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Does anybody here busk?

largecrab

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Been thinking about trying it out for some extra money on the side and to get better at playing in front of people, but the area I wanted to go to doesn't allow it. Any tips for someone wanting to start?
 
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So let me add to my previous answer. Seems like there are a few goals here so let's take them one at a time:

Getting better at playing in front of people, IE overcoming stage fright.

Open mics 'can' be good but a lot depends on finding the right sort of open mic. What I hate most is when, once people have played, they leave. If you are last on the list, you can end up playing to the bar staff. Been there, done that.

Retirement homes. They are often happy to have someone come in and play. I've just started doing this and it's a lot of fun. It's usually a captive audience (or almost) and you need about an hour of music, which is a lot when you are playing instrumentals unless you can really embellish pieces or do a lot of improv around a theme, but it's all good practice. Even a 30 minute stint is a start.

Meetup groups. When I played piano I joined a piano group where we'd get together once a month at someone's house and play one or two pieces. I am no great player and there were some concert level pianists there but everyone brings something to the table and the whole point of the group was to be supportive. I started a similar accordion group where I live (Near Raleigh NC) and we get together and play, same concept, It's all good practice and getting that next piece right for the next session gives you something to work towards.

Jam sessions. Depends on the type of music I guess but I've been to 'pop' music jam sessions (Copperhead road on an accordion is cool, especially the intro) and I currently attend an Irish session from time to time. The Irish session is interesting because it's all play by ear, not something I do not do well but again, taking part is half the battle, the rest comes with practice.

Farmer's markets are always looking for musicians to play. Often the 'list' of summer dates fills up pretty quickly but I play spring and fall and sometime the dead of winter, summer is too hot for me no matter what instrument I am playing! The advantage of playing 'out of season' is that if the weather looks nice for the market day (often Saturday mornings), you can often email as late as the day before and just ask if they would like you to play. Often the answer is yes. Once your foot is in the door at a market you can sometimes just turn up and offer to play but as I say, that only works in the colder months.

Coffee shops. I am lucky I guess but there's a coffee shop near me that is very supportive of local musicians and, until the covid rubbish hit, would actually pay folk like me (who really just play for fun) a decent rate for a couple of hours of low key/background/easy listening type music. Some coffee shops can be a little like bars (everyone lookingt at their phones) so again, it's a case of finding a venue that you are comfortable in


Making money.

Probably not going to happen busking. Typical rate for me at a farmer's market is about $8 an hour.I have had a couple of $20/hours days but they are few and far between. Hardly earth shattering but the point is to have fun.

If you want to make real money, you are going to have to play bars and for that you need a good three hours of music minimum, and you'll probably need to sing so a PA for voice and probably mics for the accordion, unless you go electric so the bill, just to earn a few $ quickly builds unless you happen to have acquired most of it through other projects.

Finding somewhere to play.

Mostly already covered above but lets consider 'real' busking which I think of as simply playing in the street for tips.
You mention that where you want to play does not allow it but what 'exactly' do they not allow, and is it private property of city property?
One could always argue one's first amendment rights and the US supreme court has ruled that performing music is a form of protected speech under that amendment. However....
Do you really want to argue that with the cops? Personally I'd just move on when asked.

You can always ask the property owners if you could play there. There's a little French village type shopping plaza near me, lots of crafty shops and the like. I've played there a couple of times simply by emailing them and asking them if they'd like someone (me) to play some accordion music (accordion fits the French theme very well) just around the plaza. It's not costing them anything. A couple of samples of your playing does not hurt either so they know you don't totally suck (it is their business after all).

If nothing else towns usually have a noise ordinance. Any Harley riding by busts that every day but it's soon gone. I have always aimed to play so that you could walk by me (hopefully tipping on the way) but still hold a normal conversation.

Ordinances. The town near me (Raleigh) actually has a street performer's ordinance and requires a permit ($40/year. July to July) in order to play on the streets there although I am not sure that all the people I have seen playing (Sax usually which is NOT quiet) around the Arts center on a Saturday night have permits but I could be wrong. However, where I live does not have, that I can find anyway, a specific ordinance regarding street performers but there is one for pan handlers and the usual noise ordinance. Some places also have ordinances regarding amplification although I am not sure how the Roland accordions would fit into that although I think that since it's built in, and not that loud, you might get away with it.
As long as there is no ordinance specifically preventing it, you can always just go and play, be respectful to the businesses and people around you and if asked to move, just do so.
Worse case, contact city hall and ask them, maybe even table a question at an upcoming public meeting asking them to clarify the situation and possible even put forward an argument for allowing it if you could show that it would enhance the local 'vibe' which in turn increaes foot traffic which means more money for local businesses.

