In nearly every major city in the world, you can go outside on a nice day to a public space to see street performers acting, performing stunts, or playing music as to try to earn an extra buck. For musicians, this form of street performing is called busking. Busking is a great way to get comfortable playing in front of a crowd, gauge new material, and practice performing long sets. In cities like Oviedo, where tight living spaces can lead to little privacy and annoyed neighbors, it’s common to see musicians out in the street playing for people as they pass by.
I have always wanted to try busking for the experience, but I was hesitant to, especially in a foreign city. However, as the semester is coming to an end and I’m finding my bank account dropping lower than I initially planned, I finally decided to give it a try.
Due to the great weather this past weekend, I had the opportunity to busk every day Friday through Monday for about two hours, averaging about 6€ per day. It’s no fortune, but it’s a lot better than I expected. Although earning some extra money was fun, I would have to say the coolest thing about playing in the street was the people I met. I was surprised by how easy it was to strike up a conversation with people as they stopped to listen, other buskers, and even passersby.
The first day I went out to busk, I had no idea and little confidence in what I was doing. I was wandering around one of the main squares with a guitar in one hand and a stool in the other when I made contact with another guy doing the exact same thing. I wound up talking to him about busking and asked about some spots in the city and we walked around eventually posting up near the cathedral and jamming for a bit. I taught him to play some American songs and he taught me some Spanish ones, and all the while people stopped by to listen, talk to us, or throw us some change. After that experience, I felt comfortable going out again the next couple of days, stopping to talk to the other musicians I saw and striking up conversations with the people who stopped to listen to me.
Although I personally had a great experience busking, unfortunately some look down on street performing, and at times even consider it to be a form of begging. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Spending last weekend busking has really helped me to understand why performers and passersby alike are so drawn to street performing. I have always practiced my music at home, and the feeling of playing outside in public is liberating. Although there is an exchange of currency, throwing a couple cents is more of a token of appreciation than anything else. At the end of the day, music brings people together, and busking provides a great platform for musicians to connect with the people around them. For both musicians and passersby alike, street art is a great way to experience a new city.