We won the finnish championship of busking 2014 at the Faces festival with Keke Lammassaari, and it has brought up a lot of thoughts on the subject for this singer/songwriter who started her busking career just weeks before the competition. I learned a lot, gained valuable experience and insights I want to share.
OK, so, who is a busker anyway? As an "artist", do I belong to the street? Can a busker climb on the stage? We did, on the finals. A common thing I have run up to is that many think that we played covers. No, we played our own songs, own lyrics and poetry. Both mine and Keke's. We have both a long history of songwriting and were new to busking. What happened?
We really had no idea at first, it was an adventure. We never realized to collect money. The essence of the whole thing was the joy of playing and singing together. We learned that there are a lot of people who don't seem to listen or notice at all. But surprisingly many were and what was born were magical acquaintances and a different connection to the audience you meet. Some people would stop and listen for some time, maybe talk to you afterwards.
As a performing artist and having done concerts&gigs for some time you get used to people usually paying their attention to you. Well, yeah, usually, depending on your stage venue. But still, even if you are in a club playing, you are an act of the evening and someone wanted you there. Who wanted to hear you on the street?
One of the most valuable gems from busking was to learn not to care if someone seemed to listen or not. The need to be looking for the audience's approval falls away into a totally different category. You realize that there's no way you are going to do it if you can't enjoy it yourself. Playing what I want, singing it they way that I want. Suddenly there's a freedom from the public's eye. And then you become more close to the people. You are there, present, aware, and if someone wants to talk to you, they can. Not trying to put yourself into a pedestal, but being willing to connect.
Ways to value your work as a busker is to go and experience someone else busking. One of the most intriguing moments have been walking in the town and suddenly hearing some old man singing old schlagers. In places that you aren't used to hearing music it feels uplifting and exciting to hear it.