We’ve all passed a busker standing in the street, trying to be heard above the noise.
In London, you usually catch them playing in the tiled tunnels of the Underground. Tiles give a great acoustic, especially if you are a little rough around the edges, which let’s face it, most buskers are.
No doubt you’ve passed one who has caught your ear with something a little more tuneful than most. Something a little special about them that made you toss a coin or two in their direction.
Perhaps you even stopped to listen at a comfortable distance.
But – as far as gaining an audience goes – the Underground is not the kind of place where people tend to linger. After all, there are trains to miss, carriages to squish into, and fat rats to spy scurrying underneath the rails. (At least, this is what happens in London.)
But what if the busker was really, really good? I mean, seriously talented. Would a crowd begin to gather, travellers clinging to the tiles to listen to the sheer gorgeousness being played by the unlikely maestro?
Surely, with such talent, the trains could wait?
Pearls Before Breakfast
This really happened back in 2007, when one of the finest violinists in the world stood beside a rubbish bin inside the L’Enfant Plaza Metro in Washington on a crisp January morning. Dressed in a baseball cap and jeans, he played some of the most moving and inspired music ever composed on a 266 year old violin worth around $3.5 million.
How much did he make that morning, busking in the corner during the early morning rush hour?
No crowd gathered. A couple of people lingered for a minute or two, then briskly continued on their way, completely unaware of who it was that was playing. He was basically ignored.
It makes no difference how good you are if no one is listening.
This was a world-famous musician who could command hundreds of dollars a ticket to see him play live. But at the station that morning, he could barely make $40 in an hour from people barely metres away. It made no difference how exquisitely he played, it was just the wrong audience in the wrong place at the wrong time…and he was painfully lousy at interrupting them or even engaging them.
Are you making the same mistake?
When you are presenting yourself to the world – the sum of you as the refined and edited and buffered “latest edition to hit the shelves” – who are you offering yourself up to? Are the people in your stream even listening anymore? Or are you playing to people who just don’t get you anymore, and have tuned you out?
What good is being “in tune” if you’re playing to the wrong crowd?
Part of the deliciousness of finding your authentic frequency – the kind of hum and throb that makes you zing with passion and joy – is the sharing of it. The sense that you are part of an even bigger band of friends who harmonise with you. Who provide the counterpoint that balances your highs with their lows. Who even clash with you too (like those juicy, dissonant chords that when you hear them, you know those notes shouldn’t go together but oh, they just do and it’s so right!)
It is the playfulness that comes from jamming together, not just going it solo.
So please, don’t stand in the corner singing to yourself just because the acoustic makes you sound hotter than you are. Go where you are appreciated. A place where your tribe will recognise your genius and clamour over each other to shove shiny piles of gratitude into your open guitar case.
Because the best part about finding your true voice is when other people want to sing along with you.
So, are you riffing with the right people? Where can you take yourself so that you will be really listened to?