Street Musicians–Busking Their Way to Fame


Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians


Street musicians have been with us since at least medieval times. And as I learned during the time I busked at a farmers market in Seattle, not everyone can or will succeed as a street musician.

A street musician has the perfect blend of extravert and introvert. They humble themselves because people passing by them on the street is not always a captive audience.

A street musician is motivated to get up every day, find their street corner to perform, lug their equipment (which is more sophisticated these days), and to perform in any kind of weather from sweltering heat to freezing temps.

Street musicians are entrepreneurs and the best ones record music or make t-shirts to sell as merchandise. They also possess customer service traits or in the very least, an engaging personality.

For some reason, street musicians from the UK have grabbed the spotlight from their presence on YouTube and the homeless street musician in the movie, A Cat Named Bob also brought both street music and the plight of homeless people to public awareness with his memoirs that inspired a movie.

In the 1980s and 1990s when Seattle was mostly known for its grunge music, Seattle had its share of engaging and talented street musicians, mostly found performing at Pike’s Place Market and in the University District. Seattle also had a strong coffee house scene for folk musicians in the mid-1980s which I was part of in 1986-87. I first discovered buskers when I moved to Seattle in the summer of 1986.

However, the street musicians of that era needed to belt out their songs because there were no microphones or amplifiers (there were no outlets to plug them in). We did not have mobile phones or any of the technology we now take for granted. This is why I opted to play coffee houses instead. Playing music on the street takes stamina which I have never possessed. I worked with a violinist on a project (a demo) who lived in Ireland supporting herself by playing with other musicians on the streets. This was in the 1990s.

Many famous musicians like jazz chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux got discovered while playing music on the streets of Paris. Below I’m including three videos of current street musicians and a trailer for the movie, A Cat Named Bob.



Piano and vocals


Movie based on a true story


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