• Research the town you plan to busk in.
• If possible pick a sunny day.
• Chose a pitch that will attract relaxed cheerful shoppers.
• Most people who put money into my empty guitar case walked past me before turning around to walk back and put some coins into my case. Knowing this I would recommend setting up in a space that allows people to walk freely in all directions.
• Be friendly and speak with local shop owners.
Over the past year we have spoken to many hard working musicians all trying to make money from gigging or just trying to get their songs heard at Open Mic nights. This got us thinking why not have it both ways, take your instruments to the streets and busk? You'll not only be playing to a huge audience but you may also earn a few coins while you're at it. However, buskin does not seem to be a popular choice with many musician. This may be because the law regarding buskin is unclear, also for many the idea of performing to a passing crowd who are just going about their daily business can be a little daunting. So to help you decide if buskin is for you I shall brave the shopping public and for one day become a busker.
The first thing I need to do is make myself familiar with UK buskin law: However this differs from town to town. Some towns have passed a law to prevent buskers from performing, others encourage it as they consider performance art to be part of their culture. So unfortunately there is no clean cut answer which makes it very important for me to research the town I choose to busk in. But one consistent piece of advice keeps popping up; you must practice etiquette busking. Common rules are:
• Do not perform for more than one hour.
• If you have a loud instrument do not perform for more than 30 minutes.
• Do not use loud amplification.
• Do not perform within fifty meters of another performer.
• Be considerate when choosing a pitch, ensure you’re not an obstruction.
Researching an appropriate town: Being a strong believer in learning ones craft I have decided to earn some experience before hitting the big towns and cities. Therefore I have chosen the picturesque city of Wells in Somerset for my buskin debut. Wells has a relaxed friendly atmosphere and attracts many tourists who are often keen to be entertained spontaneously. I Google the words 'Busking in Wells Somerset' to discover no licence is required to busk anywhere in West Somerset. This is great news, West Somerset council even provide a downloadable 'Code of Practice' for buskers to comply with.
Picking the right day: With the changeable British weather it was more luck than judgement that blessed my chosen Saturday with a cool sunny breeze. I hope that this will provoke people into feeling cheerful which should ensure the city is bustling. After a short walk through the busy streets of Wells I find a lively market square with many food stalls and coffee vendors. This seems like a terrific place to busk, people browsing quaint market stalls are more likely to be shopping for pleasure which means they will be taking their time and open to new experiences. This should work in my favour compared to busking outside of a supermarket. I imagine a passing crowd of supermarket shoppers would be less cheerful and want to be left alone to get on with their shopping. My advice here is; when choosing a pitch it's important to think about how the public will be feeling. Think about how you would feel if the tables were turned and you were the person shopping.
Before I fully committed to my chosen pitch: I took some time to speak with a nearby market stall holder. I introduced myself to him and asked if he had any objection to me buskin near his stall. To my surprise he actually said he would prefer it if I didn't busk nearby. I didn't expect him to be so honest, but he went on to explain that each week he has to suffer the same 3 songs repeatedly played by the same busker on a Penny Whistle. We spoke for a while which gave me the opportunity to explained that I would not be playing the Penny Whistle and if he doesn't like my music then give me a polite gesture and I shall move on with no fuss.
Down to business: I had a great pitch and after speaking with nearby stallholders I was confident that I will be treated with respect. I opened my guitar case removed my guitar and placed a few coins in my case giving passers by a clear visual indication. But it's at this point I realised I had overlooked one small detail, the lid to my guitar case doesn’t stay open. Fortunately I was able improvise using a packet of guitar strings which forced the lid to stay open. However this did teach me a valuable lesson; it is important to rehearse before any type of new performance. Had I enacted buskin at home in the comfort of my living room I would have discovered my guitar case doesn't stay open. This small oversight could have ended my buskin experience abruptly, because it is a collection pot that defines a busker. Without a collection pot I would have been just a man playing music in the the street. With my guitar case now firmly jared open I tuned my guitar and started to play my first song. It didn't take long until the first coin was thrown into my guitar case which meant I could now relax and enjoy the buskin experience.
To say I enjoyed buskin is an understatement: I found it very rewarding. If you’ve had experience performing in pubs or clubs you’ll know that people need no encouragement to talk to you. They’ll often express their appreciation, this is because people are preconditioned to be sociable in these types of environments. But when people are frequenting their local high street the opposite is true. We are conditioned to walk past people paying them no regard. So when a stranger breaks their routine to either stand and watch my performance or to be even bolder and come over to speak with me, I can’t help but take this as a great compliment.
The question you all want to ask: How much money did you make? Well I busked for thirty minutes from 11:15am until 11:45am and made £13.36 which I think is pretty good for half an hours work. My first experience of buskin was a positive one plus it was a great way to experience life. I would definitely busk again and would recommend it to anyone wanting to perform music. Below are some of my top tips should you choose to try it for yourself.