10 Money-making Tips for Buskers

Busking is a great way to have fun, make music, and meet new people. You can make a lot of money by busking. If you’re lucky enough to find the right spot, you can make enough money from busking that you can support yourself full-time. It can also be a side hustle for magicians and musicians.

These are 10 tips to help you make the most of your next busking session.

Be different

How many buskers are you familiar with who sings with an acoustic instrument? There are probably a lot. These are the most popular type of buskers, and it can be not easy to stand out among the crowd. It’s hard to stand out if you play the same Beatles songs as everyone else (or, God forbid, Wonderwall).

To stand out from the crowd, think differently. You might be able to play an unusual instrument and bring it out instead of a guitar. Most people can play any device other than a guitar. Learn some new material. Jazz standards from the 20s, 30s and 40s can be great. So can rock and blues songs of the 50s.

It is possible to create new interpretations of songs that are popular. This technique has been tried and true. A saxophone quartet played a fun rendition of “Come On Eileen” once. It was a very entertaining performance that had everyone talking fast and got them excited about their instrumentation. Sometimes I play an AC/DC version of TNT on my banjo. It turns heads!

Know Your Audience

You’ll find many buskers as you walk around Dublin, Ireland. Many will be singing and playing Irish music. They are aware that tourists travel from all parts of the globe to experience Irish culture. You could play any music, but Irish music is the best, especially in touristy areas.

Yes, I realize that I said: “be different” and not copy what others do. There may be a reason everyone else is doing it. People in New Orleans want to hear jazz. People will seek country music in Nashville. Although you may not be living in a tourist spot, think about the music people listen to around you and how they interact with it.

This includes determining which people won’t interact with. Experimental thrash music will not be a crowd-pleaser unless there is a festival. Parents might not appreciate your more controversial songs if there are many kids. Classical music is beautiful but may not be heard well in noisy streets.

This is the classic story about busking. Joshua Bell, a world-famous violinist, once performed in Washington, DC’s Union Station. During peak morning rush hour, he made $32 in just 45 minutes. It’s not bad, but it isn’t enough to get a ticket for one of the Bells’ regular performances.

Most people don’t expect to hear Bach at a train station. It’s not a great location to hear Bach. It isn’t quiet, and commuters often have to get there quickly. Many people don’t recognize Bach. Bell could have made more money had he played popular themes from movies or shorter pieces.

Smiling and Saying Thank You

Thank them profusely if someone places a $20 bill in your case. Thank them profusely if someone places a penny in your case. It doesn’t matter how much money someone puts in; make sure you make eye contact. Smile and say “Thank you” if you can.

Social animals are people. People around us are our social models. Everyone around us is influenced by one person who puts money in. They don’t see the denomination of the coin or bill. They only see someone putting something into your wallet and your reaction. They will feel more comfortable reaching for their wallet to get a few bills if you’re grateful and gracious.

This is especially true of children. Children will be the source of many of your tips while busking. It would be best if you were as friendly and enthusiastic as possible to your children. You’ll not only look like a great person, but you will also create a fun moment for everyone. You know that being kind to children is part of being a good person.

Don’t just sit there with your head down; make some eye contact now and then! His case doesn’t look too full…

Selling Something?

You should check the local regulations as some areas prohibit it. Most rooms have restrictions on selling any item, but some cities allow musicians to sell CDs. Selling CDs and other items can make you a lot of money if legal.

It is easy to understand why. You might get $1-2 from someone who tips you. You can make 5-10 times more money selling a CD for $10 than you did selling a CD to the same person. They will remember you with this CD, which is even more important. They will recognize you if you play a gig in the local area. They’ll recognize you if they see you on the street. One father bought a CD from me for his children at a farmer’s market that I used to run. After that, they’d stop by each week to listen and maybe drop a few dollars in my wallet. I probably made $100 from that one CD sale over a whole year.

Many factors influence the price you should sell your CDs at. It is usually based on the cost of each CD to make. Divide the amount of money you spent on your first batch, including printing, recording, shipping, and packaging, by the number of CDs. Add a few more dollars to get a final number. $10 seems to be the best price for albums. If it’s an EP, less is more. Since a higher price might put some people off, I wouldn’t recommend going higher than $15

You can either remove or hide the small change.

People take cues from the people around them, as I have mentioned. This is especially evident when it comes time to tip your busker. People will subconsciously be influenced by what they have already received. There is no set amount that a busker should list. It makes it appear that everyone is giving small changes to have a lot of small changes. Then comes the shower of pennies, nickels and pennies.

While it’s okay to keep some change in your bag, larger denomination bills/coins should always be prominent. The “suggested contribution” sign is what’s already in your bag. You can take your pocket money out now and again to let people know.

