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Busking etiquette

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Marion 02 Jul 01 - 11:00 PM
Jon Freeman 02 Jul 01 - 11:09 PM
Sorcha 02 Jul 01 - 11:15 PM
alanabit 03 Jul 01 - 12:31 AM
InOBU 03 Jul 01 - 08:09 AM
InOBU 03 Jul 01 - 08:11 AM
Jim Dixon 03 Jul 01 - 08:35 AM
InOBU 03 Jul 01 - 02:47 PM
Marion 09 Jul 01 - 01:28 AM
Marion 09 Jul 01 - 01:46 AM
Clinton Hammond 09 Jul 01 - 01:49 AM
Cappuccino 09 Jul 01 - 02:16 AM
Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull 09 Jul 01 - 02:37 AM
Louisa 09 Jul 01 - 05:36 AM
InOBU 09 Jul 01 - 08:01 AM
Willie-O 09 Jul 01 - 08:27 AM
InOBU 09 Jul 01 - 10:33 AM
MAG 09 Jul 01 - 11:00 PM
hesperis 10 Jul 01 - 12:32 AM
GUEST,WILLIE-O 10 Jul 01 - 12:47 AM
InOBU 10 Jul 01 - 11:22 AM
Louisa 10 Jul 01 - 11:43 AM
Marion 16 Jul 01 - 01:52 AM
GUEST,ghost 08 Aug 01 - 10:52 PM
Jim Krause 09 Aug 01 - 02:05 PM
Gypsy 24 Jan 03 - 11:16 PM
alanabit 25 Jan 03 - 02:48 PM
reggie miles 26 Jan 03 - 02:01 PM
GUEST,Bardan 25 Sep 09 - 12:04 PM
PoppaGator 25 Sep 09 - 01:44 PM
meself 25 Sep 09 - 05:46 PM
GUEST,Bardan 26 Sep 09 - 11:39 AM
alanabit 27 Sep 09 - 05:18 AM
jeddy 27 Sep 09 - 09:38 AM
LostHills 27 Sep 09 - 08:43 PM
alanabit 28 Sep 09 - 09:28 AM
PoppaGator 28 Sep 09 - 02:47 PM
Don Firth 28 Sep 09 - 03:17 PM
Mrrzy 28 Sep 09 - 03:57 PM
Stewart 28 Sep 09 - 04:07 PM
PoppaGator 28 Sep 09 - 04:14 PM
GUEST,Ms Pearl 08 Jan 10 - 09:35 AM
Dave Roberts 08 Jan 10 - 07:17 PM
GUEST,Matt Johnston 21 Jul 10 - 08:35 AM
DHonemanband 21 Dec 10 - 08:11 PM
alanabit 22 Dec 10 - 12:43 AM
GUEST,Gordon 11 Jan 11 - 04:47 AM
GUEST 11 Jan 11 - 06:26 AM
GUEST 11 Jan 11 - 08:51 AM
InOBU 11 Jan 11 - 09:51 AM
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Subject: Busking etiquette
From: Marion
Date: 02 Jul 01 - 11:00 PM

I'd like to propose the following rules of etiquette for busking, based on my own experiences and intuition.

RELATING TO OTHER BUSKERS

1. Share the best locations. If another busker indicates that they'd like your spot, agree on a time for them to come and take it over (at most one hour later) and then don't leave until they arrive. Conversely, if another busker has the spot you want, ask them how long they plan to be there. And if they're really on a roll when you get back to claim the place, i.e., they have a crowd built up, give them a few extra minutes so their roll isn't broken.

2. Share information. If somebody has harassed you or tried to steal your tips, warn buskers taking over your spot. If a passerby compliments your show, tell them they should come back in an hour and hear the other busker, too.

3. Keep a respectful distance, especially between musical acts. A musical act and a non-musical one can be closer together, but should be careful not to interfere with each other's visibility/traffic flow.

RELATING TO THE PUBLIC

1. Respect a captive audience. If your location is such that everyone who hears you is just passing by, then you can be as repetitious as you want. But if you are close to market vendors or an outdoor cafe or such, don't play the same tune for 10 minutes or sing the same song five times an hour.

2. If you're amplifying your music, keep it at a decent volume.

3. Be careful not to block traffic flow, along the sidewalks or especially access to vendors or stores.

FOR PASSERSBY, ON RELATING TO BUSKERS

1. I've been photographed, filmed, and tape recorded while busking; none of which I minded particularly, but I think it would be reasonable to expect a tip for it.

2. I've had people want to tip me by giving me a two or five and taking back a smaller amount, or just want to change bills for coins; again, I don't mind this, but the person should wait until I finish a tune then ask for permission. Until then, hands out of the case!

