Can You Make Money Busking?

Can You Make Money Busking?

Mark Sandusky has written a great blog on the priceonomics website called The Economics of Busking. Mark is part of the musical duo “The Dirty Little Blondes” and his post outlines their experiences busking in San Francisco. For anyone who thinks they have the chops for busking this is a must read. Mark goes into detail on how they went out multiple times and to many different locations and compared their daily take. The duo was making an average of $42.55 an hour or $21.22 an hour for each of the musicians. Not bad if it is not your main source of income.

In our recent blog How Three Seattle Musicians are Making it on Music Alone we feature an infographic that shows that live performances can account for between 20% and 70% of a musician’s annual income. Busking can be a significant part of this income. When considering busking these are the main takeaways I got from Mark’s story.

10 Busker Tips

  1. Income varies widely: Some days the duo made $98 and some days only $3. Experiment in different locations and different times and find your sweet spot.
  2. Busking is supplemental income: This is not something you would want to do 40 hours a week. It is great for getting some extra cash but it is not your entire business plan.
  3. This is show business: The Dirty Little Blondes play before paying customers in clubs, bars and concerts and they treat their busking shows with the same professionalism. This may be a good place for an unknown to learn their chops but do not treat your time busking as rehearsal time.
  4. On the street you are an unknown: If Neil Young started busking down the street today everyone would just assume he was another old, long haired guy with a guitar. The upside is if you are good and you can win someone over in thirty seconds they are yours.
  5. Your music must fit in: A string quartet won’t work on a street of rowdy bars on a Friday night and a funk band won’t work in front of a swanky wine bar.
  6. Do not overstay your welcome: You may have found a great spot but playing there every day is bound to irritate somebody.
  7. Be a considerate neighbor: Any home or business within earshot is your host. Don’t play too loudly, too long or too often. Don’t block businesses, cause traffic jams or obstructions.
  8. Not everyone will like you: If a drunk heckler gets in your face there is no club bouncer to help out and if an irritated neighbor calls the police the show is over.
  9. Learn the busking laws in your town: In many jurisdictions it is illegal to play amplified music outside, ask for money (you could be fined for panhandling), or perform without a permit. In other places it’s completely fine. Find out before you hit the streets.
  10. This could be the most rewarding gig ever.

Busking is a great way for working musicians to supplement their income without getting a regular job. I mean how many baristas does the world really need? It is also a great way for novice musicians to get performing experience and make connections with new fans. There are however a lot of obstacles but busking can be rewarding if you approach it like any other part of a music business plan. Mark Sandusky’s blog is a great introduction to how to approach busking in a professional, businesslike manner.

Gigs4U is dedicated to finding new ways for working musicians to use busking as a legitimate way to supplement their income and take the hassle and risk out of busking. We also work with businesses and local governments to use local talent to bring excitement, vibrancy and music to their community.  Contect us if you are a musican and want to learn more about working with Gigs4U . Contact us if you are intrested in getting musicians for your event or organizaiton.

Photo Credit: Mark Sandusky