Reduce the volume

Every busker with an amp seems to turn into Nigel Tufnel in the streets. It’s wonderful to be heard above the city noise. It’s not great to have your ears blasted while you walk by. It could mean the difference between walking by the horrible noise and stopping to listen.

No matter how great your busking skills, people 500 feet away won’t give tips. They can’t physically do it. Why should they have to hear your music? This is especially true if you have to stand near your amp (or where your tip jar), and it makes your life miserable.

Take a look around and determine your space. Consider how far your audience is from you. Next, you should keep your volume at an acceptable level for those who are far away. Your audience, as well as the other street people, will appreciate your efforts.

This brings up another important point that every busker must remember. Many regulations govern busking in cities around the globe. It can be a permit process, or it could be a volume restriction, amplification restriction or an outright ban. These regulations are put in place because people believe that buskers can be nuisances. You won’t make much money if you ban busking in your area, but I don’t think you need to hear it. Be a responsible busker and keep the volume to a manageable level.

Prepare and Play to Your Strengths

Unprepared buskers are all I hear. They sing songs that they don’t know or can’t play. They use instruments they don’t know how to use. It’s something I have done. Although it can be exciting to try new things, it will not necessarily make you rich.

If you plan to busk, you have to be honest with yourself. You don’t necessarily have to be Freddie Mercury’s voice or play the guitar like Jimi Hendrix to busk on a street corner. You don’t want your busker act to become a nuisance.

Record yourself while you practice. You can listen back with a critical ear. Ask someone you trust to listen. You will find some things work, and others don’t. Perhaps your voice is not suitable for pop music but works well in blues. You might have a low voice but want to sing high. You might be a great guitarist, but your foot percussion isn’t working.

All of these things should be taken into account, and you will strive to make the most of your performance. You can either practice what you aren’t good at or drop it. If you don’t sound great, you aren’t earning as much. You must put your best foot forward when busking to make more money.

Talk to other buskers.

Buskers can be a bizarre bunch. Some are stern and territorial, while others are friendly and open-minded. Although it might seem daunting at first, other buskers can be a great resource for tips and tricks.

When you approach another busker, be polite. Talking to them while they are working is a waste of their time. You can put some money in their jar/case as a gesture of goodwill. You can complement their performance or act. Ask about anything you want to know. It would be best to get straight to the point so they don’t waste too much time. It’s okay if they don’t want you to talk. It’s usually between 50 and 50 per cent, according to my experience. I have been blessed with some amazing tips from those who enjoy chatting, which has helped me a lot in my busking.

You might also have the chance to get along with a fellow busker, which would lead me to my next tip…

Consider Collaborating

This can be tricky because it doesn’t always make you more money. You’ll need to split your earnings! Collaboration with fellow musicians can have clear benefits.

It is important to be honest with yourself, as I have said above. A second performer can cover up any gaps in your skillset. Find someone who can sing well if you are a good guitarist but not great at singing. You’ll have one great show instead of two average shows.

Busking with others can help make you more money.

This is especially true for instruments meant to be played in groups. A trombone player playing in a small brass band or jazz group will likely make more than solo. Although a solo bass player might not be noticed, a pair with a guitarist or other saxophone player can make a great duo.

Collaboration can help you fight fatigue. Sometimes you can take a backseat to get a little rest. You will play longer, and your set will sound better if you give up the lead. You’ll eventually find that even though you split your earnings, you each make more than you made individually.

Have fun

I was listening to the ubiquitous Nashville cover band in a Nashville bar one time. It seems that every Broadway bar has live music. The musicians are often top-notch. They are paid tips, and some of the most talented musicians can make quite a lot of money throughout their sets.

The band was fantastic. They were strong, technically brilliant, and the vocalist had an amazing voice. He looked desperate to take everyone with him and kill himself, which was a problem. The rest of the band was equally disinterested and even suicidal. Needless to state, I didn’t see any tips pouring into their bucket.

You must entertain if you want to make it as a street entertainer. It all starts with you. Have fun and get out there! Interact with your audience, crack jokes, and keep it light. People will have fun if they are having fun. People who have fun are more generous than those who don’t.

Bonus Tip: Fake it

Perhaps you aren’t having much fun. Maybe you don’t know what you are doing. Maybe you cannot stand the hustle and hate all those who pass by or just really need the money.

The good news is that minds can’t be read. You can keep what is happening inside your head. Get out your best smile and be confident. Confidence can make a big difference. Your audience will be more engaged with you if it appears that you are doing well, even if your life isn’t perfect.

My music teacher used the movie Titanic to illustrate this. The audience is captivated by the staterooms, first-class cabins and ten-course meals. They don’t see any of the engines or crews shovelling coal. Or the chaotic kitchen staff was trying to prepare, plate and serve everything.


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