3. If you like the music but can't give much or anything for a tip, it's still OK to respond to it (by stopping to listen, letting the kids dance, talking to the busker between tunes etc.). Perhaps some buskers will disagree with this, and be annoyed if someone tips 5 cents or stops to listen without tipping at all. But personally I find that small tips or people responding to the music provides a lot of encouragement. When busking is a crucial part of your income, and you go for a stretch of time without any tips, it can get really discouraging; a kid dancing or someone smiling at me can give me the energy to keep going.

Additions, arguments?

Marion


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 02 Jul 01 - 11:09 PM

I've not tried my hand at busking in a few years but a kid dancing along the street to the music was worth £1 in the hat to me!

Jon


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Sorcha
Date: 02 Jul 01 - 11:15 PM

It is to me too! I have never actually "busked", but we have often had babies just learning to walk crawl up our legs, hold on and dance. We love it!! (Their mothers are usually embarrased--for not cause that we can see.)


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: alanabit
Date: 03 Jul 01 - 12:31 AM

A lot of good sense there Marion. I don't mind folks photographing or filming me, but I really do get pissed off when they treat me simply as a thing rather than a person. I play as a one man band and I really resent those who do not listen to a note I play, snap one picture of the exciting drum (God they must have dull lives!) and then disappear as if the thing on the other side of it which actually makes the noise - me - was just a stand for the bloody drum! I also loathe those people who are completely uninterested in what I'm doing and use me (unasked) as a prop to stand beside in their holiday snaps. I tell them very clearly what I think of their manners. Otherwise I'm in full agreement with your comments about an obligation to be friendly and courteous to the punters and other buskers. Alan.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: InOBU
Date: 03 Jul 01 - 08:09 AM

As a 30 year busker... there are rules and coustoms out there. As to giving up a good spot, well, that is a nice idea, but it can't really work in a city like New York or London. You have to really work a spot in order to pay your rent. In New York, rents can be - for a working class one room flat, 800 bucks and up. So, most buskers have to work like mules to just keep a room. We who busk for a living can't give up a spot to a casual busker. On the other hand, I always share information on 1. How to find a good spot (working class corners, not completely poor neighborhoods, parks, subways, the rich parts of town, both where they live and work, you will not get a dime, find a place where people either slow down or have to stop, or they just listen as they pass by, smile at you and stiff ya). 2. I tell folks where the good spots are, 3. Who ever gets there first has it, but, eventually everyone has to go to the jacks. I have built up a very patient bladder, so I can hold a spot long enough to make enough money. 4. NEVER NEVER NEVER take a licence from the government. If you do you are a scab. You are giving control of our ancient tradition to a government who gives you nothing but abuse in return. We are the inheritors of the freedom of the roads.
Keep the music alive and the streets ours.
Larry


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: InOBU
Date: 03 Jul 01 - 08:11 AM

One more DON't LURK! When someone has one of my great spots, I wait, out of her or his view, where I can hear that they have finnished and left, so I am not appearing to be waiting for the spot, that is VERY offsetting to a busker. I always assume they are doing it cause they need to. AND always give support and advice to young buskers. - Larry


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 03 Jul 01 - 08:35 AM

I'd like to add one rule: Keep it clean. Remember there are likely to be kids present, and parents with kids. I don't want to have to stop in a public place and explain a dirty joke to my kid.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: InOBU
Date: 03 Jul 01 - 02:47 PM

Well said Jim!
We are unfortunately judged by the behavior of the worst of us. There was a sax player who used to show up just before curtain in the theatre district and play loud, ruining the performance of folks who had the corner first. When some of us tried to explain the customs to him, he got aggressive. All the buskers got kicked of the theatre district streets for the rest of the season! Keep it clean and keep it polite! The only exception is in districts where there is more expectation of profanity. In Washington Square park, there was a gay sword swallower who used to make some double-entendre jokes in his patter. It went over the heads of most kids in the audience, and in the west village, (New York) it is an environment which is more tolerant of that sort of joke.
Cheers, Larry


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Marion
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 01:28 AM

Larry, regarding giving up spots to other buskers when they ask: that's the way that I found things to be working in Ottawa, and I like it. But I guess it's the kind of system that only works when everybody honours it; if you're the only nice guy, it wouldn't work for you.

As for never accepting a licence... I don't like the licence idea much either, and I'm grateful to live near a free city. But for people living in places where licences are required, I don't understand what the alternative is (short of not busking there). If you go the outlaw route, what kind of hassles do you expect, and what impact do they have on your ability to make a living? Do you have to change spots every half an hour because cops keep making you leave? I would imagine that you could sometimes say that you didn't know you needed a licence, but what happens when the same cop confronts you more than once? Could you be arrested, or have your money or instrument confiscated? Or are these risks you're willing to take? I'm not trying to be snarky - I really want to know how viable it is to be an outlaw busker (partly because I'm contemplating a move to Toronto).

