"Selling Out" as a Street Performer (aka Busker) The other day I was sitting around with a street performer (aka busker) friend and we were discussing what "selling out" means to us. Many of us perform on the streets simply to give free art to the world. Many of us perform for political reasons, to spread a political message on public streets, as in the tradition of agit-prop (agitational propaganda). But most buskers have had days when they are playing because they need the money, not because they want to. On these days, it is more attractive than ever to "sell out" on the street. I interviewed some buskers to find out what they do to "sell out" when they really need the cash.
We all agree that those days when you really need the money are the ones most prone to low tipping. It is as if the public can tell you really need the money that day. And we all have also had days when we did not need to busk for the money, but made mad tips. And no one I know has figured out any pattern to tipping, even after decades of observations. But we do know that certain things we perform have a pattern of bringing in more tips than others. I know certain songs make money more regularly than others. I know that certain types of humor work better than others. I know that certain acts do better than others. For instance, we elders have always made fun of child jugglers as stiff competition. Any act with fire is also a major contender. It is funny what works and what doesn't on streets around the world! A one man band from Germany named Gerd Kettel came to the West Coast of the U.S., singing in German and singing about things like the environment, ending wars, etc. and he was a wild success here. The novelty of his one man band set up was a big part of how he gathered a crowd in the U.S.. Then I found out they sell the one man band kits he was using all over Europe and that he did not do as well in Europe as he did in the U.S. because over here, we had not seen what is ordinary over there. Street painters working in chalk, or madonnari, are also common all over Europe but very unusual in the U.S. still. So what people pay for *and don't* can even depend on region!