At the risk of entering 'rant mode', I beg to differ with David on pretty much every level of his post.
To say that Street performers are beggers is, as has been said, ignorant and insulting. At best, it shows that David knows nothing about the subject in question, and at worst, it indicates an unwelcome prejudice against a group of performers. I can't believe that it was meant as a compliment...
It seems that there has been an awful lot said lately about 'Buskers' (to use a shorter term, and to distinguish from the Blaine crew) by people with no real experience of working the streets. As such, the comments are based on an outsider's viewpoint, with as much validity as the layman who says, upon being offered to choose a card, 'I've seen that one...'
Here's what a busker has to do; he has to identify a pitch, he has to generate an audience and he has to entertain that audience to the point where they _want_ to pay for the show. If we existed solely on 'guilt trip' money, we would all have starved long ago. If we relied on coercing people to pay for entertainment noone would get a ten pound drop, or a twenty dollar drop (I've even heard of a fifty dollar drop, but I didn't see it). If people were forced to pay, through the magical equivalent of a doe eyed child, the art would have died hundreds of years ago.
Busking is hard, make no bones about it. Many try, and many fail. But you cannot make the sweeping generalisation that all buskers are little more than beggers tricking people from their money. It's no better than saying all Illusionists are poseurs who let the assistants do all the work.
An example; several years ago a couple came up to me after a show to drop into my hat. With a smile they told me how they had seen my show a few years earlier, and how much they enjoyed it. I was in Edinburgh at the time, and the show they had seen was in Sydney. Do you honestly think that they paid for two shows, and remembered me enough to mention years later, if it was all about begging and guilt?
The bottom line is that good buskers entertain their audience. The really good buskers can give most other magicians a run for their money, as well. It's no secret that a percentage of an audience will walk - it comes with the territory. But those that pay, they do _not_ do it from guilt. The bottling speech is a crucial, and much studied part of a show - to reduce it to 'give me money, please' is ridiculous.
It's almost as if there is an undercurrent of 'we mock that which we do not understand'. I used to be dismissive of Kids Entertainers, until I realised the skills needed to control and keep attention of a group of small children. Now I have a very healthy respect for them. The thing with busking is that the skill is not two way; the average busker will have the 'chops' to entertain in most venues, it does not follow that a talented close up worker will be able to hack it on the street.
As Stuart says; everyone should spend some time on the street. The audience management lesson alone is invaluable, and there are many other lessons to be learned. The list of people who came in from the cold is long and illustrious - a smatterting off the top of my head would include Harry Anderson, Eddie Izzard, John Lenahan, Whit Haydn and Pete Wardell (and that's ignoring the obvious ones such as Cellini, Sheridan, Gazzo and Capehart).
I would suggest that David spend some time with a few buskers, both active and retired, and see how many of them agree with his portrait.
Take care, Ian