Written By Petra Hule

Busking is a great way for any aspiring musician to gain exposure to the world and practice performing in an unfamiliar environment. Plus, anyone can do it and is more cost-efficient than hiring out an entire place for a show. Of course, this all depends on where you’re looking to busk.

In a city like New York, it does come with a small fee in order to have your busking license, but we’ll get into that later. Here are some useful tips that can help you get your busking career and experiences in motion.

What Is Busking?

If you’re new on the scene or a regular busker it can be daunting at times having to set yourself up in a public space where some may enjoy your music and others may hit you with a harsh reality. These are all experiences worth having as they’re lessons to learn from.

Busking can be done essentially anywhere that doesn’t require permission, so any public space. Parks and outdoor malls are great places to start, somewhere there are enough people to get attention, but not overcrowded; you want people to be able to sit down and relax and enjoy the entertainment as opposed to being a noise disturbance.

Tips To Jumpstart Your Busking Career

Here are a couple of tips to get you started on your busking career and things to include that’ll help you gain that recognition. 

Use Signage Or Flyers That Include Your Info

First, be sure to include your social tags where any passerby can quickly look you up and find you with ease; links like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.

Elicit Tip: Try and keep the names of your tags similar so that they’re easy to memorize, as opposed to something that is completely random. If you’ve got a couple of songs ready to be sold, put them out for sale so people can pick up an extended playlist. Having your music on hand is a great way to sell at a “pay what you think it’s worth” price. Plus, it is a great way to engage with others as well as keeping you honest. 

Know The Busking Laws

Depending on where you live or wherever you find yourself in the world, be sure to check out the busking laws and regulations in the area. Some places require you to get a permit to play in recreational places which usually come with a small fee.

This would be handy in case you’re asked by law enforcement officials to provide your permit. These can be attained at any police station near the location of your choosing. That being said, some local councils are looking for buskers so be sure to keep an eye out for any local sponsorships.

Perfect Your Setlist

Now, this next tip is no revolutionizing tip that’ll change your world, but many forget that people are always listening out and paying attention. Here it is, don’t make it boring by playing the same songs on repeat.

Even if someone has walked past you once before, they’ll recognize if you’re still on the same song 30 minutes later. Although it’s important to give the world the latest hits which everyone knows and loves, don’t be afraid to throw in some throwback covers along with some of your own creations. 

Connect With Other Buskers

There’s nothing better than giving and gaining support from your fellow buskers and knowing you’re not alone out there. As a busker, don’t be afraid to branch out and get to know those that are performing beside you, even drop a coin or two to let them know you understand them. Connecting with others in the area and even collaborating is a great way to expand, be recognized, and grow your friend’s list in the busking community. 

Let’s not deny the fact that it can be awkward at times, standing in the middle of a busy shopping mall or a quiet park with your guitar, performing whilst others go on about their lives. Some may not notice you at all as they’re too invested in their business, whilst others may take the time out to enjoy the art you’re creating. A nod or a smile to almost say thank you goes a long way. Allowing them to enter your space is a great way to handle that “I don’t know you, but thank you” conversation that doesn’t happen verbally. 

How Much Can Buskers Make?

The beauty yet the horror of busking is that you never know how much you’re going to make. How much you make is simply based on three things, how well you perform, how much spare change passersbys have in their pockets, and the time of day and location of which you’re performing. Here’s why, the first is a given and quite simple really: perform poorly, then no money. The second and third rely heavily on your crowd and environment which is partially in your hands.

You can dictate where and what time you choose to play, however, you never know what the vibe will be like. For example, busy shopping hours or holidays can be a great time for you as the more people the better, however, if it’s too busy and people are rushing for sales, you can see how their focus isn’t to stroll and look around and enjoy the scenery,  but to catch those sales.

Don’t forget why you’re out there in the first place though. Going out and performing with the intention of making money, as opposed to performing for the joy and love of creating art and music, has a funny way of demonstrating that money means nothing in comparison to having the heart for it.

Is Busking For You?

Busking may be daunting for any young or aspiring musician who has never had an experience as such. However, the exposure and the experiences that you will have will be more beneficial for you as a being and as an artist.

It can be humbling, nerve-wracking, exciting, all in one, which allows you to familiarize yourself with these emotions and learn how to deal with adversity. So if you’re ever doubting yourself or are afraid to put yourself out there, take the plunge and do it. As mentioned earlier, you have everything to gain.