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08 September 2009 @ 09:38 am
Busking: Do you have an opinion?  
Busking defined: To play music or perform entertainment in a public place, usually while soliciting money. http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/busk

If you're a performer, have you ever busked (including at an SF con, Ren Faire, or similar event)? How did it work out? Do you enjoy it? Do the passersby seem to enjoy it? Have you ever had a really negative response?

As a passerby, how do you feel about buskers? Do you ever put money in the hat? What impels you to do so or not do so? If you are yourself a performer, how do you feel about other buskers? Does "knowing what it's like" make you more or less likely to put in some money?

And to all, do your feelings about buskers carry over to technology-mediated, crowd-funded projects, such as Shadow Unit or Tales of MU? Does it make a difference if the author / artist just has a general "donations welcome" button on the site vs. "this content is available to donors only"? What similarities and differences do you see between traditional busking and crowd-funding via the Internet?

Other comments? My own thoughts in the comments.
 
 
 
griffen on September 8th, 2009 02:29 pm (UTC)
I've busked. When I was a teenager and we went to Hawai'i with the school marching band, I ran out of cash. So I broke out my saxophone and played on the street for a while. Made about fifteen dollars.

I've also put money in the hat for several buskers. I do it partially because I know what it's like when you need money, and also because I usually like the music being played.

I don't like it when people make content donors-only; that makes me less likely to want to see it.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on September 8th, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)
I don't like it when people make content donors-only; that makes me less likely to want to see it.

If you don't mind my asking, do you feel that way about traditional content -- e.g., books? In theory, at least, you're supposed to buy the book before you read it, although you can certainly skim through it at the bookstore. I would liken that to authors putting up teaser chapters and asking people if they like the teaser to buy the download.
griffen on September 8th, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC)
I just get irritated when I see that on the internet. I don't know why.

(Also, if people put up teaser chapters, I wouldn't buy or read the book. I always have to read the last chapter first so that I know whether I can handle the book or not. If I can't, it's not worth buying.)
Curious Stuffonelargecat on September 8th, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC)
In a bookstore, though, you can flip through and skim parts of the book, read snippets, whatever, to decide if it's worth buying. (Or in Amazon, you can "look inside this book" for the same thing.) I would almost never pay for content that I couldn't at least preview first to have an idea of whether it's worth it. No matter how much it costs. $5 is nothing to me, but I still wouldn't pay it unless I knew the content was really good. And conversely, if I know the content is good, I'll pay a lot. $100, $200, whatever.

As far as buskers...I am neutral. I rarely ever give money. Maybe if I actually stop and listen for a few minutes and really enjoy the performance.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on September 8th, 2009 02:55 pm (UTC)
My thoughts
I'm not a performer, so I can't answer any of those questions.

As a citizen, I'm in favor of busking, which I extend to any kind of real-time art, not just music. Whether it's musicians or mimes or sketch artists or whatever (as long as it's not massively interfering with people who aren't interested -- for example, I don't think a full rock band with amplifiers and all should be allowed to make it impossible for the people inside the nearby building to hear themselves think), I think it adds interest and life to communities.

As a passerby, I appreciate buskers unless they're really awful at what they're doing, and then I might feel mildly annoyed until I get out of earshot. I will almost always drop at least a little bit of cash in the hat; more if I'm really impressed. I do this because I believe in supporting the arts and supporting artists, and because I want to encourage artists to perform.

I've also bought permanent art from buskers: two of the framed paintings in our living room were purchased from a fellow named Gustavo, in Phoenix; he does (or did; it's been 15 years+) space-scapes, all in acrylic spray-paint.

My preference to support art does extend to art provided on the 'Net. I don't follow Shadow Unit, but I am working my way through Tales of MU, and will kick in some cash once I get caught up. I also regularly read and sponsor ysabetwordsmith's Poetry Fishbowls.
Jim Hetleyjhetley on September 8th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC)
I have mixed feelings about buskers on the street -- we don't live in the fictional Newford, where all the buskers are top-notch performers. Owning a guitar or set of bagpipes doesn't earn you a coin in the hat, folks. Particularly the bagpipes . . .

