Last week, or maybe it was the week before last…I can’t remember (getting old aint for sissies, as my dad used to say – well, he was a little more “colorful”, but I digress) my Facebook friend Whit Whitman posted a list of a “teacher’s 100 wisest words”. After reading through them, I decided some of them would make great blog topics.
Obviously, not all of them were pertinent to this blog, but out of the list of 100 I was able to cull 32 that I thought would make good topics, so this week we begin a 32-week series I’ll call “Wisdom of the Ages”. Thanks Whit for giving me 32 weeks of blog topics and thanks to the anonymous teacher he quoted.
We’ve all seen them. These are the guys who stand on the street corner or near the Metro and play an instrument (most times a guitar) with the case open at their feet and perform for the passersby. Sometimes they’re very talented and sometimes not, but they stand there (usually during the evening rush) pouring their hearts out for people who mostly ignore them.
Why do these people put themselves out there? The obvious reason is to pick up some spare change, or at least it seems so. Most likely, the REAL reason is they are passionate about performing, in short: they love what they do, and the money is a bonus.
To be clear
Although they may be doing this just for the love of it, they also must eat. So if you come across a street performer that makes you stop and listen, put a buck in their case!
Who are these guys anyway?
Many of these people are folks who have spent a lot of time learning and practicing their trade, and who want to share it with the world, even if it means standing on a street and giving it away for “free”. The music is in them, and it is just bursting out. Many times, they just can’t HELP but share their passions with you.
And they are not all unknown
Slow down a bit sometimes, and you may find that the guy with a guitar, or a saxophone or sometimes even a piano (!) isn’t just some random guy. I’ve seen instances where the likes of John Legend, Keane, Shawn Mendes, and even Ed Sheeran perform for random strangers on the street. (You can check out a street performance by these famous singers here). These guys are making bank on their talents, so they didn’t do this because they needed the money.
Of course, that’s the exception
Most street performers are NOT famous or wealthy. I can’t find the stats anywhere, they may not even be known, but for every talented performer whose name you know, there are hundreds, if not thousands (if not tens of thousands!), of talented performers you’ve never heard of and probably never will. Not knowing their names doesn’t make them less talented.
And not just musicians
Mimes, actors, dancers…the list goes on. Each of these people are out there sharing their talent with you…ostensibly for free…and mostly they become background noise. I can’t remember the performer, but I read an article once about a well-known band who set up in the New York subway and performed some of their most popular songs. Some people stopped to listen, but overall, they were ignored like any other street performer. People were too busy or focused on their lives to even pay attention.
What you see -vs- reality
What you see is someone standing in public and performing, but what you DON’T see is the 1000’s of hours that went into learning and perfecting their act. OK, I get that some of the people doing this haven’t yet perfected it, but that isn’t the point. The point is, that the performance itself is just the “tip of the iceberg” so to speak…it is the smallest part of what these folks have done and are doing. The bigger part of the iceberg, what’s below the water line, is the blood (sometimes literally – try learning guitar and your fingers will understand what I mean), sweat and tears that got them to that corner to perform.
And not just street performers
This is true even for the Ed Sheeran’s of the world. What you see on stage, or when you listen to their albums, is the culmination of a LOT of hard work. Subconsciously we know this, but consciously I think we forget. We complain about the price of a concert ticket, without remembering everything that went into putting that concert together. Even leaving aside the cost of the venue and travel and security and everything else that goes into being ready for the moment your favorite performer walks out on stage, the number of hours alone the performer dedicates to preparing for that moment is staggering.
What about actors?
Turning on the TV or heading to the theater is much the same. Think about this: For your average 90-minute film JUST the production (principal photography) takes months. And that doesn’t consider the hours of rehearsal, memorizing lines and movements or blocking before production starts. Pre-production (where it is all planned and locations and actors are decided and secured), postproduction (where the film is cut together, and special effects are added) add many more months to the project. And THAT doesn’t account for acting classes and coaching for the actors, training, and apprenticeship for the crew either.
What about voice talent?
I’m glad you asked! When you hear your favorite audio book, or a commercial on the radio, or even the on-hold messages when you call someone…those are real people recording those messages. You may wonder: “How hard can THAT be?”. I know I did before I began this journey. Well, I can tell you that before I ever recorded the first thing, I needed hundreds of hours of training and coaching, I had to buy suitable equipment for professional voice over and learn how to use it all. I needed a space suitable for recording…all-in-all I have somewhere in the neighborhood of $25K invested. Odds of my getting rich doing this are close enough to zero to just call it zero without trying to figure it out.
If you ever thought you could be a voice over artist (Shameless plug).
And if you ever thought you could be a narrator or cartoon character, head on over to my series on getting started in voice over starting here, or jump on over to Amazon and get a copy of my book Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Getting Started in Voice Over But Didn’t Know Who to Ask and you’ll get an idea. Or, if free is your thing, simply subscribe to this blog to get a copy free.
At the end of the day
The people who entertain you (and even some who don’t) have invested time, energy, and a lot of money to hone their performance skills. Whenever you wonder about why a movie ticket, or a Broadway show, or a concert ticket costs so much, try to remember what went into bringing those shows to you. If you need someone to voice a spot for you, don’t insult them by offering an absurdly low rate, and don’t choke on what the true cost is.
Which reminds me of a joke
A business owner had to shut down his plant because a machine he needed was offline. He called in the repairman, who, when he arrived took one look at the machine, grabbed a ball peen hammer, and struck the machine gently. As soon as he struck the machine with the hammer it started working perfectly. Next, he presented his invoice for $1550.00 whereby the business owner got very angry. “$1550 dollars for hitting it with a ball peen hammer!? I’d like to see an itemized invoice!” The repairman retired to his truck and soon returned with the itemized invoice:
Item 1: Striking the machine with a hammer: $50.00
Item 2: Knowing WHERE to strike: $1500.
The same holds true for performers.
If a street performer makes you stop walking to watch/listen to them…throw a buck in their case. You owe it to them.