Busking is one thing; making money out of it is another. Playing your guitar or ukulele on the street may seem like a good way to make money, but guaranteeing that outcome can be difficult — you may rake in more than you expect one day and be out of luck the next. There are several things you have to consider in order to give yourself a better chance of pulling in some cash on the streets. Here’s the lowdown on busking and how you can make money from it.
Know The Law
First things first: Can you legally collect money for your performance? Are you allowed to busk? Both public and private property have different policies when it comes to busking, so make sure you do your homework first. Know what you need to do to get permission to busk and do the legwork necessary to get approval for the location you have in mind. If the authorities don’t require a license, make sure you have their permission in writing (or have a copy of the regulations printed out) lest a police officer says otherwise.
Plan Your Busking Repertoire
When busking, you want people to stop and actively listen to you, and hopefully give you money in appreciation. To make them stop, you need to form a connection with them through music. It’s not just about dressing the part and putting on a show — you need to interact with your audience through your performance of musical pieces that would also resonate with them.
If you don’t care much about what’s currently popular, that’s fine, but keep in mind these songs may be the ones that would get your target audience to stop and listen. There are some classic songs and old favourites that people will immediately recognise even if you put your own spin on them, so it’s best to include these in your busking repertoire. You may not get your set list right the first time around, so continue mixing up your music to see what clicks — remember that the more you connect with your audience, the more generous they will be.
Pass The Hat & Sell Merchandise
As a busker, you can earn money in two ways. The first is by getting tips for your performance and the second is by selling merchandise such as CDs. There’s actually a third way to earn money, albeit not during your performance: when your audience are impressed enough, they might ask you to come and perform at a private event. This is why it’s important that your name and contact information (and social media handles) are easily seen. Having business cards to hand out to interested folks is a plus.
Build Up Your Skills
If you think you’ve got what it takes to impress an audience with your skills, then you can try your hand at busking. In many places where busking is regulated by local councils, you have to audition first before you’re allowed to perform on the street. The Paris Metro, for example, gives out just 400 permits a year, and nearly 2,000 performers audition for that. So to get the green light and receive a busking badge or license, you have to be good at what you do and really give it your all — so keep practicing and build up those skills!
About the Author
Thank you to Nicky Patterson who is a blogger for Know Your Instrument. Nicky regularly writes music and guitar themed features and is a keen guitarist herself. When not writing, Nicky enjoys swimming and looking after her two pet dogs, Giles and Bella.