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The Art of Busking in Vancouver

The Art of Busking in Vancouver

When you walk around Downtown, on Granville Street in particular, there is no shortage of musicians, acts or performers. Busking is a hidden art that many people don’t quite understand. These people aren’t just performing to kill time or make a living, although the latter is a plus, these people are showcasing their talents in an aim to make their dreams come true.

Jordan Kaminski, 21, from Edmonton, Alberta, came to Vancouver to pursue his dream of becoming a musician. After graduating from Victoria School of Arts, Kaminski turned down a scholarship for Berklee College of Music in Boston to continue playing music in Vancouver. Currently, Kaminski is busking on the streets of Vancouver between four and ten hours a day.

The Art of Busking in Vancouver

Performing, and busking in particular, is an artform that isn’t completely appreciated. This takes a lot of work and skill to become successful. “ I was invited to sing in the Edmonton International Airport. I wasn’t paid to play, but I was allowed to accept tips and sell my CD’s. Over a few years of playing there I developed a knack for performing in a way that suited my environment. As I watched people who came through security I would sing and play in different ways that I thought would connect with that type of person. I would sing crooner – style Jazz songs for sweet, older couples, catchy pop songs for groups of teens that would come through as sport teams or school groups and experiment with everyone in between based on apparent mood, how they walked, how they dressed, etc. Eventually I learned how to play songs that younger groups would recognize in ways that would appeal to older groups as well, capturing the attention of as many passers by as I could,” said Kaminski.

While the gig became well-payed, especially on eight to ten hour shifts, Edmonton wasn’t where Kaminski had his sights set. “I bought a small travel guitar and a backpack with a plan to travel for a couple years, paying my way as a busker. When I got to Vancouver, which was my first destination, I had so much success playing on the streets (being offered paying gigs, making valuable connections and selling CD’s) that I decided to stay here for a few months and continue playing music full time.”

The Art of Busking in Vancouver

In order to busk in Vancouver, there are a number of steps you must complete before you take to the streets. According to the city of Vancouver website, in order to play on most streets, you need a street entertainment permit. To apply for a permit, you must first download and complete the application form, and then apply in person at the office on West Broadway. When you go to apply, you must also have photo ID and your fee payment. This fee is either $37.59 for four months, or $111.56 for a year.

If you want to busk and don’t want to pay a fee, there are many places where you can play for free. These places include parks, Library Square, Science World, Skytrain stations and the Vancouver Art Gallery. If you are thinking of playing around the Stanley Park Totem Poles or within 10m of the Gastown Steam Clock, think again, these areas are prohibited. In order to busk in the correct areas you must be over the age of 13 and must be performing within the times of 10:00am and 10:00pm. To be a successful busker, according to Kaminski, you must “listen to your audience as attentively and respond.”

There are many benefits of busking; you are able to get your name out there and perform even if no one is listening. “I would argue that busking is one of the most valuable things that a performing musician can do when learning to connect to an audience. It is challenging and extremely humbling to watch massive groups of people walk right by you without the slightest glance of acknowledgement while you are singing what you thought was one of your best songs. The rewards of picking that microphone back up and experimenting with your sound until you learn to stop people in their tracks, make them temporarily forget what they were doing, and then move them profoundly, are what make busking, and performing in general, my favourite thing to do in the entire world,” said Kaminski.

Next time you are walking down the street and you see, or hear, someone performing, take a second and give them some of your time. You’ll be surprised and what you might see and hear. “When you see a busker that you like, it is an excuse to show your true colors! Dance, laugh, sing along, act like a dork in the middle of the most public places. We express ourselves freely and love when you join in! When an audience is willing to leave their world behind for a moment and create a new one with us, the closest thing I’ve ever seen to magic.”

He also adds, “we aren’t beggars, we are creators, and you are invited as partners to invest in the creation if you are inspired to do so. It is because of your support that I have the time, energy and resources to continue to create as I have.”

Busking gives people the opportunity to do great things. Currently Kaminski is working with an award-winning producer, recording two new singles. He hopes to market them to the radio internationally.

You are able to purchase his 10 song CD on itunes or grab his mixtape with newer songs while he is busking locally. Kaminski can be found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube.

Written by Megan Renaud

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