The Gadabouts

Two Street Artists travel blog

“Don’t get fooled” or busking problems

We are street artists. Buskers, some may say. Or vagabonds, just pick one. We travel in search of good cities to work in, good weather and, of course, for travelling sake. We aren’t the only ones. There are many, many other people who chose similar way – travel, play on the street and lead a different life. It’s obvious we would encounter them sooner or later. Today’s post is not about travel but more about what adventures we have when we encounter other representatives of our noble profession. Are they enjoyable? Read for yourself!

Last weeks we have been sitting in one place trying to make our Asian dream come true thus, there were not too many events in our trip. However, we had some encounters which made us thinking about street arts world in general.

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When we travel around and see new place/city we can perform at, we have a fixed routine we undergo. We look around, ask the managers if it’s okay to perform next to their terrace and go inside to collect our earnings, and lastly we look around for other buskers. We like to chat with them, ask about their lives, investigate a bit for tips and information about the cities we visit. And here’s the catch – turns out busking society is not as nice and friendly as we have initially thought. During our stay in Konstanz we had some situations that made us think back and remind ourselves that street artists are lone wolves, not pack animals.

Street arts come with a lot of nice perks – tax-free money, freedom of travel and working hours as flexible as you want, to name a few. Unfortunately, some people forget the Art part here, focusing much more on money advantages. It consumes their focus so much they will lie, cheat and do pretty much everything to discourage you from taking “their” spot.

Let’s give you some examples.

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Firstly, pitch stealing.

When we were in Cologne, Germany, we were starting our Fire Show. Just when we set our music and lit up torches this illusionist came and started showing tricks to the people sitting by the tables. In front of us. The nerve, I say. There is this unspoken rule among performers that whoever is first at the pitch goes first and the others have to wait until one is done. Turns out that some performers tend to steal the pitch as they have more compact and requiring less preparations act. Or simply, smaller. Nevertheless, it is just rude. More, after I went to him to talk and say we were there first (he might have not noticed us, you know, Fire, darkness, music, it’s all very subtle…) he said that he wanted just to show some tricks and that we wouldn’t disturb him so we could do whatever we wanted. I tried to explain him that HE was the one disturbing and breaking the rules, not me, but in vain. Fortunately, there was waiter who saw the situation and since he knew us he helped us out saying that we were there first and he had to go. Still, you can imagine how pissed he was and how it spoiled our moods, not to mention people in the restaurant who had to watch the whole scene.

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Secondly, the Liar.

Oh, this happened very recently. We do believe people. Sometimes we are quite naive. I mean, what reason would they have to lie to us with a straight face? Oh. Money. Of course.

So there was this guy, playing guitar at a place we usually perform at in Konstanz. Generally, the rule of thumb says you perform in one spot around 30 – 60 min and then you ought to change a spot. In Konstanz it’s even regulated by law. We asked the musician when he’s going to be done and he says that in… 3 hours. Why? Because he had a contract with a restaurant and they paid him. Well, fair reason enough. If it was true. We got a bit suspicious later so I went to the restaurant to ask if this “contract” actually existed. Guess what? They never heard of the guy. A ha ha…

Finally, Knowledge is Power aka Intimidation.

Another artist, on the other hand, tried to intimidate us. He said he was going to occupy the spot for 45 minutes and we were supposed to wait. When we said we wanted to go and perform somewhere else and be back in three quarters he said no can do, we were to wait patiently at the spot. If not we would need to wait another 45. So, knowing city regulations already very well, I had to use The Foot.

I told him I know how regulations work, described everything and finished my monologue saying that music amplifiers are forbidden in the city and he had a pretty big one. So he looked at us and said angrily “Fine, come in 45 minutes and I will give you the spot”. Well, knowledge is power.

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And these were just three examples. We encountered countless reactions, including anger, reluctance, ignorance and even hostility. So the small end word for you, fellow buskers – don’t get fooled! Always talk, always ask and don’t hesitate to look for information in the Internet or Town Halls. Don’t believe everything other artists say because they may try to keep you away from “their” pitch taking “their” money.

And long live busking!

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Do you want to hear other stories? Just ask, we have tons of these. Also the positive ones, of course!

Note: The photos we posted today are of different performers from Konstanz. There is no connection between our stories and these people, they simply worked in the same city as we did. 

2 Comments

  1. Loved it! Well written :)

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