A week ago I started busking in Berlin once again.
I did a break from Street music in January '18 to re-arrange my thoughts & my plan. All of this made me see street music from different perspective & to find new answers.
But let me start from the beginning..
- MY BUSKING HISTORY -
I started playing on the street in the summer of 2014. At that time I was in Saratoga Springs, Upstate NY // USA.
I was doing 6 months of work & travel in America. I was 21 years old. Crazy, horny, curious. I went to America without knowing anyone, without any plan or idea. Just my curiosity and the goal to save up money for music equipment. I was working really shitty job - at Saratoga National Golf court. I was cutting grass and planting flowers all day every day from 5am till 1:30pm.
I was really miserable at that job. I didn't made any friends at my workplace. My workmates were all hard working older men that didn't want to talk to me very much.
Back in Bulgaria I was studying drums. I brought my guitar & drum sticks with me in America. I was watching YouTube one day, when I came across the video of a street drummer called "Gordo". This guy was amazing. He was drumming on plastic buckets on the streets of a busy city and he's videos blown me away.
I was working my grass- cutting job for 3 weeks now, in which I was not playing music at all. I used to play music every day back in Bulgaria. I started to become a bit crazy. One day I found 2 plastic buckets at the garbage at my workplace. I asked my boss if I can take them. He said "yes" but he gave me a strange look. I cleaned the buckets and took them to the house that I was living with the other workers. I took my drumsticks, that was resting in my suitcase for over 3 weeks and tried a beat on my buckets. I got yelled at (from other workers) to stop with the drumming. It was not going to happen in the house. Luckily it was summer. I took my 2 buckets and one of my "mates" bicycles and started wondering around my neighbourhood in search of a empty & quiet place that I can practice my drumming. I didn't want to become the next street drummer, I just wanted to play some music. For me.
I went to the big city park in Saratoga Springs called "Congress Park". The park was green and beautiful, with a giant lake with ducks and rabbits. I found a empty quiet spot under a tree. There, I started experimenting my bucket sounds. Shortly a guy came to me. He was tall & skinny, with a lot of tattoos and a hat. His name was Jeff. He was homeless and he became my first friend in USA. My first friend in Saratoga. He complemented my drumming and told me to come and play on the main street with him.
On the next day I got enough courage and went with my 2 buckets on the main street of Saratoga Springs. From that moment my whole live changed completely. I met amazing musicians and my first friends in America.
I will save the whole story for another Post, but shortly I got kicked out of my job, I found different job & housing and started playing street music almost every day.
I started my YouTube channel and named it "2 Buckets Street Channel". My goal was to film street musicians from Saratoga Springs (there were a lot of them) and to tell their stories. It was called "2 Buckets Street Channel" because this is all you need to go and do it, and this is exactly how I started.
Watch my channel:
Many musicians were coming to Saratoga Springs, because the music culture was very good and people were rich.
Playing music in Saratoga changed my life completely.
2 Years after (in 2016) I was in Essen, Germany. I joined a country band called "Inspektor Harti & die Dieselmachine". I was a drummer and a banjo player.
We were playing music on the streets of many cities in NRW area in Germany, also in small venues, on private parties and festivals. We were a full working 3-piece cover band with van, traveling around and surviving only on music.
Playing on the street with "The Inspektor" was totally different game. We had electric guitars, amplifiers, mixer, speakers, microphones and real drum set. We were basically building a little stage when we find a good spot to busk. We were powering the whole show from a car battery.
Playing with "The Inspektor" taught me a lot. I started performing my original music ,with our country- blues show.
The Winter of 2017 I moved to Berlin, Germany. I started busking with my friend Andreas Hölter(the singer of "Inspektor Harti & die Dieselmachine"). It was hard and very cold to busk in Berlin, we were not making a lot of money.
Andreas left back to Essen for the winter and I decided to stay in Berlin and work my way with my music.
I got a shitty part- time job as a bike messenger, but I was playing music everywhere, anytime and with everyone. I started developing a new approach for my original project "DeanIsHome". I started performing my songs with electric guitar, loop pedal, drum machine and a few other effects. In January I got some equipment from Andreas and friends and I build a street music setup on wheels, containing Speaker, battery and everything I need for my DeanIsHome show.
