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Old 12-29-00, 02:39 PM   #1
BFlat
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Arrow Is the word 'busker' degrading?

Here's a thought; according to the dictionary, the word 'busker' is defined as a strolling entertainer. Which doesn't define any specific type of performance. This could be a juggler, a clown, a magician, a musician, etc. However, I have noticed that most performers who call themselves 'buskers' are rarely of the musician kind. (Anyway, that's how it is where I'm from)

Personally, I'm a street musician, I don't call myself a busker, and I don't like being called one.
Why? Because despite the fact that I play on the streets and at numerous festivals and outdoor events,
to be able to do so, I have to be a musician in the first place. Weather I play outside, at a street corner downtown, or indoor at a cocktail party; I'm still doing what a musician does. And I believe that this should be considerate the same for any specialities; a juggler is a juggler, a magician is a magician and so on.

So why need another word to describe any street performer? Even I hate having to put the word 'street' in front of performer. Is the fact that we perform on the streets, or at festivals or whatever place different, makes us less of what we really are? Does that makes us unworthy to be called what we are supposed to be called?
So there, I've said it, I find the word 'busker' degrading!

I'm President of an association which takes care of the rights of street and subways musicians, as well as occasionally, the rights of street performers of all kind. I get a lot of phone calls from people; potential clients who are looking to hire a performer for an occasion. In 90% of the cases, these people turn to this association because they expect that to hire a street musician, is less expensive than hiring a musician. What's the difference, really? There is none, since many so called 'street' musicians, or 'street' performers are professionals in what they do in the first place... They just happened to have extended their work to exploit and explore other grounds.

The best paid gigs I get are those where I didn't mentioned that I happen to play on the streets. Also, I noticed that when I tell someone that I'm a musician, they ask me where I have studied, what kind of instrument I play, what kind of music, if I play in a band, etc, etc. They are showing an interest to know more. While if I tell them I'm a street musician, suddently I can tell that that's a big turn-off for them, and all they find to ask is if I do something else for a living... Isn't that ironic?

Perhaps the fact that for so long the word 'busker' has been in use, and associated with a 'different' life style does blur the image that people get from street performers? Just by curiosity, anyone has comments about this?
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Old 12-29-00, 11:29 PM   #2
Peter
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BFlat, I disagree with your taking offence at being a "busker." This, however, is my opinion and you are certainly entitled to yours, so I am not in any way saying you are wrong.

The definition, as you pointed out, is being "an entertainer" that is the key, "entertainer." A musician, a magician, a juggler, et al is an ENTERTAINER. As a balloonist, magician, and clown I entertain people. As a musician you entertain people. We both have to practice for hours to be sufficiently good enough to do our entertaining, we both have to be good enough to work at private parties, shows, or any other venue that we come across. What is the difference between us?

Is the reason you do not like the term "busker" because as a musician you feel that you are a better performer than us non musicians?

I do not make that last comment to upset anyone so please do not take offence, however, some performers do feel that their specialty is better than others and this is a perfectly fine way to feel.

Just some thoughts.

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Old 12-30-00, 04:50 AM   #3
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well i'll add my ten cents worth.

I too find the word Busker to be an interesting label.

In my travels in Europe I find that most of the permits refere to Busking as a musical activity.

I find it interesting that performers of other types in a lot of places i've visited seem to slip through the cracks or are not reffered to at all.

It seems that musicians have been seen as a problem in some cities for centuries. A problem in that some have been known to sit and play the same three tunes till it drives residents crazy. Musos are among the oldest of strret artists of course. And I'm not having a go at anyone just commenting on something i've noticed.
I digress.

I find that the term Busker whatever its exact definition, has connotations of a lack of quality or substance. Even Edinburgh this year made the distinction between Buskers and street performers.

This did annoy me somewhat as I was pulling fairly substantial crowds but was still classified amongst those not considered as psofessional.

I must say that I never say street or busker in any of my promo due to the association it can sometimes have in peoples minds.
I use outdoor performer or performing artist.

I feel it all relates to another topic in which was mentioned respecting our chosen venue.
Ok we do "busk" essentially in terms of how we get payed but i just dont subscribe to the, that is what i do that is who i am mentality.

I think its about climbing out of the box.

It also has to do with the way we see ourselves and levels of self esteem and confidence.

When i first started out i was definitely busking now i have more of a show and my confidence has increased and know more about what i am doing.

I supose in my mind busking is more of a walk past deal not depending on people stopping for long.

neway thats my ten cents worth hope it contributes something to this dicussion.

great topic by the way
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Old 12-30-00, 12:02 PM   #4
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In reply to Peter, I don't think that I'm a better performer because I'm a musician. Sorry, if I did give you that impression. I respect all art forms. And in fact, I believe that variety among street performers is very important. There is some sort of equilibrium that's needed on a public scene.
If there were only jugglers out performing on the streets, this wouldn't be a good thing. Also as a street musician, I can't perform too close from another musician... don't want the two melodies to get mixed-up.
On the other hand, I often team-up with a balloon sculptor or a living statue, a mime. This practice usually pleases us both and keeps the crowd more together within a certain area. Surprisingly, it doesn't affect either one's earnings since we're doing two totally different things. And sometimes we get to earn more than we expect. Variety is important to keep the crowds interested, and that's what makes each of us significant.

