Busking is awesome on soooo many levels! Busking has been as massive training ground for me and the spring board to other things. I first got in to busking when my friend Lee and I both bought AER Acoustic Mobile amps, they have batteries and you can take them anywhere. We started doing it for fun but I soon realised from the response I was getting from the crowds that I might actually be able to make a living, so it was the catalyst that spurred me into ditching my corporate job and going full time into music. I don’t busk anymore but I thought I’d share a few tips on making the most of your busking experience.
1. Get a license from the local council. It may seem like a pain in the arse but do it! I have been asked to show my license many times, I have been moved on when I haven’t had it with me. You’ll be given a copy of the Buskers Code of Conduct which will tell you where you can busk. There are designated spots/pitches, sometimes you can rock up and play straight away, other times you may need to queue.
2. Stay friendly with the local community and buskers by abiding by the Buskers Code of Conduct. Don’t over stay your time, don’t whack the volume up so loud that it over powers the neighbouring pitches, don’t piss off local business. You don’t have to, it’s not law as such but it’s good for everybody and it’s good for your Karma, and karma matters in busking. If you have a lot of gear and it takes ages to set up and pack down, that doesn’t give you rights to override the code of conduct. Ol’ Les, who used to come and pitch up for a whole day in the same spot, used to play for an hour and then sit and watch someone else for an hour before resuming. If you get creative, there are ways to make it work and stay friendly. 🙂
3. Own that spot!! When you have got your spot – Own it! Be confident in your performance and give it your very best shot, treat it like any other show! Try not to look terrified! When I first started I was pretty nervous of how the general public would react. Trouble is that being nervous sends a signal the people who like to pick on others to come and give you a hard time. The more I did busked the more confidence I had and the less I got hassle from nasty people!
4. Have a card or flyer that is obviously for everyone to take. I sold heaps of music online during my buskers phase and I put it down to having a little stand that says ‘Please take a card’. Having something like that means they get to take your details home with them and look you up online later. It grows your fan base fast and sells your music! It also contains all your contact details for folks who may wish to later book you for an event!
5. Selling CD’s is fab way to boost your income when busking but it is actually against the council by laws even with a busking license. Apparently you need another license, a street trader license, to sell your wares so when the council officers come around be prepared to put your merch away for a while or get that additional license.
6. Remember – The police are your friends. I have never ever been moved on by the police, only by the council officers. The police have on numerous occasions been wonderful support and have rescued me from a few difficult situations. One time the fellows on the CCTV cameras sent mounted police to my aid when they thought I was in trouble, I wasn’t but it’s nice to know they all care!
7. Avoid wearing sunnies if you can – I have noticed that when I perform to a crowd without sunnies on, I can make eye contact with the crowd, and they are therefore more engaged. A more engaged crowd usually gives more. On really sunny days I prefer to wear a hat than cut out the eye contact but if it’s full on sun, everyone’s wearing sunnies and well, then you just go with it!
8. Keep the crowd moving. It’s nice to gather a large crowd but it can cause problems with local shops and shoppers if the crowd causes an obstruction. Besides the more times you can turn over the crowd the more money you can make. Keep the shows short and put breaks in so that the people disperse and re-group.
9. Have fun, keep it uplifting and smile! As a street musician you will be massively effecting the vibe in town that day, when I busk I want to make people feel better not worse. They are more likely to give if you make them feel good, so do your best to keep if fun and uplifting. Your music is a gift to the community, give with a generous heart and they will respond in kind.
10. Be grateful! You can test this out for yourself but I have found that going busking with a grateful attitude turns the whole thing into a more wonderful experience, the people are happier, the weather is better, the crowds are more generous, the kiddies dance… the birds sing.. All is well with the world!
11. Did I say there were 10 tips well here’s a bonus…. Get a check list for before you go busking and make you you have everything with you. It’s super frustrating to have lugged your gear into town, got your pitch and then found you left something integral at home and you can’t busk! So before you leave the house, have you got your…. Instrument? Leads? Stands? Flyers? Business cards? Float? Water? Mic, money bag, brolly, flask, coat, merch, etc… ?? 😉
As I said, busking is super fun, super challenging and super rewarding so if you have ever been tempted, get out there and give it a go!
Photo Credit: Nik