Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

  • Mood:

Bonus Material: Busking in Terramagne

This is the bonus post for April. I've written a variety of things in Polychrome Heroics that feature busking or buskers, along with some similar activities, so I thought it would be fun to explore what it's like there.

Terramagne-America has a very rich and diverse cultural life, considerably better than Local-America. They actively encourage this; most people have at least one hobby, and plenty of folks have several. There is much better support for self-employment, which includes not just regular professions such as consulting but also odd jobs and enertainment gigs. T-America rewards both ingenuity and self-sufficiency. Civil designers look for ways to enrich public space and encourage socializing. That means common areas such as malls, community centers, parks, plazas, sidewalks, etc. are constructed with those purposes in mind. They include benches, tables, shelters, and enough room for folks to walk around each other without blocking the flow of traffic or causing hazards. Street performance encompasses a wide range of value-added activities which make places more engaging and more safe. It turns streets from mere travel lanes into community spaces. There is a pretty smooth spectrum from people doing things just for fun, putting out a tip jar at impromptu performances, staking out a regular busking spot and schedule, working gigs, and working full-time in the creative arts. It's not rare to see both hobbyists and buskers in the same place.

All of this creates a thriving environment for busking. There are many activities which can count as street performance. The Busker Central website lists some of the most common down the right margin which include acrobats, actors, artists, balloon sculptors, clowns, dancers, jugglers, magicians, musicians, and living statues. In Terramagne, superpowers are a category unto themselves, although they are often mixed with other activities. Some buskers do only one thing, but others have a variety of skills so they can rotate. Much thought goes into such aspects as choosing a musical instrument, deciding what size of balloon sculpture to do, or selecting a place to perform.

Buskers have many different ideas about the benefits of street performance. It allows a lot of freedom and flexibility. It maximizes audience interaction. In many places, it's something that anyone can do without needing to "get" a job; you just have to entertain an audience. Most buskers also feel that street performance improves their skills. Within a community, its buskers develop their own culture and customs. Here are some steps to becoming a busker.

Busking also benefits society as a whole. It makes places more active and interesting, which attracts more people, which makes society more functional. It showcases local color and provides a way for creative people to make a living. Some places don't like buskers and try to discourage them; others are more supportive. Liverpool has a splendid set of guidelines about busking, which they developed with input from buskers, businesses, residents, and the authorities. It's basically the gold standard of how to handle busking, and typical of most places in T-America as well as the other top-ten countries.

The legalities vary. American law protects freedom of expression, better in T-America than L-America. Also, T-America does a somewhat better job of protecting people and public places from abusive language; you can say your piece, but you can't bushwhack a captive audience of people who don't want to hear it. Public space is to be shared. Buskers must still adhere to the general rules about safety and civility. Generally speaking, bigger and busier places are more likely to develop a permit system to manage the limited supply of feasible performance spaces. Smaller and quieter places tend to have fewer or no regulations specific to busking. They typically leave things freestyle unless problems develop. Many have found that positive permission is all they need; they just designate some Busk Stops and that keeps people from doing it where it is inconvenient. Some cities and private owners have made arrangements with buskers, or even hired them as employees so they get base pay plus tips. Cities with regulated busking customarily offer perks to encourage participation, such as tax management services or a group health insurance option. Even in cities with some regulation, there is usually at least one area that is not restricted, to allow for the right of free expression. While T-America has not made a universal guarantee of the right to a job, it is trending in that direction, which includes the premise that you shouldn't have to pay money before being allowed to make money. This means that while bans on busking have been passed, they tend to fall if challenged, either because they violate free expression or because they block otherwise legal ways to earn a living. It helps put the bottom rungs on the ladder.

Each locale tends to develop its own style, though. Easy City is probably the most freewheeling, busker-friendly place in T-America. You can find people doing almost anything in the streets there, and the most the cops usually say about shenanigans is "You're drunk; go home or I will take you home," or "Put your clothes back on." This also makes it a very soup-friendly city because when there are people painted silver, it's harder to spot the one guy who is naturally that color; and when there are performing firebreathers, the gal who does it without accelerant just doesn't stick out much. Onion City is almost as full of street performers, although it tends to be somewhat more organized; the busiest districts and events tend to use permits. Smaller ones like Bluehill usually just put out Busk Stops and call it good. The Heights is less welcoming. Flavor of music, dance, and other entertainment varies likewise. Breakdancing is largely a city phenomenon, especially on the coasts. Eastbord is more into avant-garde and pop music; all along the Mississippi from Easy City to Onion City has jazz and blues; Westbord is a bastion of folk music.

