The lines were quite long so there would be a captive audience to throw money in my case… I thought she was absolutely crazy! Although I’d been playing for about 7 years and had played in weddings and other events, I didn’t feel like my skill level was very high. No way would I have the guts to stand there on the street and play in front of lots of strangers all by myself! Plus what I had to offer was nothing compared to what they were going to hear inside.
Irish Music - a glimpse into the future
Some years later when I started playing Irish music, my band mate said busking in Europe is a great way to earn money. I had already been to Ireland at that point and probably saw a few buskers there. There definitely weren’t any I had seen in Minnesota, so going to Europe was the first time I could actually visualise it as a possibility. That conversation was what motivated me to try when I went to the UK for the first time to study.
I literally just stood in front of the public library or a nice street corner with nothing but my acoustic violin and played tunes for an hour or so. I didn’t go out that often because of course I was spending most of my time doing research.
I also went to a lot of Irish music sessions at that time. It really helped to keep the musical momentum going. I once went out with my then boyfriend because he played guitar. I played the melody to a few well known songs and he accompanied me. We only made £10 that day and it put him off from ever going out again. At that time I think the most I would normally make on a good day was about £30 in an hour, but I enjoyed it regardless of what I earned.
was the crash of 2008. I was still living in the UK with my new husband, jobs were hard to come by and competition was fierce. For the first time I depended on busking for all of my income. I still only played my acoustic violin so wouldn’t make more than £50 a go. I had to supplement it with bar work until I got an admin job in finance. As time went on and we moved around the country for my husband’s work, I found myself busking in between jobs (or even on the weekends while I worked my various jobs).
I’d like to know your thoughts. Are you a busker? If so, how did you get started? Let me know in the comments below!
Serena Smith is an American British violinist and fiddle player. I play full time as a street musician in addition to the live gigs I perform with several bands.