I know a number of people operating on the story-teller's bowl concept on the internet. Those *are* professional-quality works, written by established writers that can't fit a particular work into commercial publication or who need, due to the starving-artist problem, to score some extra cash. You mention "Shadow Unit", which features a number of established authors. Lee and Miller, Cat Valente, and Lawrence Watt-Evans all have done or are doing on-line novel-length work.
Jon Reidcrossfire on September 8th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC)
I've never busked, and I'm not a performer of any sort. I'm just an audience member.

That said, my feelings about buskers is purely neutral. I generally don't pay attention to them, unless their performance is particularly compelling. If I watch someone for a while, I am liable to put money in their hat in exchange. If I really like their work, I'll buy whatever they're selling. Most of the time I pass on by, however.

I've never before encountered Shadow Unit or Tales of MU before, but I've encountered similar things. Webcomics, certainly. I'm not sure I consider them "busking." I can see how you could say that, but to me they also have aspects of open source work. This is probably a preconception on my part.

That said, I occasionally click on "donations welcome" if I really like the work in question. I have never encountered a "this content is available to donors only" button so it's hard to have much of an opinion on them. I doubt I'd click, though it's not out of the question.
Daniel Gundersongundo on September 8th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)
One day when I was practicing with my folk partner, we looked at each other and said "It's a nice day, let's go busk." So we went out to an area where busking was encouraged, and lots of passerby...I think that practice took in $30, which was better than we usually did at the nearby coffeehouse.
Peter Engdornbeast on September 8th, 2009 04:25 pm (UTC)
As a passerby, how do you feel about buskers?

It depends. Some of them are no-talent sorts torturing a song, some of them are great. The better the performance, the more likely they'll get money.

It's easier to impulsively give money to a street musician than to give to somebody with a "donations wanted" sign on the website. As for "donors only" sites, I find that unless the story is truly compelling, I don't spend the money. "Donors only" sites that don't offer the first hit for free don't stand a chance.
margdean56margdean56 on September 8th, 2009 04:42 pm (UTC)
I'm generally in favor of buskers as a concept. In practice, whether I toss money in the instrument case depends on whether the music is something I actually enjoy. Rule of thumb: if it's something that induces me to stop and listen for a while, I'll contribute. I've also been known to purchase a CD.
Joseph Abbottfaxpaladin on September 8th, 2009 04:55 pm (UTC)
I've forwarded this link to an LJ friend who busks (msminlr, who isn't, as near as I can tell, already on your friends list), so you may see her pop in to comment later.

I've considered busking -- even strongly considered it, given recent financial conditions -- but don't feel quite up to it at my current skill level. With a bit more practice I could probably do it, and then it would be a matter of figuring out where in Waco...

When I encounter a busker I'll generally throw in a buck or two, if I enjoy the music and if I can hang around long enough. If I'm on my way someplace I probably won't make a detour or stop long enough (this was a strong factor in the famous Weingarten-Bell experiment a couple of years ago; it's been argued that had the experiment been staged during evening rush hour, with less time pressure, more people would have stopped to listen).
aedificaaedifica on September 8th, 2009 05:35 pm (UTC)
I am a performer but haven't busked (the pieces I know and play well aren't pieces where a trombone stands alone, it's usually a harmony instrument).

As a passerby I generally like buskers. Even if they're not good at their instrument, I'm still happy they're there as long as they're not interfering with anything I want to do (like talk with a friend). I rarely carry cash, but if I have a dollar I may throw it into a hat.

At the Renaissance Festival I'm more likely to make a point of tipping entertainers, since I know how little some of us make there. (What with fuel costs, food, costuming, etc, I make less money for performing than I spend on being there!)

I don't think about anything online as busking (despite having already read matociquala's post this morning). I rarely donate online despite being generally kindly inclined toward the content providers, and I'm not sure why. Content available to donors only--I'll pay if I have the money right then and get caught by a teaser. In particular, this happened with Narbonic's archives (now available for free but not when I started reading) and one of mrissa's stories on Baen's Universe.
une idee fixeideealisme on September 8th, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)
I busked once - on the saxophone. St Patrick's Day, everyone was drunk, I got IR£12. Not too bad.

