Friday, May 20, 2011

Call Me Brother, Bro': An Essay On The Brother & Sister Hoods In Buskingdom

Cadges, canaille, beggars, bums, rabble, riffraff. Call them what you will – but in my buskingdom contiguity, they are my brothers and sisters (in the psychological sense). This I know because more often than not they refer to me as brother or bro.

Such a revelation began with Christina, my very first consumer on my buskation in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. (see my blog entry, The Bag Lady and the Busker: An Essay on Social Strata, October 24th. 2010). Christina my very first customer, and my very first sister, was a boozey bag lady who gave me her last nineteen cents when I played Summer Wine.

There you go, brother, she said. I wish I had more but I don't.

Yesterday while busking for just one hour in the Safeway parking lot, a ne'er do well wearing a soiled bandana beneath his Yankees ball cap, and knee high holey socks complete with worn sandals asked,

Brother, will ya watch my bike? I'm just goin' in for a sec. (He tossed me four dollars on his return!)

On this same busk, another of that ilk stated,

I'd give you some money, bro, if I had some.

Hey brother, can you lend me five bucks? Jokingly said another of the rabble as he waddled past.

And what is the Psychology of Reasoning that prompts such familiar salutations? The answer is socially simple. When these supposedly and self-defined lower strata types see and hear me strumming my banjitar in the middle of some parking lot, they most certainly identify with me more than they identify with the shoppers heading to-and-fro the mall marts and shops.

And when I think about it, even some of my friends refer to buskers as beggars with guitars. Alas, and so is the thinking, I suppose, of my cap-in-hand brothers and sisters! After all, we basically share the same spaces, those places where the crowds are most likely to gather. And are all of us gathered in these exact same spaces for the exact same reason: that is, to solicit money from prospective patrons.

Not to further besmirth our sistas and bros', but if we want to distinguish ourselves as buskers, rather than as beggars, we need to be active and forever cognizant in order to change the mindset of our prospective coin providing clients. Changing our shared spaces from beggarhoods to buskingdoms is as easy as SPICE , at least according to K. Dutton, author of Split-Second Persuasion: The Ancient Art & Science of Changing Minds.

Here is the SPICE of the matter:

  • Simplicity. Keep your practiced tunes short and sharp. People will always recognize quality when they hear it.
  • Perceived self-interest (of the client). Like I always say, moving from selfish to selfless will produce qualitative and quantitative results. There must be a perceived benefit to the benefactor, and that ought to be an entertainment of quality.
  • Incongruity. Surprise people – dress for the musical performance. Clean and crisp costume alone will distinguish buskers from beggars.
  • Confidence. The more confident we are the better we perform. Keep that chin up and pretend you are playing for a crowd of two or three hundred (which you really are, it is just that the crowd members are dispersed over time).
  • Empathy. Look people in the eye, nodding to them when they nod to you, and a stating a verbal thanks, man or thanks, ma'am when they toss coins your way.

Fellow buskers, here is the skinny on the reality state of cadges, canaille, beggars, bums, rabble, and riffraff within our physical realms. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration most recently issued some alarming findings from the surveyed evidence of 45 million Americans, one of great significance being that approximately one in five adults suffer from some form of mental illness.

For we buskers who often share the same spaces and times as others who are visibly less fortunate, we continually need to remind ourselves that we are all brothers and sisters that should be sharing the same golden rays under that busking sun, and that we ought to treat such brothers and sisters with a dignity and a fashion and a worth that we would have others treat onto us –

It is as simple as that.

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