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Thread: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

  1. #51

    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    When my daughter was 19, she flew to Paris with a carry on suitcase and her cello. She connected with some other students sharing an apartment. She would take her cello down to the river and practice Bach suites. Tourists, mostly Americans, would throw enough money into her case to cover her expenses.

    When they stopped to chat, they complimented her on her English, and she replied she had studied in the US for many years. They left with a story about the French student they came across, she hit the farmer's market at closing time and bought food and wine for dinner.

    Spent six weeks in Paris for basically her air fare.
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  2. #52
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    In NYC, that busker, no matter how sloppily dressed, is just a likely to be a) homeless, or b) a Julliard student polishing up for tonight's concert.
    Or both.

  3. #53

    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    This is an interesting thread . We had a guy playing banjo in front of our local Kroger store a while back. I was planning to stop and talk to him (and maybe make a donation) on the way out, but he was gone. We have quite a few panhandlers, but it is nice to have someone providing entertainment for donations (if that is indeed what he was doing). I am too self conscience to play in public (even if I could actually play!).

  4. #54
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    Just to add to the conversation...

    The most successful busker I've seen in my small artsy-fartsy town out here on the Olympic Peninsula, was a couple of years ago. He was parked just outside the entrance of the small corner grocery store in my neighborhood. This was Winter, or maybe late Fall. Not severe weather out here, but still enough that you bundle up when going outside. Out here, it's more the winds than the cold.

    This guy played a cello, very well. Not my cup of tea because it was solo cello in the improv/New Age style, but he still played very well.

    Here's the kicker -- he had a small dog with him, and I mean very small, although not a puppy. Maybe a dachshund? The dog was wrapped in a scarf, bundled against the cold. Just sat there, looking up at everyone passing by, while his master played the cello.

    I couldn't help it. That dog got to me. I tossed in a 20 for the dog while carting my bags down the street to my truck.

    Moral of the story... if you want to be successful at busking, do it in a place where it looks like your dog can use the help. People are ridiculously hard-coded for that kind of thing (me included).

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  6. #55

    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    Well.........

    Both panhandling and busking are both "hustles" in that you are performing UNINVITED with hopes of reward. Talent, skill, or musicianship have very little to do with it, IMHO. Our local homeless panhandle at the 24 hour Walgreens because it has a steady flow of people. Same as buskers choosing a waterfront or other high-traffic area. Nobody seems to busk to an empty field, do they?
    Jeff, I must beg to differ on your all-caps “Uninvited” declaration. Many enlightened cities and towns have public spaces where busking and other informal commercial and artistic activities are specifically invited, sometimes delegated to specific spots with rules, fees etc, and sometimes just carried on according to local tradition. It makes for a lively downtown scene.

    Of course you are correct that one must select a spot with steady pedestrian traffic, but it also needs to be away from excessive noise and a safe spot for a few folks to linger, to chat and enjoy. It’s a hustle all right, just like every other paying gig.

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  8. #56

    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    Good points, Bill! I guess I haven't lived in any enlightened places, yet. At best, I've seen busking tolerated by authorities, but certainly not invited and encouraged. And, while I think it can be entertaining to watch, it can also be a nuisance, as well.

    I have seen a lot of busking and street performers in Europe in busy downtown areas being tolerated, some getting large crowds. I'm still not sure how drawing a crowd outside someone's business translates to any more business. I would think some shoppers would want to avoid crowds.

    For the record, I've never liked the term "busking" -- seems, awkward and do we need a specific term that means "playing in public for tips?" I have similar dislikes for other "coined" terms such as Tarmac -- you mean, blacktop used at airports? How about Oncologist? Sounds better than "cancer doctor" I'm thinking? I'll stop there, but I've got a million of them....

    Also, for the record, I do like great music performed on city streets -- when I am in the mood for it. And, granted, it takes a certain personality to perform on the streets and also takes a certain personality to be receptive to it, IMHO. Nothing worse than leaving work tired and deciding to watch a street performer or band for a few minutes and some performer wants me to interact when I'm not in the mood. That "everybody feel good" type of thing! Here, put on a hat, what's your name? Clap your hands! Where are you from? I will say, however, I have picked up some good tricks from street performers that I have incorporated into my own "stage act" that can be useful between songs or keeping things flowing......

    I guess, I can also give credit to a panhandler who can come up with a wild story between the short walk between my car and Walgreen's front door.......that is a "talent" when done well and causes the disinterested to become interested, slow their pace, and possibly donate........requiring some skill and ability to judge the "marketplace" vs those who prop themselves against the brick wall and say 'hey you............"

  9. #57
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    Happened to me last night, and I remembered this thread from last year

    I think it has much to do with the Christmas season ... notice this thread was started in December last year.