Spring 2018. Now I am playing shows with other musicians, I did my own show in a few bars in Berlin, I have shows coming in the spring, summer and autumn of 2018. I played on the International Country Music festival in Berlin and most of all I started busking again. With a fresh mind, new plan, by myself.
My break from busking & starting over again made me appreciate, and analyze it.
I graduated Music in University, I studied in Sofia(BG) and Essen(DE). I worked as musician on cruise ship, I played in big and small venues, but there are things that only street music can teach you. It is hard to describe it, if you didn't try it, but musicians that played on the street know exactly what I mean.
Few things that came straight on my mind are:
- Discipline & Responsibility
You make your own schedule. You are your own boss. If you want to work and make money, you must go there, and do the work. No one is going to push you to work, you must execute it. And you will take all the responsibility if it goes well or not.
- A little bit of everything.
DRIVER. You must get to the spot you want to perform(with car, train, or on foot),
ROADIE(dragging all the equipment - speakers, battery, guitar, mic, stand, cables, everything you need for live music, assembling it and building the stage),
SOUND ENGINEER(you will have to make your own sound and customize it to the location, songs, and audience you are performing),
SECURITY (playing on the street, the boundary between Performer and Audience is very thin. You will meet the crazy people that want to sing on the microphone, or play your instrument, or steal money from your guitar case. The last one is especially true if you play at night in front of drunk people in some areas of the city)
BOOKER & SALESMAN (Some people will come to you with offers for gigs, this is your moment to sell and make deals)
PERFORMER (After all, that's what you went out to do, ja?)
After "working on the street" you get set of practical skills that implement greatly into your music career.
- Confidence & Instant action.
After doing all the work to get to the spot, drag the instruments, build the stage, get a ticket(sometimes you need to buy a special ticket to play in some places), wait your turn(if there is another artist performing at that spot ), now It's your time to perform. You have a crowd.
It's: ready! Go!
It's direct - you start singing! After all, that's what you came to do, right?
That confidence and instant action is so valuable. It is so different then playing a normal show at a venue or an open mic. After playing on the street for some time, you became so confident in your music, that you can start singing anytime. You eliminate that stage fear that you had before. And when you go to perform on "real" stage - you blow them away.
- Understanding the Audience & Grabbing their Attention.
On the street no one paid money to see you, your friends are not there to support, no one cares about your music in general. Maybe there are people already sitting there, maybe there are people passing around, in general they are doing something else - It is your job to grab their attention and make them stop and listen. And eventually drop you some money. But for that you need to give them something. Everyone is busy, especially in the big cities. If someone stops to listen 1, 2 or 5 songs, you must give them something valuable. This is the moment, when you start to understand what in your music is good and what is not. Grabbing attention is a skill that can be learned.
- Real Love & Reward for Your Work
Nothing can compare to the feeling you get when a complete stranger stops to listen, buys your CD, comes to talk to you, or start dancing because of your music. Nothing. At the end of the day, especially in the beginning you might not get the same money as a normal job, you might get less, you might get a lot more, but the reward that you get, the way you feel, cannot be compared. Especially if you perform your own music.
If life, you always get back - what you give.
Playing on the street is not easy, but it's rewarding.
There are a lot of benefits & I'm very happy I found it for myself.
I see it, as a very important stepping stone for a musician who want to go all in & full time with his/ her music. I see a big Difference when I listen to musicians who busked and who didn't busked in their career. There is also a sense of community & respect between street performers, that is just amazing. Especially from the more experienced ones. They will help and, and you will be surprised with their kindness. Because, everyone is fighting their own fight, but everyone knows, how hard it is.
There is still controversy, that buskers are beggars, there are a lot of problems that buskers face every day. In Berlin, it is getting harder and harder to play on the street. It is getting illegal in most parts of the city, but that is another topic.
For final next time you see a busker, stop & listen - if you can. And drop a coin - if you can. There is big chance you will get a Real Show & Real Feelings.