A general, printable Busk Stop logo allows people to make up their own signs. This is useful for cities, busker programs or associations, businesses, and individuals.

The most common thing that towns do to manage buskers is post Busk Stop signs to indicate places approved for street performance. These are safe and out of the way. This one with a guitarist is typical of Bluehill, which has a handful of Busk Stops in high-traffic areas. They also let people perform anywhere that doesn't cause problems.

Businesses may hang a Busk Stop sign in their windows, or post one inside, to indicate that performers are welcome. It's a wonderful symbiosis in which the business gets free entertainment and the busker gets a good spot to perform.

In addition to singing and musical instruments, busking includes many other types of performance art such as dance, juggling, mime, acting, etc. Some signs explicitly welcome multiple types of public performance.

Cities that regulate busking often post signs to show the designated spaces, along with the rules for their use. This one is in Victoria.

Another thing that regulation facilitates is scheduling. This sign in Kuala Lumpur profiles the buskers assigned to its location, lists their time slots, and even includes a movable marker to show who is currently performing.

Regulated busking programs may offer perks to encourage buskers to support them. One popular example is that buskers with a permit may use Busk Stops wired for electricity, which allows things like electronic instruments, microphones, and lighting. This sign has a plug on it to indicate the availability of power. Some cities that don't have an official busking program allow only acoustic performances, nothing that requires electricity. Others allow anything that doesn't break ordinary laws.

Music festivals and street fairs often have their own banner. They may also have a matching Busk Stop sign. Some allow buskers to set up wherever they wish. Others designate specific Busk Stops, both for safe traffic flow and so they can be marked on event maps. Most towns in T-America have at least one public event each year, frequently several. They like to encourage people to get outside, socialize, and enjoy cultural activities.

Portable signs are also popular. This style offers two advantages: 1) It can be moved and set almost anywhere. 2) The split frame makes it easy to switch out the message inside, for example, changing the performers or including a schedule under the Busk Stop part. Such signs are often used at festivals, but also by busker-friendly businesses.

A-frame signs are often used as part of a music festival or street fair, although they can be used as part of an ongoing busker program. The style is lightweight and wind-resistant, plus it offers a large space to advertise the performer and/or event. This example is from Calgary.

Some people put out a large heavy instrument with a sign inviting folks to play. This is popular with music stores, but it also happens at festivals. Most places that sell instruments are happy to have any decently-skilled person pause to make some music, because that demonstrates the quality and attracts more potential customers.

Sometimes it takes a little extra encouragement to get people to play. Established buskers don't hesitate to pounce on opportunities, but it can be more challenging to coax bystanders into giving it a try. Various signs help create a welcoming atmosphere even for novices. These are most common at music festivals and other creative events.

Music festivals and other large events may sort entertainers by type of performance (singers, musicians, dancers, jugglers, etc.) or by skill level (usually amateur and professional). This not only makes it easier for the audience to find what they want, but also ensures that some of the less-represented folks get a designated chance to participate too.

Busk Stops may also be painted on the ground, such as a sidewalk or plaza. This is most often done with permanent locations, but some festivals do it too. This one appears in Waterloo. In another variation, upright signs may be accompanied by painted lines on the ground to indicate the amount of space reserved for busking. Generally audiences are supposed to stay outside the performance area. This is most useful for dancing, firebreathing, and other activities where interference could prove hazardous.

Las Vegas uses these six-foot performance circles made of self-adhesive film to mark its official busking zones on Freemont Street.

This type of booth provides space for one or two buskers, with shelter from wind, rain, and crowd motion. It may be positioned at a permanent location, or transported to festivals and street fairs for temporary use. Here is a Busk Stop booth in Canberra.

Some cities have used the Busk Stop concept to encourage use of mass transit at bus stops, or to provide sheltered performance space for larger groups.

Further Reading

The Busking Project

Busker - Tales of a Renegade Harpist

Find Your Way: A Busker's Documentary

101 Irish Songs for Buskers with Guitar Chords

101 Showtunes for Buskers Book 2 Piano/Organ Edition

101 Folk Songs for Buskers: Piano/Organ Edition with Guitar Chords
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, entertainment, fantasy, music, nonfiction, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.