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Old 03-18-01, 07:31 PM   #1
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Butterfly Is busking a scam?

Provocative title, yes, but I don't think busking is a scam. It's more that I'm interested in where that idea comes from.

I got the first intuitions when I was at my first busker's festival, in my hometown of Ottawa. I was an enthusiatic, naive 16 year-old, and I told a reporter how much I made per night. The other performers were a bit peeved -- they explained to me that you should "Never tell them how much you make."

So why was it a secret? I justified it as pragmatic PR -- people don't understand how much work and time goes in to getting a street show together. The amounts we make would seem like too much to those who've never tried it, and they would stop giving. I'm less sure of that now, but I still dodge the question of how much I make. Usually I tell people it's a rude question.

Then I saw the way that some performers looked at their act -- their job was to get as much money as possible from the "punters" -- the suckers, the marks -- for as long as they could get away with it. These usually tended to be the people with the most sterile, standard acts. They also tended to be unhappy. For them, I realized, it was a scam. They wanted it to be. So, in that respect, I think busking *can* be a scam.

But it isn't, except in the perverted sense. I noticed that the best performers never talked about the money, they weren't attached to it. Later I learned it was mostly *because* of this non-attachment that they were good, and that they loved their work.

The most neurotic among us (myself included) sometimes feel guilty that we make such good money for something that seems so little like work. But it doesn't mean we're ripping people off. It means we are doing something we love, at the place where what we want to create meets what people want to see. You can't ask for better luck than that.
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Old 05-09-01, 06:00 PM   #2
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Hey, Dodger --
When I first started busking on the road another street performer in Key West asked me, "Have you had a hundred dollar day yet."
"No," I said, quite truthfully. A hundred dollar day seemed utterly absurd!
I was on the road for five years living in a tent and trying to learn my new craft. (I'm a slow learner). I finally figured it out -- people generally couldn't care less about the music I was making on my glass harmonica, they want to be ENTERTAINED. Once I figured that out things started getting easier. I was able to move out of my tent and into the palatial digs of my "new" thirty-year-old motor home. It's eight feet wide by twenty feet long. I warn people that it is about the same size as the Unibomber's cabin!
I still have twenty dollar days. But I don't worry too much about it. The money is like keeping score. If you're doing well, you'll be rewarded. If you're not doing well, then its time to change something in your act -- experiment, discover new ways of entertaining your audience. The hat will tell you if you're doing it right!
Break a leg!

P.S.: I can't believe the spell-checker doesn't recognize the word "busking!"

Peter (the GlassHarper) Bennett
The GlassHarper (I play glassical music)!
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