half an hour after that. They’re a calling card, the promotional flyer, not the act.

Unless you’re a juggler or something.

I was once booked to open for Leon Redbone. He found out about it and said, "Ooooooh, no. Not that guy. He’s competition for my act. I want a juggler or a comedian."

I told them I juggled real funny like, and proved it, but I lost the gig anyway.

KFG

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I tried busking once as a lark, and after an hour had only collected some small change. I made the mistake of telling a few friends this story, and now it is a running joke among them (and now I am telling it on the internet, what kind of fool am I?). Although I am no virtuoso, I am not a bad player either. So I started to watch buskers, and discovered that (besides talent) connecting with the audience is a huge part of it. There is nothing like watching a good busker catch and hold the attention of a passer-by to teach you about good stage presence.
AL Brown

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No frostbite here! After an ugly outdoor gig this time last year, I’ve added a temperature caveat to our contract: no playing if it’s below 14 C., and if it’s above 30 C. you get 10% back.

Cathal McConnell playing in the Piper’s Club in Dublin some years ago did a cool thing with two whistles - he had a Bb and an F, each whistle had half the holes taped off (one the upper 3 and one the lower - can’t remember which was which). He played a slow air and a march with intermittent harmony. It was great fun, although I felt sorry for his brain afterwards.

Al, you’re absolutely right. I think busking is 20% music and 80% connecting (which is why I’d never make my living at it). My friend with the busking puppets is a good busker because he can reach out to just about anybody and get them involved in the music.

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"I felt sorry for his brain afterwards."

Well, I guess I was wrong, even some musicians think it’s hard. See what a good gimmick it is? The brain work is all done long before the performance, it’s all in the arrangment. Playing it is no harder than playing a piano with only 6 keys.

KFG

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Or maybe it was because he was severely hung over? It was the day after his birthday, after all. 😉 Still haven’t tried it myself, but you’re right - it looks complicated.

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Will was a juggler. Is, I guess. I once spent a chilly and instructive hour or so in a garage with him trying to teach me how to juggle. I was terrible. I ended up with a slightly sore lip from having a ball land on it. 🙂

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Yes, but you did get the three ball cascade going, and so did Richard, *and* we didn’t break any of all that fragile inventory waiting to go on ebay.

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Oh sure, if you count the fact that I was having to chase it across the garage everytime…! *smirk*

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look at this, a post about busking, whistling, politics and juggling

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Can you busk, whistle, politic, and juggle at the same time? How about throwing in "lilting" (I’m proud that I learned new terminology, and this isn’t called Irish Rap).

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My only experience with busking was back in 1980 when I was in Georgetown, Washington DC for a month taking care of matters for my Great Aunt who had recently passed away. At the time I was a total neophyte struggling to get any music at all out of my Riggoletta concertina and tin whistle. I met a very nice fellow, Mick Doherty, who played the hammered dulcimer (this instrument was the king of the busking instruments back then) who was busking on the old cobblestone main drag there. He told me to go get my instruments and give it a go. I followed his advice, and to my astonishment made about $15 per hour — and I totally sucked. Later, at about 6 pm we would all congregate in the Cafe de Pari and have dinner, hang out and chat… and then at about 9 pm we would all go to an empty bank parking lot at some busy pedestrian intersection and have a massive session. There were maybe 15 - 20 or so of us. The money poured in and I can remember seeing Mick emptying the instrument case and stuffing the pockets of his coat with the cash every few minutes as it kept filling up again. By 3 am when the bars closed the streets would fill with drunken yuppies and neo-cons who when they came upon us, seemed to be put under a spell that made them empty their wallets into Mick’s instrument case. After things quieted down, Mick would dole out the cash equally to everyone there who was playing. To my astonishment I walked away with a couple of hundred bucks at the end of the day. If I would have had a hammered dulcimer I bet I could have doubled that. I would return every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (Mick’s work days) and it would happen all over again. Who would have guessed that practicing/playing tunes, having dinner and hanging around with nice folks would be so profitable. Mick lived somewhere out in the Shenandoah Valley and commuted into town every weekend. I suppose I should have stayed there and worked as a street busker, but commitments forced me to return to CA. Maybe those were the golden days of street busking – but I wouldn’t know really.

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I reckon markets are the best places for busking. But most of them are busy early, really early, and few buskers can be arsed getting out of bed!
Also a little child with you, playing the fiddle, whistle or singing will bring out the sympathy vote.
Never mind their complaints, they’ll thank you for the picturesque upbringing one day.

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It is not dificult to get permission to busk in the New York City subway system. You will never be without an audience in the subway. Hughor

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Great discussion all round! In 1978 a guitar friend and I passed thru Georgetown, DC, USA and decided to play on the street. It was funny, because it was too early (afternoon) and no one was out at all. So we just played some tunes. Then appeared an accordion player - uh, I shd say: a young man with an accordion case that also stored his socks and underwear. he asked if he could play with us, and we said: Sure.

He played too fast and herky-jerky, so a few tunes were too many. (Please, some of my best friends are accordion players, and good ones) Then appeared a policeman who stood exactly accross the street from us - no one else in sight. After another ragged, noisy attempt, the policeman walked across the street, directly to the accordion player and requested that he stop playing and move elsewhere. He never spoke to my buddy or me. Good taste is good taste.

Speaking of which, later that eve we played nearby and got some money and a bunch of grapes. The donor had just spent his last money on the grapes, and gave us half of them. I was honored and touched. Green grapes: good taste is good taste.

About 6 months later I was back in Georgetown with some people who have much money. We passed a "bum" working a crowded square who asked the father if he could spare a dime. The father said: You can’t get anything with a dime today, here’s a dollar. Where was he when we were busking earlier?

I’ve played for food money in many places. Place Pompadou in Paris is a good place. Right by the door sat an old man making noises on a bowed saw. "Playing" is not appropriate for his sounds. Never a tune, just constant wailing. he made alot, but location was in his favor.

The person who made money hand over fist was a small prob 7 yr old Indian boy who hammered away on a hammered dulcimer (instrument of choice for buskers, as above?). he obviously couldn’t play a thing, but he set the instrument on the cobblestones and whanged away, always on the lookout for les fliques. His mother watched from a bench not too near. He never looked at the passersby, but the poured money into his case.

Meanwhile, I, who usually play with my eyes closed, got little money. A guitar player happened by, and said: Man, you got to play TO the people! and immediately turned to the passersby and banged out some bad chords in their faces, stopped them in their tracks, and we were in business, without any discussion, key, or tune. That was a lesson, and I made money after that, playing TO the people.

Good thing I had my old brown fiddle, because I lent it to an Iranian musician who then set it on the cobblestones.

Great times! - vlnplyr

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Well, here in London, after many years of blind eye/harassment, depending on the place and the good will of the fuzz, there is now some regulated licensed busking, both on the tube (Underground/subway) network, and at Covent Garden Piazza (big tourist spot). For both of these priviliges you have to audition.
I do know someone who made a significant part of his income from it for years, mainly fiddling, even before the changes in regulations.

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Hi I’m a busker who plays harmonica and piano accordion. I have a varied repertoire including my own compositions. Busking isn’t that lucrative for me , but good fun. Market towns and small cities pay the best when the market isn’t on. Try 8-9am when everyone’s going to work, then 10-11am tea break and then lunch hour 12.30-2pm.
It pays for a day out!