    I'm not a complete stranger to busking; do it purposely on the rare occasion, but last night -- I had a bit of a headache, so rather than workout at the gym, I sat outside in a chair to practice with the mandolin, while my newlywed wife went into the gym. No busking intentions, and not a great high traffic area. And I got a better response than on a normal busking day. No intention of playing for tips, but some folks went out of their way to come to me and throw money in the case. After the second donor, I decided to go ahead and perform some stuff at volume rather than practicing and noodling. Couldn't draw a crowd, but drew in enough cash to cover my monthly gym membership!

    Viva la patronage
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  10. #58

    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    I had a bit of a headache, so rather than workout at the gym, I sat outside in a chair to practice with the mandolin, while my newlywed wife went into the gym.
    Congratulations on the good news in your life. You were due some better times.

  11. #59
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    Well.........

    Both panhandling and busking are both "hustles" in that you are performing UNINVITED with hopes of reward.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Cameron View Post
    Jeff, I must beg to differ on your all-caps “Uninvited” declaration. Many enlightened cities and towns have public spaces where busking and other informal commercial and artistic activities are specifically invited, sometimes delegated to specific spots with rules, fees etc, and sometimes just carried on according to local tradition. It makes for a lively downtown scene.
    I am going to go with Jeff Mando on this. It is the uninvited, transgressive nature of the busking that makes it. That the busker has turned that little section of street into a music hall, unforeseen and unintended by the original city planners, is what makes it great. Like those who would stand between tall tenements in the major cities during the depression, and play love songs on an accordion or sing opera while pennies and nickles and sometime wrapped snacks and dinner were thrown out the windows to fall on him.

    Licensing street musicians, and especially establishing spaces where they are to play, makes the busker into a contractor for the city, and turns the whole thing into a Disney sort of re-enactment of street music, making romantic plastic what was once desperate flesh and blood.


    I have participated in both. Several of the towns around here have arts evenings, and someone organizes a bunch of musicians to play at these established places for this many hours. Its ok, its fun.

    And I have taken out my mandolin on the street subway station, against a wall or building, a safe margin of feet from someone playing jazz percussion on glass jars and plastic buckets. Such experience, with its attendant dangers, anxiety and required intestinal fortitude, is a kind of high on a much greater level. In this case we are not merely providing music, we are unexpectedly puncturing someone's day uninvited with the hopes that it provides delight and the knowledge that our music has to (and may not) overcome the natural concerns passersby have for their safety.
    Indulge responsibly!

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  13. #60
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    I played on Grafton St. in the middle the middle of Dublin, with some street musicians who saw me walk buy with my case. There was a guitar, a fiddle, and a wooden German style recorder of some kind. We played mostly traditional Irish, though often morphing into a kind of silly jam band.

    The highlight was that the guitar player, Sean I think his name was, had a marionette hanging down in front of him, (named Federico I think), also playing its own little guitar. And Sean's strumming hand was connected to Federico's. A very small hat was on the ground in front of Federico, and the children who passed by delighted in putting pennies into the little hat.
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  15. #61
    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Like those who would stand between tall tenements in the major cities during the depression, and play love songs on an accordion or sing opera while pennies and nickles and sometime wrapped snacks and dinner were thrown out the windows to fall on him.
    That reminds me of a photo taken by Walker Evans in the NYC subway in the 30's I think.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  17. #62

    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    I'm pretty sure he's singing, "Mama's got a squeeze box, and Daddy never sleeps at night......."

  18. #63
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    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    First time poster, life-long mandolin (and other stuff) player.

    As a young man I cut my teeth playing jazz (saxophone) for tips around Boston, and often in the subway stations. I learned many lessons about life doing that, including the fact that many people either could care less about street performers, or were even offended. The police were not always very friendly. But I would not take back those experiences for anything.

  19. #64
    Registered User Elliot Luber's Avatar
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    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    IMHO: Take it. Say thanks. Pass it on to someone who could really use it.
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  20. #65
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    Default Re: So... They seem to think I'm starving and homeless?

    FWIW

    I'm wrapping up the busking season here in NYC (man it's cold).
    I started in May and did it 2 or 3 times a week for the last 7 months.

    I learned a lot also (as Chris Calley above said).

    1 don't do it for the money. Sometimes you get it often you do not.

    2 90% of you audience wants you to go away no matter how beautiful you are playing.

    3 the remaining 10% make it worth your effort. You can get wonderful little audiences that
    ask questions about the music and get engaged. Sometimes people get moved by the music.

    4 give them easy to digest music but still play what you love. Your attitude while playing is
    very important.

    I'm looking forward to next May.

    added: I forgot to add that by my calculations I have played for thousands of people.
    Last edited by BoxCarJoe; Dec-06-2019 at 8:49am. Reason: forgot info

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