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What Is a Street Performance?

Street performers may play music and sing songs.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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The term "street performance" refers to a rendition of music, acting, or other artistic endeavor that takes place on a street or in a public place. Street performers, often known as buskers, can play music, sing songs, perform dances, or create art, and the general accepted practice for passers-by is to give monetary donations if they appreciate that art. Sometimes it is accepted practice to give consumable items such as food as a reward for a street performance. Some locales have outlawed busking because it can congest sidewalks or can be considered harassment.

Several types of street performance exist. The most common type of busking is generally the walk-by street performance, in which a musician or other artist performs while people walk by on the sidewalk. A group may or may not gather around the performer, and most people will simply continue on past the performer rather than stop to enjoy the art. Musicians often leave their instrument cases open so people can leave money inside as a tip or donation. This type of street performance does not always yield the most tips or donations, as many pedestrians simply walk past without stopping to donate or appreciate the art.

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Circle performances, or circle shows, are performances that have a distinct beginning and end. If, for example, some buskers get together to perform a scene from Shakespeare, this street performance may be considered a circle show if people gather to watch. It is so named because people often gather in a circle to watch the performance. Many buskers who participate in such performances strive to control the audience in such a way that pedestrian traffic is not blocked; this prevents skirmishes with law enforcement that would otherwise break up the performance for code violations.

A type of busking that has become less common is cafe performance. This occurs when artists, actors, or musicians enter a cafe or other establishment to perform for short periods of time. This type of busking was much more common in the past, but in modern times, many establishments will not allow cafe busking because it can interfere with the ambience of the establishment. Some regions of the world still allow such busking, though the quality of the performances can either add or detract from the overall ambience of the cafe, restaurant, or other establishment, so many business owners would rather not take the risk.

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