I sometimes (just did tonight) go down town, sit on a bench and just play. I do not have a tip jar or anything suggesting that I am soliciting payment and in fact I tell people that when (and they do) put money in my accordion bag. But again, not getting rich doing this. I might get a coffee out of it. People watching is far more fun. Some will engage me, stop, talk, others just smile as they walk by and some just plain ignore me (a 6' 5" 250 lb guy playing an accordion is hard to ignore but some manage it!). All part of the fun to me.
I think a lot depends on where you are in a town. If you are in front of a shop and the shop staff think you are possibly putting people off from entering the shop, I can see they might call the cops on you. Same if your repertoire is only four tunes and you play the same stuff endlessly, think those bucket drummers, cool to see/hear for about 5 minutes, but all day, I think not!


Anyway, as Forest Gump would say That's all I've got to say on the matter"...
 
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Valski

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Been thinking about trying it out for some extra money on the side and to get better at playing in front of people, but the area I wanted to go to doesn't allow it. Any tips for someone wanting to start?
Hello there,

I think that David provided some very useful information regarding your question. I agree that you might not earn enough busking to make something worthwhile. Most places require you to purchase a license or outright ban busking. In Toronto on the subway system they hold auditions for places at the various stations where busking is allowed and these licenses have to be renewed yearly. These locations are highly coveted and there are a lot of very competent musicians and music students who you would have to compete with for a spot.

I have attended picnics in parks where it is possible to play publicly. If you are not soliciting money from the public this is tolerated and legal in most places. I belong to a group who get together every three to four weeks during warmer seasons and we get together in public parks. We are encouraged to bring our instruments and play for our group. We play solo or jam together and as long as we aren't too loud everything is good. So you can see that this will not provide income although these sessions could lead to proper paid gigs in the future because people will approach you about playing for paid gigs. You can also just set up in nice spot and just play.

The park gigs will build your repertoire and give you confidence. When you play the accordion publicly you will make an impact and get attention from the public because the accordion today is a novelty. I've gotten bookings by being noticed this way.
 

Chrisrayner

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These answers, as does the question, all come from the USA. Busking may also occur elsewhere. I have never attempted it as a squeezebox player, although I have played for Morris dancers. Many years ago I performed as a guitar player and singer in various places and countries in Europe and the UK. Then there was almost no legal restriction on such activities. Latterly there have been piecemeal local laws enacted to control popular pitches in busy thoroughfares. Check up before you get your collar felt. You will also incur the disdain of your fellow street performers if you muscle in on their pitches.

I would advise you to perfect your repertoire up to a point where you cannot make mistakes with the instrument without consciously intending to do so. This means that you will be able to play while keeping an eye on the passing, or, hopefully, stationary enthralled audience. Once you have drawn a static audience then it pays to make a little introduction to each number, preferably humorous (the introduction). Again, practice these spoken parts so that you can perform them semi-automatically.

Stick to your easily performed familiar pieces, don’t try to show off, and enjoy yourself. People respond more favourably to artists who appear to be happy in their work. If you can manage a smile, so much the better. Good luck.
 

Valski

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These answers, as does the question, all come from the USA. Busking may also occur elsewhere. I have never attempted it as a squeezebox player, although I have played for Morris dancers. Many years ago I performed as a guitar player and singer in various places and countries in Europe and the UK. Then there was almost no legal restriction on such activities. Latterly there have been piecemeal local laws enacted to control popular pitches in busy thoroughfares. Check up before you get your collar felt. You will also incur the disdain of your fellow street performers if you muscle in on their pitches.

I would advise you to perfect your repertoire up to a point where you cannot make mistakes with the instrument without consciously intending to do so. This means that you will be able to play while keeping an eye on the passing, or, hopefully, stationary enthralled audience. Once you have drawn a static audience then it pays to make a little introduction to each number, preferably humorous (the introduction). Again, practice these spoken parts so that you can perform them semi-automatically.

Stick to your easily performed familiar pieces, don’t try to show off, and enjoy yourself. People respond more favourably to artists who appear to be happy in their work. If you can manage a smile, so much the better. Good luck.
Canadians don't enjoy take being classified as part or the USA. Our approaches to many things are quite different than Americans although there are many similarities. This is probably due to the close proximity.

In fact when I researched where it is possible to busk in Europe there were strict limitations for musicians in most locations although perhaps enforcement can vary from place to place and situation to situation. There you need a permit to play for tips and you could be asked to present your permit. Since Largecrab is American, speaking to that reality would seem to me to be sensible.
 

