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Busking - What are you paid?

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JamesJim 02 Aug 00 - 01:08 AM
Callie 02 Aug 00 - 04:50 AM
InOBU 02 Aug 00 - 06:10 AM
Willie-O 02 Aug 00 - 09:05 AM
Little Hawk 02 Aug 00 - 09:25 AM
reggie miles 02 Aug 00 - 09:57 AM
Mooh 02 Aug 00 - 10:10 AM
GUEST,John Leeder 02 Aug 00 - 10:12 AM
GUEST,Roger the skiffler 02 Aug 00 - 10:18 AM
Willie-O 02 Aug 00 - 01:38 PM
InOBU 02 Aug 00 - 03:52 PM
Willie-O 02 Aug 00 - 03:57 PM
reggie miles 02 Aug 00 - 04:01 PM
Willie-O 02 Aug 00 - 04:32 PM
GUEST,Phil Cooper 02 Aug 00 - 05:49 PM
Little Hawk 02 Aug 00 - 07:29 PM
JamesJim 03 Aug 00 - 12:27 AM
Peg 03 Aug 00 - 12:56 PM
Peg 03 Aug 00 - 12:58 PM
SINSULL 03 Aug 00 - 01:09 PM
GUEST,Little tip! 10 Sep 13 - 09:18 PM
Mark Ross 10 Sep 13 - 10:12 PM
meself 10 Sep 13 - 10:52 PM
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Subject: Busking - What are you paid?
From: JamesJim
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 01:08 AM

Our city allows busking on certain street corners downtown, after you pay a small fee and agree to wear a tee-shirt touting the city ("Street Scene"). They allow you to accept tips and pay you (regardless of how many people are playing/singing) $37.50 for two hours of music. You have two 10 minute breaks during the two hours and can play every weekday from 11:30 to 1:30. Do you have anything similar where you live? How much are you paid? Jim

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: Callie
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 04:50 AM

All busking is prohibited in the streets of Sydney as a result of a strange hysteria-injecting sporting event about to descend. Only 30 busking permits are available.

The last time I busked about 8 years ago we made enough to pay the hefty parking fine stuck to the windscreen of my car.


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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: InOBU
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 06:10 AM

In New York they have attempted to control our industry by allowing for a permit to play on the subway. We have been busking before the likes of them learned to walk upright. I wouldn't wear their bloody t-shirt for love or money. In Quebec there is now licenced busking, so I break the law there with regularity, as folk music belongs first and always - to the people. The decline in traditional music, in some small way, in my opinon, is linked to the regulation of this ancient right - the privalege of Bards Seanachies and Troubadours. My advice, write a ballad to saterise any government which seeks to control our age old industry. As to how much do we make in New York - Too bloody little!
All the best
Keep the music our own
PS In the sevinties I put together an association of buskers to fight against our being pushed out of the theater district, Phillip Petit, the airalist who walked between the world trade towers on a tight rope, used to come and listen to me all the time, he loves the pipes, but refused to join the association saying, "when they legalise our profession, I will stop doing it." God bless him.

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: Willie-O
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 09:05 AM

JJ, I have _never_ heard the like. What city is that? And why do they charge you a fee and then pay you afterwards? And...UNIFORMS? (Obviously so the busking police can keep track of who's a "real" busker.)

It's sort of progressive in a Huxleyan kind of way--obviously its nice to know you'll get some money for your time, and that the city wants you there. Having them say when you can take a break is bizarre. Much more common for the city to limit how long you can play in one spot.

I did do flat-rate plus-tips busking for the National Capital Commission (administers federal property in Ottawa) once on Canada Day. They paid me $100 for the day and called it "street animation". But hey, that's Canada Day--they spend millions on it.


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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 09:25 AM

My friend, Jennifer Claveau, who is a fine young songwriter in Toronto, tried busking recently because she was short of money, between jobs. She did pretty well...made over $50 in and hour and a half. Of course, Jennifer is an appealing young woman with a great singing voice, so that always helps.