To get back on the subject, what I said in my previous post is more towards what Blake said; "It has to do with the way we see ourselves and levels of self esteem and confidence".

I don't wanna say that anyone who calls him/herself a 'busker' is a looser, I can see how one can be proud of being called that. Only perhaps it's time for that one to interrogate him/herself about self esteem.

Also, I'll give an example. Here in Montréal(where I'm from), there is a great variety of street performers, to the point that I'd say there is starting to be too many. We're all street performers here, let's not kid ourselves, we all know that among us there is a good number of opportunists or pseudo performers if you wish. Despite that, all but ALL are proud to be 'buskers'.

Well here in Montréal, even if there is too many performers, there is still a very good number of them who are excellent, extremely professionals. Yet, every year, and especially for the past 3 yrs, the city of Montréal is being more strict towards the street performers. Every year we are loosing grounds where to perform. That is because of the restaurants and business owners in the touristic areas who find that 'buskers' are nothing else but trouble. Don't get me wrong here, we need a permit to street perform in Montréal. Who is really causing troubles, it's certainly not the serious street performers, it's those opportunistic ones. It seems to me that so far, people are unable to make the difference between a street performer and a beggar who's posing as a performer. But the difference is very obvious.

I get gigs in those restaurants in the touristic areas where I street perform, and that's only because I introduce myself as a professional musician. And I'm certain that if the other good street performers would have a better self esteem that those buisnessmen would respect them better.

Also, I know about performers who charge a very ridiculously low price for a gig, thinking that that's the best offer they could get. Well this kind of thing, not only it contributes to lower the standard price range and makes all of us look like hoes , it also gives reason to the customer to believe that street performers are less than the 'regular' one. It's all a question of self-respect.

Anyway, enough of pouring my heart out here, this topic seems to have started good, let's keep it this way
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Old 12-30-00, 07:01 PM   #5
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As long as we're 'fessing up here, I'll go on record to say that I am proud to use the term Busker. Everyone who has experience as a freelancer knows that you need to wear many hats to make a living. In addition to busking, I sell performances to events, I run a nonprofit theater company I co-founded, and I teach workshops and residencies. To me, the term "busking" refers to when I go out under an open sky and have fun doing what I love to do - performing - without worrying about pleasing someone else who has my paycheck. To be buskers connects us with an ancient tradition of performers who enjoy the freedom of deciding where and when to perform, when to quit for the day, what to include in the show, etc. It also includes an ancient stereotype of itinerate performers as unprofessional. This comes with the territory - passersby on the street aren't going to care what you call it, they care if it's any good or not. If someone approaches me to hire me for a gig, then I handle it as a professional - I hand them my business card, and ask them to call me on Monday requesting my press kit. The term Buskers connotes a free existence that I am more than happy to embrace. I also like the term street performer, but am frustrated that too many search engines turn up websites about tire performance...

anyway, I'm a Busker & proud of it!

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Old 12-31-00, 01:20 AM   #6
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This topics getting interesting.

It occurs to me that this is a somewhat semantic argument but I feel that words are important as they are what shapes our realities.

I think possibly the busking word is a verb and that it is what I do in order to earn a living. I cant use it as a noun because I dont feel its what I am.

To me the idea of busking is taking a chance.

The idea of performing is offering something I believe to be of value and knowing something will come back. This seems to me to be another way of looing at it.

I think as always it comes down to definitions and whether or not my ego gets bruised when someone applies a label I dont like or agree with.

We always ask what do you do and get prepared to judge accordingly whether or not that person is interesting or valuable enough to spend our time with.

We never ask What is your dream or what are you passionate about. Maybe its just about the question in the first place!

I still think though for me the term busker has a more itinerant feel to it and I suppose for the mainstream itinerancy is something that is feared and therefore not so serious or worthy of respect.
Just more ideas.
thanks for an interesting discussion
bb
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Old 12-31-00, 11:11 PM   #7
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BFlat, Thank you for replying to my post. I do want to apologize for misunderstanding the reasons for your not liking the term "busking" and for indicating that it may have been an ego reason. I am truly sorry. You have the dubious honour of receiving my first apology of 2001, (actually I am writing this at 2308 on 31 Dec, 2000 so you also have my last one for 2000) knowing myself, it will not be the last one I have to make this year.

With the excess of beggars disguising themselves as buskers and bringing down the reputation of all of us, I can understand why you would have these feelings against the term.

Have a very happy, and profitable 2001.

Peter
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Old 01-01-01, 12:47 PM   #8
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Peter, apology accepted, however I wasn't very upset at this. And this is a fun topic I think, especially after reading all the responses it got so far. I got my ideas, you got your own, everyone's got their own ideas; it's all interesting.

Cheerz to all, and happy New Year !!!
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