Thanks Larry,

Marion


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Marion
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 01:46 AM

Advice needed:

The other day when I was busking at a great spot (solo fiddle with no amplification) a panhandler who uses a wheelchair parked a couple of metres away from me and started playing a battery-operated stereo quite loudly - loudly enough that I couldn't play well or reasonably expect anyone to enjoy the sound of our competing sounds.

I was very angry, but took the only option that I could see: leaving the spot.

I've been thinking about this a lot. As I've mentioned, in Ottawa we buskers talk to each other about how long we want to stay, and negotiate to share the good spots. I'd be willing to negotiate with this character as if he were another busker, and let him have the spot after I've been there an hour; I do have some sympathy for panhandlers in wheelchairs. But I'm not willing to be bullied; it's not acceptable to me that he should be able to force a busker off a spot anytime he wants by twiddling his volume knob.

I have thought of an equally "guerilla" tactic that I could use to encourage him to leave, if he tries pulling this on me again... but I'm hoping somebody here will have a better idea, before it comes to that.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 01:49 AM

Ya marion.. push him into traffic!


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Cappuccino
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 02:16 AM

I admire your guts for doing it, and I'll support any honest busker if I have some cash - there are some cracking good ones working the London Underground who put my own playing to shame. But I don't think I'd ever have the nerve to offer a note/bill and ask for change! Do people really do that? Is it discourteous, or is it perfectly reasonable to say 'I'll give you two, do you have change for a five'? All the best - Ian B, Oxford


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 02:37 AM

Nice thread, Does anybody know of any busking festivals in UK, preferably in or near yorkshire? (I am not a busker but I like them).I heard recently that if you want to busk in York, you have to pay the council for some kind of permit, I think this is bad.john


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Louisa
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 05:36 AM

I used to busk quite regularly. I live in Coventry, and although the city centre is a hole (not like York) you're still meant to get a licence. Have not done this yet. Anyway, thought your list was pretty good. I also object to being photographed, filmed, recorded etc and then them not giving me any money. This happened to me in Galway a few times - I think people thought I was an employee of the tourist board or something! I did have my case out though so...? Anyway, one time I was playing there and a man set up opposite me (solo fiddle) and started playing the Scottish bagpipes. Was not impressed.

Anyway the other hilarious thing that happened to me was when I was playing in Norwich, solo Irish/Scots fiddle tunes and someone came up to me and said 'Can you play the Bach double violin concerto?' to which I said 'well not on my own!' Not to mention that I wasn't even playing classical music!

Adding to list of guidelines - I would say passersby - don't come and peer in my case to see how much money I've got and then walk off once your curiousity has been satisfied! That really gets on my nerves, as does people staring at me. I think there's still a real 'you're begging' stigma attached to buskers - not everyone sees buskers as street entertainers as they ought to. Other buskers - amplification is one thing but blaring it out so loud that noone else can play anywhere in the vicinity is really unfair on other players, and probably causes a bit of a disturbance for shoppers as well.

Louisa

Anyway think that's it.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: InOBU
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 08:01 AM

Hi Marion:
As to the brother in the wheelchair:
That is a tough one. Most of the guys and gals who live on the street in the parts of New York that I frequent, know me, and I know them on a first name basis. Most of 'em call me Professor, though they know my name... Fact, once a new fellow on the street was hassling my wife. About six homeless neighbors surounded him and began yelling, "Hey! That's the professor's wife leave her alone..." One, Vinny (see Indian Musician in Hospital post, around Christmass last...) told him "You don't hav enough manners to live on the street..."
But that is it, it is all about manners back and forth. Some guys just can't be dealt with and you have to avoid 'em.
On the other hand, don't judge a guy without tallent as a Bum, it is just another derogitory term and it is sometimes applied to those of us who busk by those who don't know how hard we work.
Way I'd go about it is, introduce yer self to the guy, if he is a smoker, give him a fag. If not, some nutural thing, NEVER money, never booze. He may or may not give you his name, but always treat him like the a nieghbor, and be frank. Once you have gotten to talk to him, tell him his "act" is bad for buisness, and ask him if he has an idea how you both could get by. If you start right off, and tell him it is your spot you got there first, well, expect a lot of four letter responces.
Good luck, keep on keeping on...
Larry


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Willie-O
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 08:27 AM

Marion:
Interestingly, the custom of keeping a good busking spot only for an hour in Ottawa was part of the "enshrined regulations" when they licenced buskers there. It doesn't surprise me that it's been kept on as a habit. Ottawa ain't NYC after all.

