To ensure an awesome experience, don’t leave home without these top tips for street performing & busking from a seasoned pro.
I have never busked before, so I needed to get some top tips for street performing & busking from a guru!
Enter the amazing Sally, who is a fantastic singer & songwriter who has a tonne of experience busking.
Prefer to listen? Click below or download the audio here
I am a massive advocate of performing live & creating your opportunities. You learn a lot about your voice, develop your vocal stamina & get so much performance experience in general, which adds many skills to your singer’s toolkit.
Busking is a great way to do this & here are Sally’s top tips for street performing & busking.
What to do before you busk:
1. Licence to busk/street performing
In Auckland New Zealand, you do need a licence but its free. Check with your local council on their requirements & acceptable locations are for street performing & busking.
Sally says, “the security on Queen St (Auckland New Zealand) are some of the best guys I’ve ever met – if you’re busking and you don’t have a licence they can just write one up for you (that was a couple of years ago, but I hope its still the same).”
“They also really come in handy as people to get to know just so that they’re aware you’re out there because unfortunately sometimes it is dangerous.”
“Don’t bother going unless you have amplified sound because it’s so loud and you’ll need some help.
Roland Street cube is the best. It’s about $500. There is a smaller one by Roland, which is nearly half the price but its a lot less reliable and whatever you use will become your best friend, so it has to be reliable.”
“It’s not worth saving a little bit if it stops you from earning anything.”
“I’m never an advocate for paying things off for buying things you can’t afford, but at the same time you have to back yourself a bit so if you’re really ready to hit the streets then do it but maybe ask the opinions if a few honest friends first because it has to be an investment.”
“Be prepared with a list of songs because it gets awkward if you don’t know what to play, although after a while it’s great for training your memory because you have to be thinking of the next song while you finish the one you’re playing.”
“Covers are pretty much always best because you only have a few seconds to get everyone’s attention and it’s much easier if they know the song. I had much less luck when I only played originals – however, I used to do two or three covers and then slip in an original”
When is the best time to busk?
“Weekend night times are by far the best – people have had a few drinks and are feeling friendly, but because of the danger and because I often couldn’t find a someone to come with me in the evenings I preferred Saturday and Sundays. You have to get the spot fast sometimes. And don’t go on the weekends alone at night if you’re a little girl.”
Pro street performing & busking tips/etiquette:
“Say thank you to everyone who gives you anything! It’s hard at first, but after a while, with your breathing and singing, you can get good at dropping a quick thank you in between words.”
2. Audience connection
“Be nice to everyone, even if you’re having a bad day. There are so many great opportunities walking past you every second and if you give one person a bad look or even if you come across as being a little grumpy or whatever – it will show and the bad day will only get worse.
“You may never know the amazing opportunity you’d miss out on. Every single person is a great opportunity.”
“Make eye contact even if it feels awkward at first; it makes a difference in peoples day, and it’s a beautiful connection.”
3. Sharing space
“Be courteous if you can see someone else is waiting to have a busk, you’ll often make friends with the other buskers, and if you’re courteous to them they will show you the same respect. Obviously, if you’ve just started, they will understand but never play for longer than an hour if someone else is waiting.”
4. Safety First
“BE SAFE! I always busked on Queen St. The corner of Vulcan Lane and Queen St (Auckland, New Zealand) a great spot, but I could count on two hands of situations where I’ve been harassed.”
“Someone came behind me and pulled my skirt up, my amplifier was attacked and almost thrown by another busker.”
“I was chased by a man on drugs because he thought I was too loud for Sunday morning or something. There are a lot of dangerous situations but also so many better ones that outweighed the bad. I would suggest taking a friend or a parent (they will maybe get tired of it, but you can buy them countless coffees with the money you earn)”
“This sounds awful but be wary of the homeless people and drug addicts (I understand that they are in a hard situation but A LOT of the time they will come up to you while you’re playing and ask if they can take money out of your case or hat.
“At first I would give $5 here and there and very quickly word got out that I was a running tap, and I had to start being pretty tough and saying no. You’ll learn a lot about the homeless people, and you’ll probably find that there are some who just smile and enjoy your music and I had really really beautiful experiences with one person, in particular, who when he had nothing he would give me something. I always tried to make it a mission to give some food or something.”
5. Money tips
“Empty notes from your case and put them somewhere safe, not because it will make people give less but because if it looks like you have a lot some dangerous people might come and try and intimidate you into giving them money – and its a little scary.”
“You can make pretty decent money. I was making like $90 – 150 per hour on a good day. “
A final few words of wisdom from Sally,
“Be practised when you get there but also don’t worry too much about it because busking a few times a week is some of the best practice I have ever had.
“Busking is so freaking rewarding, you learn so much about people and so much about yourself and its one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Follow Sally on @noisebysally on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube along with checking her music out on all music platforms!