By John Kercez
Recently, I visited Beale Street in Memphis and then went to Bourbon Street in New Orleans; the homes of Blues and Jazz, respectively. Both of these cities are also the homes of countless huskers, also known as the street performer. To me, being a street-performing musician seems like it could be one of the most fun jobs in the world! You just show up, convince complete strangers to stop what they were doing and watch you, and then they pay you for the pleasure; all purely because of your force of will, character, and skill. On the other hand, if street performing went poorly, it could be soul-destroying.
Street performing is a unique business, in that if you want more money, you can simply go out and do more shows. You are your own boss, and the people are always out there, waiting to be turned into audiences. You get to decide each and every time if it’s worth the money you think you will make to do the show you think you’re going to do.
Street performing is hard. Unlike any other type of entertainment, almost all of the members of your audience did not plan on watching your show. They were planning on doing something else until you convinced them, either with your actions or your words, to stop and watch. This, by itself, is difficult.
Just thinking about being a street performer gives you a new perspective. Next time you see a truly entertaining street show, or listen to a really talented musician in the subway, contemplate: how much would you pay to see that same show in a theater or hear that music at a concert? Chances are, even a fraction of the price that comes to mind would be a great help to the performer.
So what’s the point of my mentioning this? With the warmer months ahead, being a street performer is one more option all of us musicians have to get our music out there. Don’t necessarily quit your day job, but on your off hours it might be fun to try. Please be aware that in lots of cities some form of street performer license may be needed.