There are always going to be occasional loud jerks that come along and purposefully spoil your scene. Fact is, you're on the street in a public place, and other members of the public have a legal right to use the environment too, even if it puts a crimp in your style. Just as various other factors can reduce your profits: weather, traffic noise, street people taking a liking to your act and scaring the straight folks away. It's all part of the game. Now if there were still licences, maybe you'd have someone to complain to...but by then it would be too late in most cases.

In Toronto, licences are only required for the subway. There is a decent living to be made above ground, in season, if you can put up with the usual above-mentioned hassles.

Course, I'd hate to lose you as a guitar student...

See ya tomorrow,
Willie-O


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: InOBU
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 10:33 AM

Willie: Re: Now if there were still licences, maybe you'd have someone to complain to... BELIEVE ME, if anyone complained about anything, then the buskers would get the short end of it... So, better no licence and let us be grown ups with each other, when the state gets involved, we get run off... Cheers, Larry


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: MAG
Date: 09 Jul 01 - 11:00 PM

I used to busk in Chicago, a loooong time ago, at a time I really needed the extra$100 or so/mo. The blues bands would routinely run me off the subway platforms. It made me mad, but reality was the public liked them better than the acoustic peacenik stuff.

At this last Northwest Folklife in Seattle I found myself getting really teed at some of the buskers and listeners blocking traffic where big signs specifically asked them not to do this. Just moving from place to place at that fest is a challenge, and blocking traffic is majorly rude.

MAG


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: hesperis
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 12:32 AM

I think that if it's a choice between the listener asking for change or not giving anything to the performer, that it is better that they ask for change... the rest of the money may in fact be spoken for already. You never know.

But people going into the case for change without even asking is a total no-no.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: GUEST,WILLIE-O
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 12:47 AM

Well you have to make and enforce company policy on that kind of thing. You're a sitting duck and as Larry says, you have to work it out with the other folks there--and you have to stand your ground as long as it is worth standing on. But a surprising number of people are just astonishingly rude in one way or another--they don't see you as having any private space or belongings, because of where you are and what you're doing. (Try "Hey, can I look in your wallet? How much money do you make?")

W-O


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: InOBU
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 11:22 AM

Ah Willie O:
Don't you know it!!! Emagine some wall street fat cat thinking he earns his bucks and we, with all our work and training and sweat are real blood and tears are beggers! Geeze! I've played with a broken rib for months, right where the bellows pushes against my side, had to bandage open sores from the bellows strap wearing holes in my arm from hours of playing in hot weather... and yet, you have folks who think we get something for nothing! And yet, how many people know how many years it takes to learn to play the Uilleann pipes well enough not to scare the nieghbor's cat?
Cheers,
Larry


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Louisa
Date: 10 Jul 01 - 11:43 AM

Good one Willie-O - might try that next time someone peers into my case!

It is terrible about the beggar thing Larry. It can be blooming knackering busking for hours and trying to look as though you're enjoying it - people used to tell me it was easy money because I could earn what they earned in a day in 2 or 3 hours - but after playing the fiddle for that long you're exhausted. Entertaining people is hard work.

I think licences are a good idea but I don't think they should cost anything. Even if the council etc never gets involved with a city's busking scene at any involved level at least you've got something that says you're allowed to be there which legitimises what you're doing somewhat.

Does anyone have any busking pet hates? Mine are pan pipes, backing tracks and people sprayed silver standing very still.

Louisa


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Marion
Date: 16 Jul 01 - 01:52 AM

IanB, regarding asking for change: it doesn't happen often, but I think it's perfectly reasonable. Today somebody just had a $20 and wanted to give me $2, but I hadn't accumulated $18 yet, so he gave me the fresh herbs he had just bought at the market. So now I've been paid in bread and in mint... I'm just hoping for somebody to pay me in raspberries, which I'm too frugal to actually buy myself!

Am I the only one who couldn't care less if people look into my case? What harm does that do? If it does nag at you, I suggest that you make an interesting sign or find an appropriate picture, and put it in your case - then when people look you can assume that that's what they're looking at. My intuition is that you'll play better if you're not annoyed at your audience.

Not really etiquette - but a general question: do you find that your income reflects how well you're playing, or what tunes you're playing? I've noticed that a good day in the case isn't necessarily a good day on the fiddle, and vice versa.

