The high and low notes of busking in Crown St Mall

Last time Bec Sandridge busked at Crown Street Mall, the batteries in her amplifier ran out part way through her set.

Feeling a little defeated, she was on the verge of calling it a day, but instead ran to get some new batteries and returned to her spot to keep singing, and she was lucky she did.

‘‘I was just in my own little world playing some songs, shutting my eyes and singing, and when I opened my eyes again there were a couple of people standing there listening. It was really nice to know that people can take a couple of minutes out of their day and listen to a song,’’ she says.

Some people love the chance to listen on their lunch break and experience the different vibe live music brings to a public space, while others can’t stand the unwanted noise as they stroll past.

Sandridge says not knowing how a day will turn out, whether she will be appreciated or ignored, can be tough, but she loves the challenge of trying to get strangers to stop and watch.

She regularly plays music venues too, but says there is something special about engaging with people on the street.

The 22-year-old folk singer started busking while she was visiting the United Kingdom 18 months ago. A close friend was making his way around the country by busking and said it was a good way to get your music out there without being too in-your-face, so she decided to give it a go.

Some days she makes good money and can earn $150 in two hours, while other days aren’t quite as fruitful. Not that she minds the 10 and 20¢ pieces – she uses them to pay for parking at uni.

Her patrons are a mixture of the incredibly generous, such as the person who donated $50 for a cheeky cover of a Blink 182 song over Christmas, and those who instead take some of her earnings for themselves.

During her three to five-hour  sets she tries not to repeat songs too often, playing a combination of her own material, particularly new songs she wants to gauge feedback on, and covers of popular songs, which draw people over who otherwise wouldn’t stop to listen.

Though she gets nervous every time she busks, she believes it’s a good way for musicians to challenge themselves.

‘‘When I play gigs it’s generally people who are fans of my music, but busking, because they’re not paying [especially to see me], it’s an open arena for anyone to appreciate music.’’ 

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