I’ve played guitar for 15 years, I’ve sang and played for about 12 of those, I’ve performed in bars and such for the last 7, and yet I had never tried my hand at busking until about 3 weeks ago. Was it thrill of playing for strangers that brought me out onto the street? Was the chance of wider recognition? Was it for the farts of the weird homeless-esque people who strut by? No, sadly, I am only in it for the money.
For the most part, that is. I also like the fact that I’m basically getting paid (not well) to practice my songs. And it is a lot of fun to see someone walk past who is genuinely enjoying your music, and perhaps even singing along if you’re playing a well known cover. Seeing as I’ve done it about 7 times now, I consider myself and expert and among the foremost buskers in the world, ever. So without further adieu, here are my observations and tips for busking success:
- Be competent: This seems simple enough, but really, a lot of buskers really need to work on their chops a bit more before they expect people to pay them anything.
- Either be amazing on your instrument, or sing songs people know: Now, I certainly don’t consider myself amazing on my instrument, but I did think that people would get a kick out of some difficult Travis Picking tunes that I’ve learned, but really, most people don’t really seem to give two shits about them. What they really like are classic songs that they know. Stuff by Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, The Band, and Fleetwood Mac have proven themselves popular with the good people of Baker Street here in Nelson. All that goes out the window if you’re some sort of virtuoso though. Then you can probably play whatever the hell you want. Actually, why the hell are you even busking if you’re a virtuoso. Moving on…
- Smile: This is probably the easiest thing I’ve been doing that seems to prove effective. Look happy. Even if you’re not.
- Children are a gold mine. Kids walked past and get friggin’ mesmerized by my guitar. Even if I’m just standing there, not even playing. When the parents see their kid staring at me like I’m some sort of golden god, quite a few of them stop to let the kid really soak it in, and then a few parents will give their kid a coin to toss in my case. So play stuff that won’t terrify children, and hell, maybe even engage them somehow. I dress like pennywise.
There it is, just a few simple tips that should increase your busking revenue by at least 3,000,000%, give or take a few pennies.