A lot of people dislike buskers. Frequently there is a local newspaper, policeman, mayor, city ordinance, or national law that attempts to limit them in some way. Buskers often struggle with confusing legal systems, negative public opinion, and the elements, all of which can make street performance both emotionally and professionally damaging.

One reason they may be treated with intolerance is that Buskers represent an alternative to the mainstream style of life. By sustaining themselves without an office, a boss, a wage, a schedule, insurance or safety, they remind us that there is more than one way to live. By devoting themselves almost exclusively to their chosen art form, they remind us that the accumulation of wealth and personal comfort may be less important than society tells us it is.

Many buskers are itinerant, traveling across borders and bringing with them stories of political unrest, war, or poverty in their own countries. Many of them have no formal training in music, dance or visual art. Others are educated and simply motivated by the desire to bring their love of art, music, or dance to a wider audience. There are also those who grew up on the street. Form them, break dancing, drumming, painting on the sides of buildings, or making music on the sidewalk is a natural part of their environment, something they’ve been doing all their lives.

On the flip side, many buskers hold masters of performance, are incredibly well trained, burdened with student debt, and disillusioned with the lack of well-paying performance opportunities. Others are ex-bankers, ex-accountants, ex-professionals of all types, people who’ve left the corporate or labouring life behind them for a freer, more rewarding experience. Busking is one of the few areas of work that gives these people the chance to earn doing something they love.

TBP has already interviewed and documented buskers on the streets of New York. These performers could have worked in a grocery store, on a construction site, or at a small cubicle at the top of one of New York’s many high rise office buildings. Instead, these people have created lives for themselves doing what they love.

The people who are often most captivated by street performers are children. This might be because children are naturally curious, open to new experiences, their impulse to judge not yet solidified. However, street performers have the ability to touch the hearts and minds of children and adults alike. They offer an expanded understanding of the world and subject us to new perspectives. They provide opportunities for cross-cultural exchange, encourage free expression and social tolerance, and bring life to urban environments often dominated by commercialism.

Why is this not encouraged?

TBP thinks it should be.