When busking becomes an outdoor concert


In my previous blog post, I mentioned busking as a barrier-free way to perform to an audience without the guarantee of payment. In Utrecht, Netherlands and the London Underground, a busking license is required. Aside from adverse weather conditions and the odd listener, busking has much lower transaction costs than a concert, which has to be organised, publicised, etc.

My harpist friend Peter Murphy uses busking as a shopfront for listeners to hear him play, chat with him, and book him for higher-revenue gigs of greater certainty, e.g. weddings. He became so successful in London that he appeared in a special documentary on UK television.

When does busking become a concert?

Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers and the soprano Mirella Reiche had agreed in advance when, where, and what they would be playing. Yesterday, he gave me their set list for this afternoon’s performance outside the central library in Utrecht. He told me they would play at 2 pm.

I am now free to publicise it and draw an audience. I can even tell them to donate into his guitar case. I can tell this audience that his share of the donations goes towards his forthcoming studies with maestro Eliot Fisk in Boston where he is headed next. All this additional information dispersed in advance for publicity to draw an interested crowd on Market Day (Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday in Utrecht) large enough to make an outdoor performance worthwhile is what turns busking into an outdoor concert.

As with all outdoor performances, good weather is key to entice people to come and stay. Unfortunately summer in Utrecht, Netherlands is not winter in Tucson, Arizona.

Consider a pre-notified and publicised event: an outdoor concert outside a restaurant in Tucson in February 2011. That was not busking — but where was the audience?

Robert Bekkers gives solo guitar concert outside a restaurant in Tucson, February 2011

Robert Bekkers gives solo guitar concert outside a restaurant in Tucson, February 2011 Photo: J.Rhoads

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1 Comment

Filed under audience, communication, concert, economics, guitar, personality, photos, planning, travel, venues

One response to “When busking becomes an outdoor concert

  1. Pingback: Outdoor opera for guitar and soprano | Concert Blog

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