Chickers

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BUSKING !!
Help me understand.
I gather "busking" is a way of playing your instrument to random crowds, in non-formal, or non-contractual venue ??
Is this correct ? Or does it have different meanings and / or more in-depth meanings ?
What is the origin of the term ?
I don't believe I've heard the term "Busking" or " a-busker" except on this forum.
I would appreciate your comments.
Thanks,
CHICKERS
 
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Busking is the basically performing in the street (can be other locations) for tips. Usually the 'performances' are impromptu in that, except where regulated by local ordinances and/or permit systems, you pretty much just turn up and perform.
It's really anything where you perform some form of entertainment, typically in the street as opposed to a pre-arranged venue, for tips
Performances can be anything, often music, but more common ones are acrobats, magicians, reciting poetry, puppets, or the living statue acts where someone, often painted in silver or gold paint, holds a pose for hours on end, rewarding tips with a small gesture or other response.
.
 
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I should also add that it's a great way to scratch the itch that is the need to perform for more than 10 minutes at an open mic, without having to go 'pro' and start playing bars. If you are a half decent player, or at least can play a few tunes well, just going to the local park, sitting on a bench and playing, even if not for tips but just for the joy of it is a lot of fun.
The accordion is well received, at least here in the USA because it's so unusual to see one being played. Children are fascinated by it.
 

Dingo40

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Chickers,
Evidently, " busking " ( both as a term and an activity) has a long history.
From the web:
"The term busking was first noted in the English language around the middle 1860s in Great Britain. The verb to busk, from the word busker, comes from the Spanish root word buscar, with the meaning "to seek". ... It was used for many street acts, and was the title of a famous Spanish book about one of them, El Buscón."
🙂
And here:

BTW, in order to busk legally in the CBD of our local capital city, one needs to audition and pay for a permit.🙂
 
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Corinto

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In our town (190.000+ population, central Spain) busking is not allowed, but it's tolerated as long as you move from one location to another whenever some authority tells you to move on because you've stayed too long on the same place and some neighbours feel annoyed. Just called a friendly police officer and he says he doesn't remember a busker having being fined.
 

Chrisrayner

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Canadians don't enjoy take being classified as part or the USA. Our approaches to many things are quite different than Americans although there are many similarities. This is probably due to the close proximity.

In fact when I researched where it is possible to busk in Europe there were strict limitations for musicians in most locations although perhaps enforcement can vary from place to place and situation to situation. There you need a permit to play for tips and you could be asked to present your permit. Since Largecrab is American, speaking to that reality would seem to me to be sensible.
I Do beg your very pardon. I think I started my response before you posted, so my assertion was true until I posted. Mea culpa etc.
 

Valski

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I Do beg your very pardon. I think I started my response before you posted, so my assertion was true until I posted. Mea culpa etc.
Didn't mean to make you feel bad, however it's a defining trait of Canadians not wanting to be classified in the same category as our southern neighbors. There are quite a lot of distinct differences between the laws and mindsets. I remember as a youngster being aware of differences even in accents even though we lived only 12 miles away from our cousins.

I meant my earlier comment in a lighthearted way 😅
 

godgi

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I want to try busking also. My understanding is in most place in Ireland you do not need a licence, except some places in dublin - I think. But if you busk for a charitable cause then you need a licence from mabey the local council. Its not my only concept to generate some small cash post covid. I think performance can lead to other outlets for performance which might generate small income. Of course the better you are the more possibilities should emerge including tuition etc.
Godgi
 

Chrisrayner

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Didn't mean to make you feel bad, however it's a defining trait of Canadians not wanting to be classified in the same category as our southern neighbors. There are quite a lot of distinct differences between the laws and mindsets. I remember as a youngster being aware of differences even in accents even though we lived only 12 miles away from our cousins.

I meant my earlier comment in a lighthearted way 😅
No offence taken. I am well aware of Canadian sensitivity on this matter. If I’d seen your post I’d’ve said North American rather than US. I think you may not have detected my dry British irony. But we’re used to that.😉
 

TomBR

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Writing from a UK perspective here.
I'd say busking pays better per hour than pub gigs, bearing in mind PA setup, waiting around etc etc. (Though my experience is that if you get £25 per musician for a pub band gig that's about as good as it gets!)
My best busking experiences have been in small "tourist trap" places rather than cities. Less competition, less regulation, and hopefully people are there in a good (generous!) mood.

Here in the UK I think you're more likely to break the law by busking for charity (ie with a sign up) than for yourself. Charity collectors are not supposed to make any noise!

Music wise, I'd suggest nice tunes, good rhythm, nothing too flashy. If you can get people walking to your rhythm as they approach, you should do well.
Don't stop playing when you have a group of people nearby.
"Bait up" your collecting case with suitable money, but don't leave too much in there!
Good luck!
Tom
 
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