Famous people don’t busk…
So you’re a Singer/Songwriter or part of a Duo or Band (if not imagine you are one of these), you have ambition and talent, the basic ingredients required for “success”.
But how do you measure your success? What results make you feel successful?
I believe these are important questions if you want to remain sane, level headed and “happy” in the music industry or any industry for that matter. I shall use my own experience as an example of how I measure personal success.
Not long ago I believed there were no limits in terms of where I wanted to be positioned as a Singer/Songwriter, imagine a podium, 3rd Place is failure, 2nd Place is survival and 1st Place is fame.
I certainly wanted to be 1st Place for most of my life. It’s difficult to say why as such, my family had always encouraged me in dramatics and art and I wanted to shine in either of these pursuits. But why did I think I needed to be the best? It certainly wasn’t by being pushed in that direction by my parents. I had a firm belief that I wanted to be the best at what I did and I don’t mean being the best I can be for myself but I mean amongst the rest of the world (aka my competition).
At the age of 18 I found my old school nylon stringed guitar amongst family heirlooms and paraphernalia in the loft of my parents house. I started writing songs and recording myself using 2 tape recorders (I would play the guitar parts and sing into the built in mic, then play that back into another tape recorder whilst playing lead or singing harmonies).
However, Painting really had a hold my heart and off to University I went to study Fine Arts.
20 years on and I’m a full time singer/songwriter with 3 albums under my belt, ambition still flowing through my veins. However, my desires have changed a great deal. My idea of success is now well measured, clear, reachable and it does materialise on a regular basis.
My ultimate thrill – busking.
Busking is greatly misunderstood, especially by artists who revel in the self-penned witchcraft of songwriting. I have had many conversations with my peers who simply don’t busk through fear of rejection.
I busk my own songs, I sell my CDs on the street and I have amazing and inspiring conversations with strangers who quickly become friends/fans.
But would I prefer to do a sell out show at say, Cecil Sharp House? Well, that’s a difficult one for me because I constantly question who is listening. Let’s imagine I’m the Folk version of Seasick Steve, discovered later on in life and put on a pedestal by the relevant media. Many people really love my music, I’ve found my audience and they have found me (we are still imagining at the moment), but do they really love it or are they fooled into thinking they do simply because I am “popular”. I’m not discounting musicians who have worked extremely hard in their career and have built a following from scratch. I often think about this: if someone likes your music, and they recommend you to their friends, their friends might become fans. But are they really fans of your music, or are they joining in because they like being fans of someone who has been recognised as having reached a certain level of ‘fame”?
Busking brings you closer to people, people who are not out to listen to music but are perhaps on their way to work, picking up the kids, picking up their pension, shoplifting, on a fag break, skiving, meeting a new lover (you get the idea). Now this is my audience, they don’t know me, they don’t expect to hear me and they might not even listen to music, let alone my own music. Of course a great deal of people ignore what I’m doing but those that don’t, those that stop and listen, perhaps purchase a CD are my audience. It is purely the sound of my guitar, voice and my songs that they are drawn to, not because they saw me on the front cover of UNCUT.
Now this is definitely a 2nd Place situation, but lets be honest, the guy that came 1st just might have cheated a little bit.
Famous people don’t busk, I feel like they are missing out.