Marion PS I haven't run into my wheelchair-driving friend again yet.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: GUEST,ghost
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 10:52 PM

Wow, I can't believe how many of those who have posted here and at the previous site about busking have touched on the many things I would have to say. Of horror stories about this curious endeavor I could go on and on. The radio thing happened to me recently at the Pike Place Market in Seattle where I busk now not so regularly. It was a veggie vendor who cannot stand my musical saw playing, or so he says to his customers, loud enough for me to catch. Many of them tip me despite his comments. I'm a guitarist but most everyone there plays guitar and I find that there is too little response to my guitar work so about ten years ago I started tryin' to tame the unruly blade. I have, in the that amount of time, managed to advance my ability on that handtool significantly and I've found that playing this particular implement lends itself to many humorous asides. So much of what I do between tunes is silliness, trying to coax a smile from my listeners. As to the discomfort that my playing may have to 'some' within earshot I can only repeat that old line about how you can't please everyone. By far though the vast majority of folks are or seem by all accounts to be delighted with my efforts. So dial that one in to your radio mister veggie merchant. I know that trying to please everyone, even this annoying person, is or should be a proper goal if harmony on the planet is something you value but paying the bills is also a nagging habit that persists each month without fail. So where does one compromise? Yes the vendors enjoy my guitar and my songs but if I can't make enough $ doing that stuff am I to starve myself to accomodate their entertainment?

Thanks to all who have been posting on this subject. reggie miles


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Jim Krause
Date: 09 Aug 01 - 02:05 PM

I haven't found that the amount of money is directly commensurate to the quality of my playing. It is rather directly in proportion to the number of people who stop by Farmer's Market.
Jim

PS I think I'm going to get the gig back next year. At least the manager seems to think that's a very real possibility. Hooray.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Gypsy
Date: 24 Jan 03 - 11:16 PM

seems like a good time of the year to refresh..........as we are working up a demo tape for an audition to a faire. wish us luck!


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: alanabit
Date: 25 Jan 03 - 02:48 PM

Good luck Gypsy!


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Subject: Lyr Add: YOU CAN BE A STREET MUSICIAN!
From: reggie miles
Date: 26 Jan 03 - 02:01 PM

YOU CAN BE A STREET MUSICIAN!

You can be a street musician!
It doesn't take a lot of ambition.
It don't take talent or education.
And it beats workin' at a fillin' station.

So come on down and don't be shy.
Sing songs to folks as they walk by.
Strum and rant and stomp your feet,
Express yourself out on the street.

You can sing requests all day long.
It don't matter if the words are wrong.
Pour your heart out or just play covers.
Sing the blues about your lost lovers.

If you want, you can get political,
Just as long as you're not too critical.
Sing silly songs to make folks laugh.
Don't have to cut your hair or take a bath.

You can arise from bed at the crack of noon.
Spend an hour or so just to get in tune.
Swallow a steamin' black pot o' jo,
To get yourself up before the show.

Then look around for a likely location,
To begin your musical vocation.
At an outdoor market or a subway station,
Or where ever folks need edification.

Divorce yourself from the ol' rat race,
And open up your guitar case.
You're sure to find somebody who,
'll take pity and throw a dollar or two.

You can make a million dollars a year,
If you start out with two million's what I hear.
It's easy to do, take it from me,
It's more fun than playin' the lottery.

You can be your own boss and employee too,
With nobody to tell you what to do.
Record and sell your own CD,
Start your own recording company.

So if you're lookin' for a brand new job,
And you don't want to beg or steal or rob,
Take my advice, here's what to do,
Become a street musician too!

But if you worry about making money,
Better find yourself a rich little honey.

Joe street performer

P.S., You can lose a lot of weight too.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: GUEST,Bardan
Date: 25 Sep 09 - 12:04 PM

I always move on to another pitch after an hour (maybe a bit longer if the money's good and no one's waiting.) It makes sense basically, because i can't play for more than two hours without repeating myself unless I really strain for tunes I've more or less forgotten or never polished up and the shopkeepers/locals get bored if you're playing the same thing over and over again. I try to give other performers space especially if they're playing quieter instruments. Most of it's common sense and common decency.
If people infringe on my pitch with loud instuments I'll compete generally. (I'm a fiddler, but my fiddle's got BALLS! Gave a gaita player a bit of shock in northern spain once- I wasn't playing louder than him, but it was loud enough to make a musical mess and there was no way people were going to pay either of us for the ensuing cacophony.) Still, sometimes there's no option but to move on. Just like the cities. You can get away with unlicensed busking sometimes, but if the police are going to be real bastartds about it, you move on and wish a boring day to day life on the people who banned busking in the first place.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: PoppaGator
Date: 25 Sep 09 - 01:44 PM

Back in the days when I sang on the street, I rarely "moved along" once situated in a good spot ~ and I would stay at it for 6, 8, even 10 hours on a good weekend day.

Repeating oneself, even as often as hourly, is hardly an issue. The listeners are constantly in flux. If someone indeed has stayed to listen to you for an hour or more, they undoubtedly like you so much that they probably wouldn't mind a reprise or two.

I was constantly expanding my working repertoire, not out of fear that the "audience" wouldn't stand for any repetition. but simply for my own amusement and to fend off boredom. Still, if I really enjoyed a given song (especially one I had only recently learned), I wouldn't hesitiate to play it in "heavy rotation."