I am a bit cautious about cyberfunding, if it's not for a product that would otherwise be in demand. For example, there might be a situation where someone would need some IT help and I would be able to give it. I'd be happy to charge a (not astronomical) fee for doing that, particularly if it's a timesaver for them, and especially now when I'm a tad broke ;-). However when it comes to creative works, I would not be happy to put a donate button for my fiction as I don't imagine people would independently, freely buy it (I'm a pretty good writer, but there is limited concrete use for it, even I were William Shakespeare!). Plus if I were to use that as a business model I would emphatically NOT bring it up with any connection to my current economic circumstances. If I am running a business, my financial circumstances are not the customer's problem. If I need charity and want to do something creative to compensate for having to ask, then fine.
thatwordgrrl on September 8th, 2009 06:27 pm (UTC)
I do donate to street buskers, if I like what I hear. I've never actually busked myself.

"Content available only to donors" parses to me as "Content available for fee."

L A: Down and Seriouslouisadkins on September 8th, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)
The closest that I have come to busking was doing Tarot readings beside a friend who was busking. It was different, and fun to be exposed in a limited fashion. I will sometimes stop to listen, sometimes not. I will put money in the hat/case if (a) I got money to spare, and (b) the music is something good and/ir complicated.

I find that I am less likely to drop a virtual dollar in the hat, since if I like the work I will usually try and buy something instead. Also, I worry about credit card charges costing someone more than I can give at the time. "$2.00 gift, -$5.00 fee, equals Not Good" (I don't know what the fee structure is, at this point, but I do know that when I worked support for Quickbooks that this was a complaint I heard - people loosing money on small purchases because of the use of a credit card instead of cash.)

Some locales require a busking license, and as long as it's legit and not stupid expensive I kinda like the idea. As I understand it, there are sometimes Free Zones, as well.
Stephen Harrissweh on September 8th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC)
I find most buskers annoying intrusions into my life. Most of the time I'm trying to get from A to B (I rarely walk around for the sole purpose of walking around) and buskers are either too loud (when I'm standing on the subway platform waiting for a train I don't want a headache from your drums) or cause crowding and dangerous constrictions on the flow of people. In addition they detract from my chosen form of enjoyment (eg listening to my iPod).

Maybe I'd feel different if I walked for leisure more frequently. But I don't.
msminlrmsminlr on September 8th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)
I've only busked in the local farmers' market, which has relatively few spots for such activity. I enjoyed the chance to practice in public, and I collected a bit of money every time I did it. The logistics eventually defeated me, though. Had to get up too early to be able to get there in time to claim a decent spot. Didn't make enough money to make it worth giving up my sleep-in morning, though.

I have put money in the instrument case for other folks' busking, though, if I enjoyed the performance.
Spark_in_darknesssparkindarkness on September 9th, 2009 12:33 am (UTC)
I sometimes give them money if they're actually decent - they're entertaining me, they're a lot less obnoixious than other beggars (charity beggars are the WORST) but it depends on skill

And location. A busker at an organisation if they were APPROPRIATE and weren't interfering with the event I wouldn't mind too much. Same with a busker on a busy street (so long as they're not in the way). But if they're in the way, interfering with other activity, just outside my window at work

As to the net. If it's donors only then that's a pay site. They're selling, it's not asking for donations - that means that it must be a SQUILLION times better than any sites of its type that aren't free. And I'd resent it being termed as "donor only" unless it's a small part of the site as a reward (extra gallery, forum feed whatever)

But just having a paypal link there in case people want to - I don't have a problem with that. If the site is constantly spamming ZOMG NEED MONEY NOW then I may go elsewhere even if I DID donate, simply because it would get irritating.


I see a big diffence. Any site on the net is easily avoided. If a site irritates me it is not essential I go there. I choose to be exposed to it. A busker is not so easily avoided. They are making noise I am subject to unless I avoid an area of public property - they have a much larger chance of annoying me. They also have a much smaller chance of me giving money (beyond the ideal that we're more likely to give in person) because I did not seek out their product, they are throwing it at me. I may enjoy it, and may give in appreciation of that - but I didn't initiate this. A website I look for and consume at my leisure.
Spark_in_darknesssparkindarkness on September 9th, 2009 12:38 am (UTC)
To add: the problem with donating on the web is, even though IN THEORY I am much happier giving money there than to a busker, in practice I won't.

A busker, I reach into my pocket, throw change. Easy. On the web I need to get out my credit or debit card, open up pay pal, fill everything in. And if they don't use a service I recognise there's trust and danger issues etc etc.

The effort involved makes me less likely to casually give money
just the gurl you wantgirlgoyle on September 9th, 2009 01:03 am (UTC)
I'm not a performer and I love buskers in Europe. When I was in London or Paris I would gladly toss money. In March I heard someone doing a fabulous Johnny Cash ring of fire, alas they were in a different tunnel than the one we were taking.