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: reggie miles
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 09:57 AM

You get paid to busk!?! Wow! Where does this system take place. The city I mean, what city is it that pays buskers to perform? There's none of that sort of treatment here in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle in particular. We've gone from a city where busking was tolerated, to now, where in certain parts of the city, routine harassment by members of our law enforcement seems to be the rule. This isn't the case everywhere but my point is it shouldn't be the case anywhere. Several of my friends have had to combat this sort of treatment by taking the issue to the courts. This process though succesful on a case by case basis has not solved the larger issue of whether busking should be allowed everywhere. Isn't this a free speech right we're talking about here? The Pike Place Market still hosts a large busking population but one must pay to be a part of it. It not a great deal of money $15 a year but I remember the days when it was free to perform there. Yep, those were the days. There are also a great number of rules now in place there to control the activity. Nope, not like the old days, when there were no rules. Forgive me if I wax lyrical here but I've never seen much need for all the hubbub. Of course I've never been one to push the envelop either. Things change and ones only response to it is to adapt migrate or well you know, fight the power. There's got to be something in the Constitution that protects this kind of activity in the USA anyway, don't ya think? Or at least some kind of government grant/dole that can bankroll the fees involved and keep "the long arm" from treating those who choose to engage in this activity like criminals. This is an artform and it has its roots, as Larry stated, about as far back in human history as you can go. Of course getting the Feds involved can be both a blessing and a curse, we know what kind of bureaucratic bucket of worms that can be. Any suggestions out there?

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: Mooh
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 10:10 AM

Big Brother controls busking! Expletive deleted Big Brother! Assholes with elephantine car stereos can assault our ears with impunity at every street corner, bank machine, and driveway, but we have to pay to play?

"Of all the trades...[busking]is the best"

Oh yeah, and polluting is free, not to mention encouraged by the government. Seems to me there's an element of insanity here, when they won't keep wheeled vehicles off the sidewalks but send buskers packing.

Expletive deleted! But not surprised...Mooh.

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: GUEST,John Leeder
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 10:12 AM

In Calgary you have to get a busking permit for the venue you're going to play in. E.g., a permit to busk in the Eau Clair Market doesn't allow you to busk on Stephen Avenue Mall and vice versa. Some areas don't require permits -- it's all up to the individual area associations. The city government doesn't take a hand at all. If you're busking without a permit, it'll be the local security rent-a-cops that move you along, not the city police.

I've never busked, but my son's band do it a lot. I'll ask him what kind of money they average.

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 10:18 AM

I've mentioned before the terrible (to me!) amplified autoharp that plays in Bracknell some times in what you in the former colonies would call a mall. I can't believe the local Council or Chamber of Trade pays him. There is sometimes an amplified concert harpist who sells his own CDs. In the open area we get the occasional sax or trumpet player, S.American pan pipe group,or guitarist. It must be organised as there's only one performer on any Saturday. Most recently there has been a white reggae player who plays guitar and harmonica and sings. Both the mike on his neck rack and his guitar lead go into small belt radio transmitters like those used in musicals so he can dance around and play and sing without tripping himself up on cables. He sells CDs as well as getting the usual cash in the guitar case. All these performers seem to have quite sophisticated portable amps and speakers,often with backing tracks so they must be making some money.
BTW I'm surprised the "cordless" amp system I've just described isn't used more often to avoid trailing cables. Probably picking up local taxi calls and police band messages might be a problem with radio mikes!

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: Willie-O
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 01:38 PM

As an aside, it's always seemed a little weird to me how many people feel free to ask how much money you make it's any of their business. I mean, what's your salary and benefits, sir? WHAT???? And you're only dropping in 35 cents cause that's what's loose in your pocket. Shee.

Having said that, my best ever day as a solo busker was $170 in downtown Toronto, playing hammered dulcimer.

who got sick of hammered dulcimer

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: InOBU
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 03:52 PM

Couple of weeks ago, they brought out these gold colored US dollar coins. The first weekend they came out, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, lots of people very grandly flipping me quarters. Now, I smile and nod, what ever they flip, but in the back of my mind, I am thinking, Cheep buggers, and me sweating away at these Uilleann pipes in the hot weather. Well, emagine my embarassment at my bad thoughts when that evening I emptied the case and found all these gold dollars!
The Popular Halfwit, from Wiltshire, who has not posted in a while... well he and I were on the subway in New York. There was a South American band, pan flutes mandolin, drum, the usual - lots of em in New York. Now Pop says, "I say, I know that fellow, he looks just like a fellow who plays in Bath but not quite." I smile inside, thinking, well this is the second Peruvian Band Pop has seen, of course they look alike. Pop introduces himself and says he is from England. "Oh yes," the fellow, "my brother has a band in Bath" :-\

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: Willie-O
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 03:57 PM

Busking is probably a better trade than it used to be in my days since they replaced the $1 and $2 Canadian bills with coins called "Looney's" and "Tooneys" respectively. (Picture of the loon on the $1)

Really oughtta give it another go...


