Meet Satre, a street performer busking to make ends meet

5 Mins read

With ongoing costs rising, it’s more vital than ever to support the buskers of London.

The art of busking is different from your average career path, with long waiting hours, torrential rain, and being surrounded by the general public, the job comes with its difficulties, to say the least.

Many mainstream artists began their careers as street performers, Ed Sheeran being the most prolific case, the sky is the limit for acclaimed success, and financial gain.

But what does it take to become a successful busker? Walking into London’s iconic Trafalgar Square gave me the perfect insight into the world of street performing, yet one artist stood out from the rest.

Satre, a Swedish native busking in London, is perhaps one of the most prolific newer artists breaking onto the scene, cutting through the city’s never-ending sound with only an acoustic guitar, and a stomp pedal.

Mixing his original music with classic covers, Satre seems flawless when performing, and it came as no surprise to me when I learned his most recent single Stay Away has racked up more than 40,000 streams on Spotify.

Satre performing Stay Away live in his hometown of Stockholm. [YouTube:Satre]

“I wrote Stay Away after a phone call with my sibling. I had just moved to London from Stockholm and had difficulty settling in. I was contemplating whether to move back home or not to be closer to my friends and family. My brother told me if I gave up on my dreams and moved back because of them, he’d never be able to forgive himself, he told me to stay away.”

Satre headed overseas to pursue a music career, moving to London in 2019 – five years later, he continues to count his blessings and reminds himself daily of his time before becoming a busker.

“I’ve had so many daytime jobs I’ve worked in a pub, a caretaker, even a paint factory! Every time I think this is difficult I know it could be a lot worse right now so I have a lot of gratitude, I love it.”

It’s safe to say even if Satre didn’t openly talk about his passion for his job, any stranger could spot the raw happy emotion he portrays while performing.

Before Satre jumps behind the microphone to play to the masses, he spends much of his day queuing with fellow buskers while waiting for his time slot.

Sitting with the buskers in line was quite a surprise to me, seeing the friendly community these street performers have built was nothing short of incredible, and despite being in the same profession, the support and admiration they share is something many can learn from.

“Can I see your busking license please?” This is a common phrase heard over the day, with enforcement officers continuously scouting the area and approaching every street performer with the same question.

A tourist filming Satre busking on an iPhone.
Satre catching the eye of tourists in Trafalgar Square [Lewis Kelly]

It is essential to have a busking license in London for certain boroughs, costing £75 every twelve months, they can easily be acquired on the council’s website.

At 3:00 pm it was time for Satre’s first show of the day, and it was clear setting up had become second nature to him, quickly assembling an amp and microphone, accompanied by a sign, a card machine, and your stereotypical open guitar case for physical donations.

Immediately hitting the stomp pedal and breaking into Harry Styles’ hit As It Was, Satre drew a large crowd of primarily tourists, and it didn’t look like they would leave anytime soon.

“I’m trying to reach a million followers on Instagram, I’m almost there, just 985,000 to go!” What allows Satre to stand out from the rest is his ability to treat his performances like a show, cracking witty one-liners and interacting with the audience is a frequent icebreaker for him, and it works extremely well.

Tourists come flooding the card machine, tipping £3 at a time to show their appreciation for Satre’s talent: “I worked in an office and I hated it, but I quit my job and get to do this every day thanks to incredible people like you,” he tells them.

Satre is very vocal about his gratitude and wants to break down the outdated connotations that some people have towards busking.

“They [the general public] should know that it’s very organised, we have a license and also that we are also just very nice people. The norm is a nine-to-five job as a living, but we’re out on the streets all day, every day, kindness makes the day a lot easier.”

Satre's guitar case full of donations accompanied by his sign displaying his Instagram.
Satre’s trademark guitar case and sign open for donations throughout his performance [Lewis Kelly]

Whilst Satre adores his career as a street performer, that doesn’t mean it comes without darker days, a daily occurrence of dealing with drunk and disorderly and as with most of his sets, Sartre was heckled and approached by a member of the public.

Whilst maintaining professionalism, the busker kindly, but firmly asked the man to step away, but the show must go on as Satre quickly returned to performing.

“If you have a big show and there’s a lot of people watching you and someone is being aggressive, it’s difficult to handle that in a good way. I need to defend myself which I do, but I don’t want to be aggressive back, people haven’t come to watch that.”

Petty theft is fairly common in the street performing scene, opportunists looking to grab a handful of change, or in the unfortunate event of having your gear stolen. Sartre introduced me to a fellow busker, Gio Dara, who shared a first-hand experience of how bad it can get.

“All of my equipment I use for busking was stolen, it happened right on the terrace of a restaurant I occasionally charge my battery in. While I was absent for just one minute, two men stole everything I had. We searched every street, called the police, nothing.”

Thankfully, Gio has now replaced his equipment and is back on the circuit, but the value of a busker’s equipment is sky-high, without it, they wouldn’t be able to earn a living.

Sacrifices have to be made to survive in a city like London, particularly if you’re looking to make it in the music business, and Satre has felt his job affects the likes of his social life outside of work, even confessing there are days he lacks motivation to write new material for upcoming releases.

“Having the opportunity to work in what I love has been incredible, but It’s been difficult to balance everything else on top of that.”

“I’ve been actively trying to to focus on other things like socialising and songwriting too, you don’t really want to go home and write a song if you’ve been out on the streets all day singing for 12 hours.”

Overwhelmed by the high demands of being a street performer, Satre has no plans to return to his old life anytime soon, London is where he sees himself settling down for the foreseeable future, and for him, busking is worth all of the hassle it comes with.

This certainly isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of the Scandinavian artist, and if you happen to come across one of Satre’s sets whilst out and about in the capital, be sure to show your support and greet him with kindness.

You can stream Satre’s latest single Stay Away here.

Featured image by Lewis Kelly.

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