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Tips to Busking Success

Busking, also called street performing, is the showbiz equivalent of an entry-level job. Anybody can hit the street and put on a show, but if you put on a great show you could join the ranks of famous performers–Jimmy Buffett, Bob Hope, and the founders of “Cirque du Soleil”, just to name a few–who started out busking. Whether you’re a musician, magician, mime, juggler, clown, or comedian, if you can entertain people, you can make money busking.

6 tips to busking success:

1) Have a good attitude- remember that you’re not the main attraction. Most folks didn’t even expect to see or hear you, so be gracious and grateful if anyone listens, applauds, tips you, or buys a CD.

2) Be polite to fellow buskers- you’re all in this together. Share the public space. Don’t hog the best spots.

3) Respect local businesses- keep your volume down, and play material that is appropriate for public spaces. Help them make money, and they’ll help you make money. Get adversarial on them, and they’ll be sure to end your busking career early.

4) Be upbeat and joyful– brooding melancholy may be perfect for a smokey club, but buskers gather the best crowds when they play material that makes the kids want to dance and the old folks smile. Ya know,… good times!

5) Pace yourself- Don’t strain your hands or voice before you’ve built up your endurance. Start slow. Work your way up to the long-haul days.

6) Pack light- Learn to perform your music with minimal setup. Strip it down to the basics. Guitar and voice? Great! If you need a PA, bring something battery-powered.

Some places are off limits, so it’s a good idea to check your local laws first or just ask someone, such as a police officer or the fair manager. Some jurisdictions prohibit busking, while some require a license or permit, some turn a blind eye, and still others actually encourage busking. In the U.S., local anti-busking laws have frequently been declared unconstitutional on the grounds of free speech, so most public property is fair game.  In other countries, however, laws vary. Unless there are very strict anti-busking laws in your area, it’s usually OK to just start performing on public property, as long as you’re not obstructing people or otherwise creating a nuisance. If you’re asked or told to leave, just leave. On private property, however, (including many open air markets and fairs) you should always get permission first.