Busking is a great way to hone skills and earn cash while travelling. I’ve played in over 10 European countries and decided to share with you my tips to help you make your own street performances successful.Literally each of my trips with a guitar was based on the same scheme − a little cash, Couchsurfing, hitchhiking or car sharing. For the rest, namely food, drinks, pubs, museums etc., I earned by playing guitar. Every now and then I even managed to save some money so I didn’t go back home with an empty wallet.
As you probably know, there are no rules when it comes to earning money. During the first day in Oslo I earned $100 in an hour playing and singing, and another day only $30 while being in the same place as the day before. The amount of earnings depends on the number of factors − weather, number of tourists, competition and location. I am giving you the average earnings per hour by playing guitar and singing pop, country and my own songs:
Barcelona: 18$/h (I played only once and there were hardly any people around)
Each city has its own rules which you can find on every city website, but usually the information is not published in English so I use the help of Couchsurfing users. I visit couchsurfing.org, look for a newsgroup of a given city and ask about the need for a permit. Couchsurfers send me useful links and respond to my questions in detail. Checked, it works. The most often you ask about playing in Norway so I answer: I lived there for three months and I didn’t get a permit, however I’ve heard from street artists that theoretically one needs to have it (yet most of them didn’t have it). Many times, policemen passed by me, but I was never asked to show the document. Instead, they smiled and bowed.
I earned a lot of money in tourist areas because cash flowed both from residents and visitors. When there was a big competition I went to the bus or train station and played with a piece of paper “I’m saving up for a ticket” − it did the trick. Interestingly, sometimes it is worth finding a peaceful, quiet place, especially when the city abounds with musicians.
1. Maintain eye contact with passers-by and smile.
2. Demonstrate gratitude − when you are given money take a bow and thank if you have a possibility.
3. Dress up nicely, neatly, originally. Put on a hat, and if you’re a girl, use lipstick. I must admit that I always got more money when I was dressed fashionably, cool, nice, and not in a backpack-hippie style.
4. Play songs that are known in a given country. Unfortunately, when I sing my beloved, unpopular songs I get less money than when I play international pop hits.
5. If you do not sing and play guitar only, give it a try. Practice your voice, stand out!
6. Stand up! Forget about sitting.
7. Do your best and do not worry when you are ignored by people for a longish time.