Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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From Foc You to F..k You and a Busking Whore in Barcelona

May 12, 2012

I started out last night checking out a musical venue, a bar, in Barcelona called Foc You. That word “foc” means something in Spanish, but the bar obviously enjoyed using it to mean something else, adding that English touch. The open mic was not running last night, in fact, so I just went out for a quiet dinner. But after the meal I decided to take a look at the streets around the Cathedral because I had been told there were lots of places to play music, jam sessions and buskers. I ended up meeting a busker who did not like me taking a video of him and then leaving without paying any money and he ended my night with “Fuck You!” Let me clarify:

But first, before you consider me an ogre, let me note right away that I got a fabulous video out of it, the kind that could go viral perhaps – although no one can ever really figure out what works or doesn’t. So today I decided I would open up an AdSense account and action the video to make money. Any money I earn on the video of this busker whom I did not leave any money, will go 50-50 to him and to me. If, that is, I ever meet up with the guy again or he makes himself known to me…let’s say, in the next 1 year.

Now, back to the story: I had a wonderful meal, wandered over the cathedral, contemplating the meal, my next day of work and my imminent return to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. But as I went around to a back street behind the cathedral, I heard this fabulous violin music. The streets were beautifully lit, old Barcelona, ancient brick and just a medieval sort of feel to the whole thing. And with the music it was stunning.

The busker had a recording of a classic piece on the radio and he played along on his violin. I recorded for about two minutes, taking in the scene and appreciating his music. (I have cut the video to under a minute.) I realized that I had no coins of any kind left in my wallet as I had left the last coins in a tip in the restaurant. And in euro bills, the smallest I had was a 50. Way too big. So I knew that I could leave him no money.

But I thought that he could see I appreciated his music and that I was making a video out of respect. In fact, I had remembered seeing a video on YouTube about a star violinist from the Washington symphony (I think it was) playing in the subway in Washington and being ignored by almost all passersby. I thought of that and decided I would do the video of this guy and put it on my blog as an example of a great busker in Barcelona.

I know what it is like to be a busker. I lived off my busking in London in the late 1970s when I ran out of money and lived in a crappy hotel and did not eat for three days, as I wrote in the old piece I link here. In fact, last night I had my guitar in its bag on my back, and so I knew the violinist could see I was a fellow musician and know what it is like. I got called over by a busker in Istanbul three years ago to play with him, and I did, having a reminder of how demoralizing it can be.

So I was quite surprised when the violinist, playing this beautiful classical music, saw me about to leave around the corner without leaving any money in his case, and he stopped playing, said, “Fuck you,” and gave me the finger. He then went on to tell me about how he only played for money, he had to pay his bills, etc. I was so surprised by the contrast of the classical music, the setting, the peace… and then this vicious verbal assault! Moreover, for me, despite all my own experience, this was tantamount to whoring. And, of course, while I am occasionally paid to play my music today in the gigs I perform, I am lucky enough to have a job to enable my music to be something I do to share with people for free since I love music.

I would never, ever, not in my most destitute days as a busker, have ever given the finger to anyone and sworn at them and told them they had to pay for my music. Having said that, I would never want to profit by this man’s reaction without giving him a share of the profits. So I have set up that advertising account mostly in order to see if I can earn a bit of money for him, but also to justify putting up the video. I considered whether I should give him ALL of the profits, until I said, “No, I have bills to pay, kids to feed, electricity and food for myself to pay, too!”

Still, I feel no animosity toward this busker. A little pity, yes. And a difference of opinion on the purpose of sharing music. But variety is what makes life so interesting….

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