Busking Bust

Warning:  This video contains explicit language.

Erykah Badu singing in Times Square. The video hurt me.  Watch it at the bottom of the page.

The premise?  “I’ve always wondered what it was like to sing for money on the streets.”  Really?!  Cause you couldn’t figure it out by observation?  I’m gonna cut her a little bit of slack, as she faced the world with no instrumental backup. I’ve never seen anyone busk acapella.  That’s a huge handicap right there.

First of all, Ms. Badu, you don’t know the first thing about performing for live, moving public.  People have things to do, people to see. No captive audience here, girl. Let’s think this through. I thought up a few pointers for you – from one musician to another – should you try this experiment again.

1)  Be nice.  You never know where your next quarter will come from.  Don’t tell folks to “beat it!” when you’re setting up. Even if you say it with a smile.

2)  Sing actual songs.  Don’t make up songs begging for spare change.  “Please give me some money…” Geez!

3) Take and ask for requests. Nobody wants to sing “All About the Bass”.  But people want to hear it.  So suck it up, buttercup.

4) Show off! Use your talent.  It’s your moneymaker, baby.  Lay it all out.  You’ve got to get people’s attention, the “wow” factor. People have seen it already, most likely.  Yet live is a whole different dynamic.  They can attach a name to a voice, be with you in the moment.  You could take them to new heights of emotion with your gift. Make it an experience they won’t easily forget.

5) Try out new material.  You could have tried something fresh and new, musically.  As an established performer, this was your chance to branch out. You sure don’t need the money (or do you?). Under the cover of anonymity, you could have been someone else.  Instead, you wasted an opportunity. Nobody knew who you were, despite removing your hat.

“Haven’t sold a record in two years, haven’t sold a record in a long time..”

Now we know why.

From the website:  Thankfully, she also adds: “In no way is this video a reflection of my feelings about homeless or unfortunate families nor individuals who have no other means of survival in our world.”

“I don’t wanna get no job…”


Oh, Ms. Badu, isn’t it? People who busk have a million different reasons why they do so.  Busking involves daily rejection, enduring inclement weather, criticism and constant dependence on the charity and interest of strangers. Busking means you’re constantly selling yourself in front of a changing sea of spectators. Saying you don’t want to get a job while performing smacks of a blanket judgment on everyone who livens up the sidewalks with their songs. This *is* their job. And that’s my 2 cents.



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