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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: reggie miles
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 04:01 PM

As another aside, have you ever been confronted by the passerby who, in a very rude way, trys to hurry you verbally into getting to your next number because their schedule won't allow them time or patience enough to conduct themselves in a courteous manner? I don't know if they believe I am being paid by the authorities to entertain them and therefore feel they have the right to demand I react to their wishes. I find this behavior really annoying. Most of the time I try to placate them with a quick number but secretly I'd like to ask them why they feel as if they have the right to dictate to me how to perform. If they don't have time to listen well then maybe we'll catch 'em later but to command that I bend to their desire in an impatient tone and then, like the last guy, walk away and not even leave a tip. That just rubs me the wrong way. Fortunately I've had few encounters with this sort but last weekend there were two in one day. That was enough to set me on edge. Then this happened, there was an incident where two young women felt compelled to take a twenty dollar bill out of my case. They smelled of alcohol and could not be stopped nor convinced to return the money. A friend followed them and unsuccessfully tried to get someone to call for the authorities. They finally took refuge in a fleabag hotel near by. The manager refused to call the police and chased my friend from the building. Unfortunately it's not the first time this sort of thing has happened. There was another time when two very nicely dressed young women tried the same thing. One of them began a distraction technique of asking me questions and slowly moved to my left side as her partner bent low near my case which lay on the ground to my right. I saw the eyes of the one who was suppose to hold my attention dart toward her friend behind me and as I turned around there was her friend with her hand reaching into my case. Almost as if they had studied the technique in a handbook. Then came their patented look, as if to say, "What did I do? I didn't do anything! How dare you accuse me of doing that!" Can't sink much lower than trying to steal from a street musician or can you?

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: Willie-O
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 04:32 PM

Paper money is a big blows away, it looks too available...but its what you want! Except toonies are more practical in every way. Geez, Reggie, how often is there a twenty in your case for someone to help themselves to! (Isn't that a pisser!)

I always found that in Vancouver, unlike Ottawa or Toronto, you're automatically considered a bum on the street if you're busking, no matter how good you are. And when the "other" bums show up and are hanging around bumming change and scaring off the straights, unfortunately it's time to close up the case and relocate, unless you can get them to move.


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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: GUEST,Phil Cooper
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 05:49 PM

My singing partner, Margaret Nelson, busked a couple summers in Chicago. There, you need to pay for a buskers license. There's no question of the city paying you anything, it is all tips from passers by. She found that she did better if she dressed up (look like a beggar, you get paid like a beggar she says) and did fairly well. Being a singer, she was only able to keep it up for two hours at a time. Did the best at farmers markets.

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 02 Aug 00 - 07:29 PM

You don't get paid to busk in Toronto, but if you've got a good location (and the weather cooperates, you can do well. Unfortunately, there are so many more homeless people now (15,000 I hear....) that it's getting very competitive for good spots, whether you busk or panhandle or whatever, and certain people will advise you in no uncertain terms to move on or they'll punch you out, cos you're in "their spot". The city is far meaner than it used to be, due to our despised conservative government which has cut spending to every social service, turfed mental patients out on the street, closed down hospitals, and reduced taxes (mainly to the rich...who do not need a tax reduction). This they call their "common sense" revolution. I myself do not like busking one bit...I like an audience that's there to listen. If they aren't, why would I play for them? Fortunately I have other ways of making money. We have a joke up here..."What's the difference between a dead skunk in the middle of the road, and a dead folksinger in the middle of the road? ANSWER: The skunk was on his way to a paying gig!"

