My Busking Tips Watch
1) If you play an instrument that isn’t vocals or guitar, use it! If not, it’s not the end of the world, but generally people see buskers with guitars every day and unless you’re really talented it’s unlikely you’ll stand out. A side note to this is that if you do decide to sing with a guitar, playing in a group helps make this more exciting for listeners! Anyway, back to the point. I play the saxophone, and that’s not something you hear busked on every day so anything to make you stand out is great!
2) Prepare music to fill at least an hour. After this time period you can rinse and repeat your set, but I’m sure you know how irritating it is to hear someone play the same pieces repeatedly.
3) Location, location, location! The first time I busked, I made the mistake of going to a deserted place on a foggy day (I’ll get to weather later). You really need to find a place by only where a lot of people are likely to pass, but where listeners can sit and appreciate you. Now whenever I busk, I go the same place where in front of me is plenty of benches - also as a side note, leave plenty of room between you and seating areas as you don’t want to be deafening people or annoying them with obnoxiously loud music!
NB: check that your town/city doesn’t require a busking license - if it does, apply for one! Usually they don’t cost anything but if they do, your successful busking should earn back the cost.
4) Wait for good weather. It sounds counterproductive, but waiting for a sunny day (or if you, like me, live where that can be scarce wait for a day without rain or wind etc) can be the difference between a great busking session and one that you leave wondering why you just performed to an empty street.
5) Appearances mean more than you think. No, don’t worry, I don’t mean how attractive you are. The way you play is integral to how people perceive you. Look like you’re having fun, smile at people, thank them if they give you some change! This happy image will encourage people to listen and enjoy your music.
6) Make a sign. When I first made a sign explaining who I was and why I was busking (it alternates between savings for uni/travel or fundraising for charities) it was embarrassing to say the least, but if passers by feel some sort of connection to you it’s a great way to interact without interacting! Knowing a busker’s name and their intentions encourages people to give you their hard earned money.
7) If you’re using sheet music, be prepared. A stand, pegs, putting your music into a folder. It’s all important to ensure your performance goes as smoothly as possible.
8) Know when to stop. I will usually play my set twice, then I’m done; this usually means I’m busking for just under 2 hours.
If you’re interested in how much I earn busking feel free to ask- but I don’t feel I should share unless people want to know. Also, if you have any tips you’d like to add to my list or feel mine aren’t comprehensive enough, go ahead and discuss!
Hope these tips have been useful for someone!
And to add to that, check out the local rules on amplification. Where I grew up, amplified music was not allowed. Again, I think this was to stop one performer dominating an entire street.