How I would feel about them in the US I'm not so sure. I associate them with the "local color" of the tube and the metro.
~M~je_reviens on September 9th, 2009 03:03 am (UTC)
I hear a lot of buskers here in Chicago, on el platforms. If the music is good and I enjoy it, then I do drop some coins in. If the music is bad or I don;'t enjoy it, I sit there and wish they'd shut the heck up. But I don't ever stand in front of them and listen. I drop the money in as I walk by or as the train is coming in, before I go. Not sure how I feel about the other topics.
Villiersdianavilliers on September 9th, 2009 03:13 am (UTC)
I'll give money to grownup buskers, if they're playing something I stop and listen to - Cohen covers on Cuba St, or Muttonbirds songs in downtown Bath.

I don't like seeing kids busking - practice should be done in private, and even if the child has enough technique to not be annoying, I've never seen one with enough presence to be an engaging street performer.
Maggiesillymagpie on September 9th, 2009 04:29 am (UTC)
I'm not sure it's still considered "busking" when it's donors-only--that makes it a concert. I don't believe I've ever run into a "technology-mediated, crowd-funded" busker.

I like buskers, and when possible, I drop in some change.
piranha @ dreamwidthpir_anha on September 9th, 2009 09:05 am (UTC)
Re: Busking: Do you have an opinion?
i've never busked; i was too self-conscious and liked to blend into an orchestra. and now i am not practiced enough. also still self-conscious, *heh*.

i like buskers, if they're halfway decent and if they're in a spot where they don't impede walkers-by; if they brightens up otherwise dull areas of the city. and yes, i put money into the hat if i stay around for a while, and enjoy it. they don't bother me half as much as the charity beggars, because they actually offer something of theirs.

no, my feelings don't carry over; feelings i have about stuff on the net are in their own category. nothing on the net is comparable, because it is entirely my choice whether i stay or go, because it's usually not in my face. usually. i absolutely despise flash ads with sound that run automatically, and generally dislike any site that plays video and/or audio automatically. but overall interactions on the net are mostly free of the annoyances i experience in public space. somebody's music grates on my spine? i just back out of the song. don't like somebody's poetry? move on to something else.

"content available to donors only" is ok if it's a section of a site that offers some free stuff and some stuff for donation. if i like the free stuff, i might donate. i know several sites which have a bonus section where you get access if you donate to help with their bandwidth cost. if it's a site where i have to donate to get in at all, i won't, and i consider that a weird way to spell "pay site".

generally i prefer it if stuff comes without strings attached, but a donation button is available. i do use that a lot; i often donate to open source software, to individuals who are in financial straits, to sites that offer me good information, good value (so they can keep their servers running).

i do _not_ like the subscription model for serialized works because i don't trust the model -- nobody's guaranteeing me that the book will be finished, and i really don't like starting something that i won't be able to finish. cf diane duane's "big meow" on which there has been total radio silence for a year now. hint to authors: communicate, communicate, communicate. people who donated for that book are out the price for a hard cover, but it looks like they'll never get it. that's a whole lot of goodwill pissed away, making it harder for anyone else to go this route.

Edited at 2009-09-09 09:32 am (UTC)
Dr. Ben Mack: Prominent User of the Internetepi_lj on September 9th, 2009 02:14 pm (UTC)
I like buskers. I do put money in the hat if I enjoy the performance enough to stay and watch. Basically, if I stroll on past, I don't put any in, but if I stay and enjoy it for a bit, I put some in. How much depends on how much I enjoy it and how long I stay.

If people offer things for free with the option of donating if you like, online, I generally download to sample and if I like it, make a donation.
Dr. Ben Mack: Prominent User of the Internetepi_lj on September 9th, 2009 02:16 pm (UTC)
I will say that I've never busked, but I put my stuff on the internet for free download with a donation button. I've never to date received a single donation. I don't mind -- that's not why I make and distribute stuff -- but if you were looking for feedback about the efficacy of that. On the other hand, I don't know offhand if a whole lot of people other than my direct friends download my stuff. Every time I look at the server logs, I see a bunch of downloads originating from music search engines various places, but for all I know the people could be looking for something in particular and could download my tracks only to find out that it wasn't what they thought it would be. *shrug*