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: JamesJim
Date: 03 Aug 00 - 12:27 AM

Thanks for all of this response. I asked the question initially because I felt my City (Louisville, Ky.)was being a bit cheap, but I see that some of you get no upfront money at all. Regarding the "uniform," I don't mind. I can sing whatever I want to sing (no censure) and it's easy to sing something of some cultural or political significance. I'm retired and frankly I sing for just the love of it. It's a challenge to me to get busy people's attention and perhaps make them smile or receive a special message. The only serious problem I have had is with a few "rent-a-cops." They hassle us when we unload/load our instruments in a no parking space. Last week we put up a stage and sound system in our Galleria and had to actually drive a pick-up onto the open mall to get near the doors. You would have thought we had committed a federal crime. One day one of my friends had his very talented son come down to play with him. He didn't have a uniform (the t-shirt) and the rent-a-cop, full of his importance, would not let the 12 year old continue playing. Fortunately, we do have some help from our City with this and they are trying to tone down these little men in blue. I find that the people love our music. It's true that dollar bills blow away and there's always the chance someone will decide to "lift" a few from my case. Still, I have enjoyed the few times I have busked this year. If I had to do it every day, I'm sure I'd feel different. Keep singing! Jim

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: Peg
Date: 03 Aug 00 - 12:56 PM

In Boston you have to get a license to play on the street. No audition necessary apparently, which explains why many of the buskers are lousy and, unfortunately, the lousy players are often more aggressive about grabbing the best spots and hogging them all day, or having a much louder sound system and thus drowning out the talented guy or gal down the street.

To play in Fanueil Hall, a touristy area near downtown and the waterfront, you have to audition. Small fee, not too bad. Very competitive, and they stick to a schedule, two hours at a pop. (If the next act doesn't show on time you can stay in their spot until they do) Problem is, they are way more concerned with "variety" than talent. So you could be the worst balloon-animal maker in the world, but get hired, but six or seven excellent dulcimer players or twenty-five fiddlers or a hundred singer-songwriter-guitarists have to compete against each other for limited spots...

I sang with two different harpists there, a couple years in a row. Lots of money made just from tourists with kids: the kids stop, mesmerized by the pretty lady singing or the handsome gent playing the harp or guitar, and the parent gives them a buck, saying "Here, honey give them a dollar." Harried yuppies usually drop pocket change. Occasionally you get tourists or even locals with a taste for what you are doing (once a guy gave us ten bucks for doing a songin Gaelic) who hang out and keep dropping dough on ya...the usual take for two hours ranges from 30 to 50 dollars; some days lots more, some days barely $20. I think the biggest take for two hours was just over a hundred one day...and once we barely made $15. Split among two people, not bad, even if it only pays for beer and snacks at the pub after...


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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: Peg
Date: 03 Aug 00 - 12:58 PM


great story, BTW, about the Wiltshire Halfwit! How is he? I noted he has not posted in a while. I sent him a message to his Mudcat addy and got no reply. I hope all is well, it was a joy meeting him, he is a sweetheart. We did not get to play music, sadly...


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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
Date: 03 Aug 00 - 01:09 PM

InObu - great story. There is a doowop group that roams the subways usually the 1&9 lines. Once, after a particularly bad day, they came by singing "In the Still Of The Night". It was just what I needed to hear and dropped $5 in the hat. They came back and did "Silhouettes" just for me.

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: GUEST,Little tip!
Date: 10 Sep 13 - 09:18 PM

After reading about the guy who had a $20 taken from his case. We all know that if we have paper money in our collection it encourages others to give the same.

Bear in mind I'm from UK but should work anywhere!

First of all 'seed' the hat by putting a £5.00 in but put some coins on top to stop it blowing away.


Dont put a real £5 into the hat. Colour photocopy one side of a £5.00 (not both sides so you are not accused of forgery), crease it up a little and put the photocopy into the hat. If someone does steal it then they've made off with a worthless piece of paper but visually it still works as a great seed.

Tried it many times and it works as you are planting a norm into peoples minds for their donation.

Brian James. UK

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 10 Sep 13 - 10:12 PM

I busk with a fiddle fairly regularly here in Eugene, Oregon. Sometimes with my banjo, just playing tunes. My voice isn't as strong as it was 40 years ago when I could be heard 5 blocks away in NYC traffic. The best I have ever done was one Saturday at the Farmers Market when I made a hundred bucks, but I was also selling my CD. These days I average $10-$30 an hour at the regular Saturday Market, playing for 2 hours , or so. The only drawback is that you have to get down there at 7:30 AM to reserve your slot. The important thing about busking is to remember that it's not just about playing music, it's about performance.

Mark Ross

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Subject: RE: Busking - What are you paid?
From: meself
Date: 10 Sep 13 - 10:52 PM

I hold that its bad form to disclose how much you make busking. It ain't nobody's damn business.

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