10 Tips for Busking in the UK
It can be daunting putting yourself out there, at first, but busking is an effective way to build confidence performing in front of an audience. Plus, as a talented street performer, you might earn some money along the way. Here’s our top tips for getting started as a busker in the UK:
#1 Pick a good location
Choosing an ideal spot can be a challenge. A high footfall is advantageous, but also try to find a location where passers-by can see you on approach. Make sure you don’t block entranceways or annoy nearby businesses. Consider a sheltered area in case of unpleasant British weather.
#2 Busking laws
Know the rules and check out the local council’s rules for street performers. Some cities have designated ‘busking points’ or you might need a permit/licence. Keep any paperwork handy, in case an official requests to see it.
#3 Advertise yourself
Have a Facebook page? If not, you may want to consider setting one up to reach a broader audience and draw a crowd. Also, consider getting some business cards printed — this is a good way to market yourself to a newfound fan base. Even a handmade sign with a clever or funny caption may draw some interest on the day.
#4 Mix it up and improvise
Nobody wants to hear the same three songs on repeat, no matter how good you are. The main point of a live performance is to make it your own and have fun with your audience, so try out some new material or original songs.
Busking (from the Spanish, buscar, meaning to ‘look for’ or ‘seek’) is a time-honoured and well-respected art form in Britain. Many of the world’s most famous singers started out performing on the street. Ed Sheeran famously busked around London before he got his big break.
#5 Be mindful of your peers
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t set up camp right next to a fellow busker, but also consider how long you spend in a location. Aim for quality over quantity and don’t hog a particularly lucrative spot for more than a couple of hours. Street artists are a gracious community in general, so make friends and you might pick up a few additional tips.
#6 Be prepared
You could be out there for a few hours, so bring a bottle of water and a sandwich; if it’s sunny you may want to bring sunscreen. It’s wise to keep your leads and equipment organised in advance, you don’t want to arrive on the day and realise you’ve missed something. Also, bring a secure bag to store your earnings.
#7 Don’t actively ask for money
Your audience shows their appreciation by dropping a few coins in a hat or case, and this is allowed in most towns and cities — providing you’re not blatantly begging for cash. This applies to the sale of CDs as well.
Caution: Shameless plug ahead! Continue reading below.
#8 Busking set up
While you should avoid directly asking for money, many buskers ‘salt’ their tip hats or cases in advance, so passers-by know what to do. As the set progresses, you can funnel some of the cash into your bag. You should look like a popular performer, but one who could still do with some additional coin.
#9 Keep the volume in check
Be mindful of your surroundings. While most people are pro-busker, you don’t want to make enemies of local shopkeepers or residents. There’s a code of conduct here, so keep the sound at a reasonable level if you don’t want to deal with complaints.
#10 Enjoy yourself
Passers-by will likely feel more positive about your set if you look to be enjoying yourself. Busking can be a fantastic way to connect with people and put a smile on a stranger’s face. So, relax, loosen up, engage with your audience and have fun!
For a more in-depth guide to busking in the UK, which includes best practices and laws for UK buskers, check out: Singers Guide to Busking in the UK.