6 Tips to Busking Success: takin’ it to the street

December 1, 2011{ 17 Comments }

Beat in the Street from Jordan Satmary on Vimeo.

So you want to make money as a street performer, huh? Well, busking ain’t for the feint of heart; it takes perseverance and endurance. Classical guitarist/beatboxer Zack Andrew is no weekend warrior. You may’ve already seen some of his viral videos, where he performs dance-y versions of Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Fur Elise, Moonlight Sonata, and more. Andrew brings his music to the Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade Monday through Friday and sometimes on weekends (4-8 hours a day).

Check out the short documentary above or visit his website for more clips!

6 tips to busking success:

1) Have a good attitude- remember that you’re not the main attraction. Most folks didn’t even expect to see or hear you, so be gracious and grateful if anyone listens, applauds, tips you, or buys a CD.

2) Be polite to fellow buskers- you’re all in this together. Share the public space. Don’t hog the best spots.

3) Respect local businesses- keep your volume down, and play material that is appropriate for public spaces. Help them make money, and they’ll help you make money. Get adversarial on them, and they’ll be sure to end your busking career early.

4) Be upbeat and joyful– brooding melancholy may be perfect for a smokey club, but buskers gather the best crowds when they play material that makes the kids want to dance and the old folks smile. Ya know,… good times!

5) Pace yourself- Don’t strain your hands or voice before you’ve built up your endurance. Start slow. Work your way up to the long-haul days.

6) Pack light- Learn to perform your music with minimal setup. Strip it down to the basics. Guitar and voice? Great! If you need a PA, bring something battery-powered.

Have you had success as a street performer? Tell us all your busking secrets in the comments section below.

-Chris R. at CD Baby


  • Awesome! At first, I was thinking the "street performing ordinance" was going to be a bad thing, like a ban. Sounds like they opened the town up to busking instead. Nice.

  • Good tips. Thanks.

  • Tip #7
    Follow the rules. Make sure you have the right to be there busking in the first place.

    We have a great farmers market in Boise but if you are not on the list you'll get run off and possibly blacklisted..

  • I;ve been busking since i first learned the banjo (14) been doing it for 4 years now… yo can make money ANYWHERE. I live in a very small tow, with very limited audience.. i still end up with 30-70 dollars a day (6-8 hrs) and its been cold up here in the mountains, and it only gets better as Spring comes around… You must have a pleasant demeanor about you… dress brightly.. simple and be as clean as possible. Be extroverted.. SMILE like crazy, have genuine interest in other people, and they will have interest in you.

  • Greg

    I've been busking on the Sax/Flute now for about a year. I absolutely love what I do, music is my passion and I have learnt many do's and dont's from performing this way. I started out of 'despration' and a 'last resort mind set' after being made redundant. My first day out I earnt $100 in an hour! Since then I've never looked back and have had the best time. It's a not for everyone and you need to have a bit of a 'thick skin' so to speak. Push pass the negative stereotypes is my advice to anyone starting out and keep trying and play to your act to the conditions you find yourself in. I make on average $60 an hour. The bad days are frequent (mostly due to poor weather conditions e.g. rain!) and I've had days where there's no more $20 after a set list ( I keep mine to an hour). The beauty of it lies in the fact that even with a small taking, you've just gained another hours (or how ever long you've played) worth of practice and if you're passionate about your art, then you'll not worry about the money; another location, another hour and you've capitalised on your monetary losses.

    HAVE FUN! That's the key. If you want to make money from street performing or busking, be reasonably good (in the opinion of your audience, not necessarily your peers) at what you do!


  • Pingback: Top 3 Articles About Busking: The Musical Art of Street Performance | DIY Musician()

  • Sweet. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ben Williams

    http://fretdetective.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/buski… I wrote some tips from my experiences of busking here. Hope they are helpful.

  • john

    I've been street performing for a few years now, i'm only 23 but i've performed in many different countries and often take home up to £500 an hour. I do stuff very similar to a man called Dubfx who's recently become very famous online so that's helped me out too. I agree with most of this however there's a few things…
    Firstly, whilst i am a very humble person and do agree busking and music as a whole is a communal thing, many buskers do not. Many buskers will happily hog the spaces, and crank their p.a system loud to a point no one else can be heard. Due to this, sometimes you have to compete, and you shouldn't feel bad about doing so, because at the end of the day if you're busking and asking for money you want money, you dont want to busk for 5 hours and earn 2pence. So maximise your opportunity, steal the prime spot, or try and out do those trying to intimidate you, but dont make it a volume competition or it ruins it for everyone.
    Secondally, I agree against traveling with a battery powered p.a. If your set up requires a p.a system, there's a reason, chances are your portable guitar amp can't handle bass of keys that you use within your music, for me i use a lot of effects on my vocals (im 100% vocal) with low frequencies that a normal amp cant handle. If this is so, you need a gel batter/inverter set up and a propper p.a. This gives you the power and handles the frequencies that would kill a battery powered p.a's batteries, or simply cause distortion of sound on the battery powered p.as resulting it a mass of noise nobody wants to hear. I've tried about 5 battery powered p.as; including Rolands expensive p,a system, and all of them have this fatal flaw. The gel battery will also last you 12 hours so you dont have to worry about your pa dying (the "8 hours" batter life promised by these companies on battery p.a's is absolute rubbish, you'll be lucky to get 2 hours of good sound quality)

  • Cool. Thanks. Checking it out now.

    @ Chris Robley

  • Sounds like a good plan for sure. Might as well “capitalize” on the season when passersby are feeling generous.


  • Jimmy Branham

    Busking this holiday season has been a greater success. Have been playing two hours a day for the last four days. Averaging around $100 per hour. On top of that folks go out of their way to verbally thank and encourage me for playing. One of the three cafes I have played has expressed interest in me returning outside of the holiday season. The challenge will be finding tunes that sound good on trumpet with no accompaniment.

  • Yeah, there’s definitely a good angle with the Christmas tunes. Where do you live? It must be tough for a busking trumpet player to have the most lucrative time of the year also be the coldest time of the year!


  • I’m jealous. Tough to busk in Maine this time of year.