5 Tips For Busking in Your Neighborhood

What is busking?

The definition of busking is: To play music or perform entertainment in a public place, usually while soliciting money.

I see a lot of fellow musicians heading out to the streets to make some extra monies from busking. Some make good money, but at the same time can miss opportunities for building their fan base.

Before you grab your instrument and go to the main streets of your down town area, there are some things you should do first.

5 Tips For Busking

1. Be sure to check with your local city council or Chamber of Commerce to see if you need a permit to busk in your area. Find out what the laws are and what is permissible for the town you live in. There are arguments that performances are protected under the 1st Amendment, but I would definitely want to speak with local officials to avoid any unwanted mishaps with law enforcement.

2. Have a “Tip Jar” available. Be sure it is easy for people to see and easily accessible for them to leave a tip for your performance. You can use a guitar case or other creative container. Be sure to put a few dollars in yourself at the beginning of each show. People will see that and think others have given you something. There is a reciprocal pressure of sorts. It's creating social proof.

3. Engage with people. Plan things to say, make them funny and entertaining. Be sure to have a way to acknowledge when someone leaves you monies. That gesture can be a smile, a head nod or a verbal thank you.

4. Let people know who you are. Have a sign with your name, website and even “old school” business cards. Perhaps have a tablet or pad open and available for an email sign ups. Let them know that they can follow you on social media to find out where you'll be performing. Have fun things to give out that have your contact information on them such as guitar picks. You can put your name on your instrument case. How about creatively putting your name on the pants leg of a pair of jeans. There are unlimited creative ways to get people to remember who you are and be able to stay in touch.

5. Be prepared! If you are just getting started with live performances, make sure you have an hour or two worth of material. You don't want to only have a few songs prepared and then have people stop to listen only to have to repeat the same songs.

Here's what fellow musician and friend Matt Ho has to add from his experience going out into the streets in Australia to perform. I asked him to share some of his “on the job” experience with all of our community:

“If you are busking in front of shops, you should always build good relationships with the shop owners. I always introduce myself and make sure they are comfortable with me playing in front of their store. Make sure you are in a good location without too much noise interference. Avoid shops with blasting speakers of recorded music and of course other performers. This becomes even more important if you have no amplification. I would definitely recommend purchasing battery operated portable amplification. I am currently using a Roland Street Cube EX.”

For more about Matt Ho you can find him at www.MattHoMusic.com

I hope that some of these ideas will help you get the most out of your performances. I would love to hear what is working for you if you are out busking in your home town.

As always be sure to have fun!

-Lisa Leitl - MU Columnist
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