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: meself
Date: 25 Sep 09 - 05:46 PM

Once you've found a good spot, hang onto it till the money runs out and/or you can't play another note. It's your spot. UNLESS: it's somebody else's spot - in which case, go find your own spot.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: GUEST,Bardan
Date: 26 Sep 09 - 11:39 AM

I know what you mean, but I find that if, for example you're playing on the high street, play for too long and the shopkeepers get pissed off and tell you to move on. Stay anyway, and you're being impolite and besides they might react badly- police, bucket of water thrown at instrument etc... Move on any hour and you'll actually be welcome if you turn up the day after. Still, it does depend on how many decent pitches are around and how much competition there is. Meh, maybe I'll try sticking to the one pitch for longer for the next week or so and see if it makes a difference.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: alanabit
Date: 27 Sep 09 - 05:18 AM

Certainly in the busking culture of Europe, you should always be prepared to share pitches and move on after an hour. That is also required in most places where busking is regulated.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: jeddy
Date: 27 Sep 09 - 09:38 AM

thanks for this thread, i too have read alot of things that relate to when we used to go busking.

we used to busk alot in worksop, we would stay in the same pitch until we got fed up, as much as the local shop owners were fed up of the tunes we played, they were very pleased we has stopped the bag pipe player from getting there.
we had been at one pitch for over an hour when thid guy came past and set up fairly near us, we keep going, of course. it was a musical mess, but poeple kept paying us as everyone in town hated him for his arrogance and rudeness!!

i don't think anyone who hasn't busked will realize just how much hard work it is, to perform, be polite and grateful, and to look like you are having the time of your life all day.

it does make it worth while when even in a slow moment you catch sight of kids and parents dancing along to our music, it can make all the dfference to our moods when someone smiles at us.

thanksyou to everyone(even though they won't see this) for making us welcome, boying us up when we were lagging and for paying us for our talent(in my case a very dubious talent).

take care all, please be careful out there.

jade x x x x x x


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: LostHills
Date: 27 Sep 09 - 08:43 PM

I think that if someone has chosen a spot and set up there, it's their spot until they're done with it, period. Go set up someplace else out of earshot. And out of earshot is important. I play guitar and harp and a couple of times I've had saxaphone players set up across the street from me and make it impossible for me to play. That's rude, but you can't do anything about it but leave. Another time I had a guy with an acoustic guitar and a battery amp set up ten feet away from me. Again, all I could do was leave Good etiquette cannot be enforced.

As far as audience etiquette goes, please don't come up to me and start talking to me about Neil Young, your guitar, my guitar, the band you used to be in or whatever. Supportive comments are appreciated, but if I have my guitar on it means I'm there to play, not to stand around having conversations with people. And don't ask me if I "know any John Denver." I'm not a juke box, I'm an artist and I'm here to do my art.

Tips for buskers: Don't demean youself by begging for money or berating people for not throwing money at you. Everybody knows what an open guitar case is for and they will tip you if they are moved to. Be humble and play good music. Don't block the flow of traffic. Don't let too much money accumulate in your case. Smile at people, be friendly and use self depracating humor to deal with rude people. Make your show special by choosing songs that relate to the event, the season, the weather or current events. Give out business cards or home made cds with your website and email on them. And finally, sometimes you've got to know when it's time to pack up and get out of there....


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: alanabit
Date: 28 Sep 09 - 09:28 AM

"Good etiquette cannot be enforced." True. In my experience though, the good and the polite last longer than the other sort.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: PoppaGator
Date: 28 Sep 09 - 02:47 PM

I agree with ALMOST everything posted yesterday (above) by LostHills, with one exception:

And don't ask me if I "know any John Denver." I'm not a juke box, I'm an artist and I'm here to do my art.

I never minded requests ~ it means that someone is not only listening, but is considering staying around to listen some more! Such patrons deserve consideration, not only as friendly fellow humans but also for the income they are likely to generate, both out of their own pockets and from the additional listeners/lingerers that they are likely to encourage.

I always made it a point to have one or two songs in my repertoire that could be appropriate responses to just about any request. For example: "Gee, I don't know that one, but since you like country music, how 'bout this old Hank Williams classic?" or, "Sorry, I haven't learned that one, but here's a song I know that was recorded by the Beatles/Elvis/Doc Watson [or whoever]."

Now, I understand that this does not apply if you're a songwriter interested only in performing your own songs, which may be admirable but is probably not the most lucrative approach to take. You might consider the strategy of Glen Hansard's character in the film "Once" ~ perform recognizable favorites ("established songs") during the busiest hours of the day, and sing your own stuff during slower periods (after dark, perhaps) when the listeners may be fewer but those who are in the area might be more likely to stop for a while and listen more carefully.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Don Firth
Date: 28 Sep 09 - 03:17 PM

I'm not a busker myself, but. . . .

