Busking has helped me defy so many limitations that we as musicians face. Here are some examples:
(1) Being older has not held me back. People respond to how my music makes them feel before they notice how old I am. And once I’ve made that heart connection, age is irrelevant. (Also wearing a baseball hat helps).
(2) I am not defined by a particular audience. When I give it all I’ve got, I get a great response from young and old, as well as people from every ethnic and musical background. People respond to songs they know and to songs they don’t know if sung with feeling. Give it all you got and you’ll appeal to people of all ages and from every walk of life.
(3) I am not limited by what venues want. Most venues hire bands based on the crowd that they bring to their business. I’m not under pressure to produce numbers. Whether I’m singing to 9 or 900 the joy is the same. And some of the best tip dollar amounts have come with the fewest people listening.
(4) I never lack for places to play. I could literally play every day somewhere on the walking streets where I’ve been invited by local businesses. Some musicians are stuck in bands where all they do is practice and rarely play. When you play on the street there’s always a stage and an audience waiting for what you bring.
(5) I only practice to learn or write new material. I no longer have to rehearse songs that I already know in preparation for a big performance. After playing through my 3-hour set multiple times a week for a full year, I can play those songs in my sleep. Most musicians don’t get that kind of an opportunity unless they are on tour for several months.
(6) My confidence is growing by leaps and bounds. When playing on the street you are faced with so many unexpected distractions – things like a loud motorcycle zooming by or a person who just walks up and starts talking to you while you’re playing. As you learn to navigate all the distractions and take them in stride, your performance confidence grows.
(7) My voice stays in shape. When you don’t sing a lot your voice does not stay in tip top shape. That makes it harder to groove and sing in tune. Today my voice is stronger than ever setting me free to really feel and express the music.
If you relate to any of these limitations as a musician, let me encourage you to start performing on the street. It will really help you sharpen your performance skills and overcome these limitations.