Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Bildungsroman of Busking: An Argy-Bargy on Meritocracy

Dear readers,

Allow me some phatic confessions. Yesterday it was drizzmal; today it is snow. I am at my laptop thinking it is time for another argy-bargy on the art of busking.

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, (not) a pirate, a poet, a pawn and (not) a king. I’ve been a painter, a packer, a pool cleaner, a prison guard, a pump jockey, and a professor – for all of which I’ve been paid. And now I’m a part-time busker. Other jobs, but not beginning with the letter P, for which I’ve been paid have included: swamper, surveyor, apprentice lineman, customer service representative, framer, swimming instructor, and one that is most memorable, working on the green chain. All of these occupations I have loved, and all have added joy to my life. You might say I am a textbook study in Psychology and in Literature when I profess that I am the sum, rather than the prisoner, of my occupational experiences.

My love of busking is but a continuation of my bildungsroman.

Rick Lewis (BREAK A RULE. Com) has stated that busking is the most honorable form of business because … the product and service is generously given to any passer-by, and the customer is free to give back exactly what has been received in value.

I like this. Lewis is one who knows that the art of busking requires a demanding skill base. Fellow buskers, this we know. To be successful buskers we must be proficient in marketing (some of us are strummers, some of us are statues, some of us don duck costumes); we must be proficient in branding (I’ve decided to be a cowboy as of late and my pun is intended); and we must be proficient in theatre (to dare act in public the way we do).

Fellow buskers, we also know that there are some passers-by who consider us beggars, rather than as professional street entertainers. I suppose the alterity of busking could be compared to some sense of beggarhood, but I doubt these particular sidewalk pedestrians give thought that, unlike beggars and cadges and panners, those of us who lack the skills don’t last. These potential consumers do not give thought that we can neither hide nor fake what we do. These pedestrians do not give thought that if we do not show up for work and provide our direct values to others, we do not get paid. I doubt that most of our passers-by are subject to these same tangibly built-in work ethics. I doubt that most of these passers-by are not even close to operating at the scrutiny and the meritocracy that we buskers present at each of our street corner and sidewalk buskingdoms. It is as simple as that.

As buskers we also provide a slew of cultural intangibles. I’m thinking the sunshine spontaneity of the vis-à-vis interactions among strangers, the laughter and the moments of respect that regularly occur between busker and consumer.

Factoid: 130 countries are represented by the readership of this blog. To date this includes four countries significant to the recent Arab Spring: Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, and Syria.


Buskers, we are at once both culturally anachronistic and avant-garde. We will always represent the times of economic past, present, and future. Literally, we are Aesopian characters portraying a certain mercantile innocence, whilst secretly demonstrating the changing economical ethics of the planet!

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