As far as answering requests is concerned, I watched a fellow make out pretty well by responding to requests, but he was well equipped for it. He was playing and singing one sunny Sunday afternoon at the Café Ladro in Seattle, a few blocks from where I live. On sunny afternoons, the Café Ladro turns into a sidewalk café, and this fellow was singing for the assembled patrons, who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his performance. One of the patrons asked him if he knew any Johnny Cash songs, which, fortunately, he did. A lot of them!

The result was that (trying not to be too obvious about it) I watched his open guitar case filled up with a pile of dollar bills, at least a couple of fives, and a sprinkling of change—within about half an hour.

Among other things that undoubtedly helped him that afternoon was that a man and wife who were drinking coffee and listening had a daughter. Cute little thing, about four years old, dark hair, big eyes, bright blue dress, and black Mary Jane shoes, who was going from table to table with her hand out. The patrons would give her dollar bills which she would immediately go over and toss into the guitar case.

It made me seriously consider taking up busking.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Mrrzy
Date: 28 Sep 09 - 03:57 PM

What about people doing religious stuff, in the same vein - they may make music, or talk, or offer prayer while dressed as paramedics (I kid you not) - do they count as buskers?


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Stewart
Date: 28 Sep 09 - 04:07 PM

Here's what Artis the Spoonman
(Seattle Pike Place Market Busker)
says about Humility, Humiliation
in his column, The Busking Musician,
in the latest edition of the NW HOOT.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: PoppaGator
Date: 28 Sep 09 - 04:14 PM

Truly religious street-performers may or may not be asking for money, and if so, it may not be unambiguously clear that any contributions are payment for their music rather than for their church or whatever, but I can't imagine that they might not "count" as buskers.

It takes the same amount of nerve to put yourself out there on the street whether your repertoire is secular or religious, right?

One of my very favorite groups of fellow street-performers in New Orleans in the early '70s was a trio of elderly African-American gospel singers. They had appeared a year or two earlier in the movie Easy Rider ~ they are seen on-screen only very briefly, but their music continues in the background for quite a while afterwards, all through the acid-trip cemetery scene. I have often wondered if they had been appropriately compensated...


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: GUEST,Ms Pearl
Date: 08 Jan 10 - 09:35 AM

There is a buskers and artists haven in New Orleans
www.myspace.com/kampkatrina9
504 453 0834
A busker can rest a few days get help with costumeing
bikes and more . Street performers should unite and aid one another.
MS Pearl


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: Dave Roberts
Date: 08 Jan 10 - 07:17 PM

Another one for the public to think about:

Put that cigarette out.

You risk having someone write a song about you.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: GUEST,Matt Johnston
Date: 21 Jul 10 - 08:35 AM

Some of my thoughts on busking etiquette.

If you're lucky enough to live somewhere were you can busk without a license, the only rule regarding spots is Finders Keepers. I would never assume another busker should give up their spot for me, and I take great satisfaction in telling other buskers to f**k off if they get lippy about me hogging a spot. Fact is it's a business, and if you aren't willing to get up early in the morning to secure a good spot then you aren't built for the gig.

I realise that might make me sound like the Bad Kind of busker, but I'm really not. If someone politely asks if they can have my spot, I'll tell them when I plan to finish and I'll try not to leave before they're there to take over. But if they assume that I should move on after a while, or god forbid try to force me off by playing next to me, then they don't deserve any favours. So far several guitarists, a bagpiper, a drummer, a fire-eater, and the army/navy/raf (oh yes) have all tried to force me off a spot, with no luck. Fact is, little old unamplified me is going to get the Underdog Money against any of those guys. And the moment you set up next to me, I honestly have nothing better to do than to make sure you have a terrible day.

Another character to consider is the 'This Is My Spot' busker - the one who turns up after you've been there for hours and says 'eh, look, this is my spot'. Sorry, friend, it doesn't work like that. As soon as I leave the spot, it stops being mine, and that applies to everyone else.

People you should listen to when they tell you to move on - the police, nearby shop owners. That's kind of it. Not market stall owners, city officials, newspaper sellers, beggers, members of the public, etc.

Right. I'm getting off my high horse before I ride it into battle. On this topic, I get a bit heated.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: DHonemanband
Date: 21 Dec 10 - 08:11 PM

Busking etiquette - quite a contentious subject as evidenced by the variety of opinions.
I guess I'll wade in. I've busked for 33+ years and mostly in one city. It probably gives me a different slant than someone who moves around. I bet most cities have established buskers and they will have their own "rules" or "etiquette".

