Busking Tips (English)
People always ask, "Isn't it rough playing on the streets?" I always respond,"When it's good, it's the best job in the world. When it's bad, it's real bad." Luckily for us, in the last 15 years there has been a big boom of street festivals all over the world. Many are dedicated to forwarding the cause of the "busker"(street musician). Sadly though, a small percentage have street festivals because they think that street artists will work for small peanuts. In some cases this is true, but remember, you get what you pay for!
Busking has it's own lingo like many professions. In the language of the busker, the money is usually referred to as the "bottle". For a long time I couldn't figure out why, then I heard this story...
It seems that a long time ago in England, busker's would enlist the help of the "Jakies"(alcoholics) to collect the money while they performed. But there was always a trust problem. So, one day some busker got the idea to give the $$$ collector a hat for the $$$, in one hand, and a bottle containing a live fly in the other that they had to keep closed with their thumb. If the fly got out before they finished playing, the musicians would know that their colleague had been tricky. Today "bottle" is still a standard of the busker's lingo.
  Street performing is a time honored tradition, and not an easy job. But, for some people it is a job, a way of life, a means of communication and something to defend. Yes, sadly but true, in many cities around the world politicians spend taxpayers money to make laws against such a liberal form of public expression. Many places offer "busking" licenses for a fee. But, these licenses don't help at all. Every time I've had one, the cops stop me, ask me for my license, look at it and then tell me to move along anyway. For years, the police in Florence would ask me for a license. A few times I tried to get one, but the license people would tell me every time that there's no such thing. I personally wouldn't mind playing their game, if they just would cheat so much!
They can censor the media, they can keep you out of the clubs. But they can't touch you on the street. Well, anybody who actually busks knows that the police (in almost every country), can stop you. But, I've got a tip. In most cities, there is a law against taking up public space, not against playing while you are walking. If you can manage to keep moving, in most places you can make all the noise you want and nobody can touch you! Just mount a nice visible bag in front of you to collect your offerings. You'll also find that store keeper's can be much calmer if they see you're not stopping and blocking their stores.
Personally, I'm best connected with the Italian busking scene (you have to help me out on other scenes!). I much prefer doing smaller festivals myself. Big festivals like Ferrara and Pelago get far to out of hand. Ferrara is well known for giving police trouble towards the public, and even VIOLENCE against the artists!!. Allot of festivals start out with a good intentions, but as years go on they get too big and then it doesn't work anymore. Certaldo was really my favorite, and they were much smarter.

They used to have an open invitation to all artists who wanted to come, with a full reimbursement for their travel, a place to sleep and food included. It may not seem like much, but the festival grew until they were inviting around 400 artists for 5 days, and it's a nice quaint village, it's not so many people. When it got too big (you couldn't breathe for the crowds), they began inviting about 50 groups with some $$$ included. It's not the same anymore. But, I still think it's the nicest of the larger festivals.

©2009 StranieroVision


On the Road
venerdì 16 marzo 2007