The Art of Busking It’s about the musician and the audience


The Art of Busking: It’s about the musician and the audience: a long but thorough article about busking. When I was ten years old, I picked up my Dad’s guitar and discovered that I could make music. I thought, wow, this is great! All my life I had loved music and studied it in school, but I never knew how to play an instrument. Now, through this wonderful instrument called the guitar, I could create music of my own. The only problem was that I couldn’t play any songs–not very well anyway–and no one else seemed to want to teach me how to play.

I was too young at the time to know the proper methods of teaching oneself how to play guitar. Had I been older, or had someone been around to help me out and point me in the right direction, perhaps things would have been different. But no one taught me and so with determination and an incredible amount of practice, I taught myself how to play guitar by listening over and over again to my favorite songs like “Hey Jude” by The Beatles (I loved Paul McCartney’s bass part) and “Suffragette City” by David Bowie (I loved Mick Ronson’s guitar solo) until I could figure out what

The Art of Busking: It’s about the musician and the audience

I’ve been a professional musician for over 25 years, and I’m always interested in learning how other musicians make their living. One particularly fun way to make a living is called busking.

Busker is a British term for street musician. In the United States, the word is often used to refer to traveling entertainers who put on shows for donations at train stations and in parks. The word is also used more generally to refer to any street performer.

In this article, I’ll be using the term busker to mean a street musician who plays without a permit and without an organized event promoting them, but who is playing primarily with the purpose of getting paid. So that leaves out homeless guys playing cans at intersections (though hopefully they will get some money), political protesters with bullhorns (though they may get donations), costumed performers at Disney World (though they are certainly professional) and people playing music at festivals or events that have hired performers (though they may be making good money). I’m talking about full-time, working musicians who rely on tips from random strangers walking by as their only income source.

Many of us

Busking is an essential component of any vibrant music scene. Buskers are ubiquitous in most cities, and offer a fascinating glimpse into the dynamics between street musicians and their audience. It’s a symbiotic relationship, but it’s not always clear who gets the better of the deal.

This article is based on my experiences as a busker, and from interviews with other buskers around the world. I’ve also included some quotes from the general public, taken from various forums and blogs. This article is about street music, not about busking for money. If you want to know how to make money as a street performer, read this article instead!

Busking, to me, is not just about the art of playing music in a public space. It’s about connecting with people and influencing them with your music. There has to be a certain level of appreciation from both sides.

I once had a conversation with my friend Gary about busking and what makes it so special. As Gary put it: When you play for tips, you really have to be good at what you do.

It’s not like a live show where everyone has already paid for their tickets and is there to watch you play, no matter how good or bad the band or artist may be.

It doesn’t matter how many T-shirts you sell or how cool your logo looks. For people walking down the street, it’s all about the music they hear when they approach you.

That’s why I think it’s important to connect with your audience but also to get them involved in your performance in some way. If that happens, they will want to support you by tipping more than usual because they feel like they are part of the act on stage.

I’m Andy, that’s my wife Helen, and we’re buskers. We play music on the streets for money.

It’s a great life. We play the music we want, when we want, where we want. We don’t have to be at work until one o’clock in the afternoon, we get to travel to all sorts of places and meet great people every day. The quality of our lives is perhaps only surpassed by our freedom and independence.

All that said, I wouldn’t recommend busking to everyone; it takes a certain type of person before they can make a success of it. Busking is neither easy nor lucrative; it takes commitment and hard work to earn a living from street performance. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with doing it part-time or as a hobby, if you decide to quit your day job and live solely on the money you make from your music on the streets then you need to be prepared for a lifestyle which requires determination and persistence above all else.

What follows is an honest account of what busking is really like and what it takes to be successful at it. I have deliberately avoided writing about practicalities such as the best instruments for

My story with the streets began when I was 12 years old, in the year 2000. I started busking in the subway of Brasilia, Brazil with my brother and cousin. My brother used to play guitar and my cousin played drums. At that time I used to play bass guitar, so we created a trio. We played rock covers and our favorite songs, inspired by bands like Oasis, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus etc and also some songs from brazilian artists (like Cazuza, Paralamas do Sucesso etc). It was just fun back then and we didn’t have any idea about busking or how to make money from music. In fact, in Brazil there’s no specific law about busking.**

I think the act of being a busker is very similar to the act of being a musician. A musician will go out and rehearse and practice, in order to get better at their craft. A busker also rehearses and practices to get better at performing in public. They learn how to project their voice and move around on stage, when to interact with the audience and how much, what songs work and which one’s don’t. The difference is of course that a street performer does this for money. With no stage or sound engineer or lights, it’s a lot harder than it sounds.


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