Learning to busk

Every band has those days where they can’t seem to book a show or something gets canceled last second.  Today we will go over a way to make some side cash on days like these so you and your band can make use of these lost opportunities.

The method I will be going over is called busking.  Busking is where you play an acoustic set on the side of the road for tips.  This has been our most successful avenue for money and we are often making more money busking than we do at some shows.

For the best results while busking find a populated area in your town.  This can be downtown, by a shopping center, in a public park or pretty much anywhere that has a lot of foot traffic.

Then take with you as little equipment as possible you need to play.  If you have a singer, guitar player or bassist maybe get a little $50 battery powered amp so they can be heard well.  However, I would recommend only using amplification if you absolutely need to as it is something extra to carry.

From there just set up a case or tip jar in front of you with a sign that has information about your group and start playing.  People prefer to hear covers, but you can throw some originals in there to spice things up.

Before you go busking make sure you look up laws in your town about panhandling.  Every town handles it differently so make sure you are not breaking any laws while you are playing.  The last thing you want is a $200 ticket for loitering or permit violation.

If you discover busking is illegal in your town an alternative would be to go up to some businesses and ask them if you can set up in front of their shop.  Most of the time store owners will enjoy the added attention of having a musician in front of their shop and police shouldn’t be able to give you a ticket because you are playing on private property with permission.

Also if you ever find the police coming up and talk to you make sure you are very respectful.  From our experience most of the time the police are talking to you because they got a noise complaint and don’t actually want to give you a ticket.


This is a picture of our busking setup with Brandon manning the drums.  We have free stickers in the trombone case and we hand out shirts to people who tip us more than $12.

Another tip about busking is to make sure you have at least 45 minutes of material to play.  From there you can just loop it over and over until you are finished.  You will find most people don’t stay there longer than five to ten minutes, but for the sake of not playing two or three songs until you drive yourself insane just have those six or seven songs to keep everyone entertained.

Before you start busking I would recommend padding your case/tip jar with a few dollars before you start.  You would be surprised at how long it takes for people to realize you are accepting money.  Eliminate that confusion for them.

“Make sure to be funny and interactive. Be especially interactive when kids are around – it guarantees a tip,” said Estelle Miller, another musician who busks in Gainesville.

Finally make sure you are engaging.  Dress professionally, look people in the eyes, and have a good time.  If you do all of these things it will make you stand out from every other guy and their acoustic guitar and allows you to get new people to listen to your music.

If you want more tips on busking watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44h47j_tNRo


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