Here in Victoria, where I busk, we didn't have any rules when I started but there were only a few regulars and space for everyone (if not very good monetary return). Over the years the number of buskers grew and grew until the city got involved and made us get licenses and agree to certain rules (mostly good common sense ones - no amps, one busker per block, 2 hour sets then move etc). By the year 2000 we had 600+ licenses! There were lineups for the better spots daily. We had a system whereby the first busker at the pitch could claim any 2hour time block but couldn't busk elsewhere while "holding a time slot". You had to at least leave something as a place holder and were expected to be back well before your alloted time. It mostly worked quite smoothly although sometimes there was bitterness between buskers wanting the same spots/times. Waits of eight hours weren't uncommon for some spots/times. So that part was hard. But still, it worked/works to this day. We have two busking areas with different licenses now and as one of them is auditioned yearly and has a higher fee, it is governed differently with a weekly schedule and seniority. Luckily, there aren't 600 licensees anymore!

I look on busking as akin to being a "goodwill ambassador" for your city. I try to be informative, answer questions, refer tourists to restaurants/entertainment etc.
- Obviously things like swearing are verboten - just don't do it! It just reinforces many people's bad ideas about buskers.
- Spitting, throwing cigarette butts and garbage are other no-nos. Use garbage cans - it's common sense but you'd be surprised!
- Fighting amongst buskers does happen but we always try to stay civil.
- Staying well away from others performances while waiting is the rule. People are ready to see the worst when it comes to buskers and it is up to us to improve their opinion/educate them.
- Speaking of education, I try to give some historical context to the material I play (lots of old blues/hillbilly/folk) telling a bit about the song/artist. I find this helps draw in a lot of people and adds to my show.
- Humour is obviously a great addition to any performance but I steer clear of racial and potentially off-colour jokes or putdowns. There's enough of that on TV. Buskers play to a wider spectrum of people than anyone and I try to keep that in mind - How will this influence kids? What would my grandparents think?

The public can be ignorant at times but I try to react in a positive way. When people interrupt my performance mid-song I try to say, "I'll be finished in a moment" or "I can only do so much at once" (I'm a one man band) although I must admit I'll stop mid-song to sell a CD, usually making a joke out of it. I do my best with requests and if I don't know them I make it a point not to belittle someone else's taste in music. It's mostly just common courtesy.
I don't solicit donations in general. I'm not a big fan of people looking in my case but it's public space - what can one expect? I have gentle signs in my case for photos and videos - By Donation Please.

My big peeve is the new digital camera and the public's lack of respect. In the old days, people took one or two photos and hoped for the best. When they got home they developed their film and took what they got. Now, everyone looks at their photo immediately, goes "That could be better." and takes another and another and another. I have news for you - I'm not perfect and your photo won't be either! It's not so much of a problem in daylight but I perform mostly in the later part of the day and people are using their flashes. Some nights I truly feel blinded for minutes at a time and almost need sunglasses more at night. I do my best to keep it to myself but will try to joke about it if it gets too bad.

Well, just my thoughts on an interesting thread!


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: alanabit
Date: 22 Dec 10 - 12:43 AM

A lot of good sense there Dave. I will get back later.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: GUEST,Gordon
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 04:47 AM

This may be a bit off topic so apologies. I'm looking for advice. What's the best way for a city to attract the best buskers in the world to come to its streets this summer? I work with the city council in a northern England city and we'd really like to bring our streets alive for one or two months this summer with the absolute best in street entertainment. How can we reach these performers and what could we do to attract them to us? Many thanks,
Gordon


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 06:26 AM

Well that's a nice encouraging slant on the topic. Which town will we hear all this talent in?
I don't busk myself (being not really good enough to play in pub sessions even) so I leave the advice-giving to those who do. I wonder if there is a conflict of interest between local musicians and outsiders, though; or different requirements.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 08:51 AM

Ah Gordon, you are a prince. How about a busker's festival? A weekend of music inviting street performers from all over to come and bring music to some Northern city??? (if it is Manchester - I have a dear friend and folkie or two living there... ) When this thread started, I was busking full time, now I am running the family theatre and museum... in NYC or I would be there in a moment for a busker's festival...
You could make it like the flaigh Ceol USED to be in Ireland, encouraging sessions and concerts in every pub... treating buskers like a national treasure. They'd write songs about your city.
I'd even put up a poster for it, out here in New York at Theatre 80.
Best of luck and courage
Lorcan ("Larry") Otway, Esq.
Owner manager of
Theatre 80 Saint Marks and
The Museum of the American Gangster &
William Barnacle Pub
and proud long time busker.


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Subject: RE: Busking etiquette
From: InOBU
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 09:51 AM

Oh my... someone ate my cookie, just a quick note to say the IS me posting above... back with another cookie, Lorcan
PS Yes... I know... you can tell by the bad spelling....


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