Take to the Streets Part II: Turning Closed Venues into Live Opportunities

By Neelesh Vasistha on 30-06-2020

In our first article, we explained how street music represents a credible opportunity for artists to perform to a starved audience. And it’s one that most musicians should be making use of. This series is a drip feed of tips to maximise your busking performance, and hopefully your income.

stonedAdam Zareba from Nottingham

Carve an appropriate setlist, or go jam.

Gigs are dramatic. It’s a dark space that literally elevates a performer. There’s great sensory value for an audience: the spotlit, glistening flesh of the artist. The communal experience of getting destroyed by a quivering verse, and blasted back to life by a soaring chorus. This entire theatre, however, is shattered by the busking environment. It’s hard to be a spellbinding artist when you’re playing outside on a bright day, with lycra cyclists and noisy children passing by.

What does this mean? Well, you should whittle a setlist that entertains — condensing as many musical ‘moments’ as possible. 9-minute rock operas are fine for a gig, but won’t exactly lasso the attention of passersby. Alternatively, if you have competent and creative musicians, you could let them jam. Give a long leash, and see which direction they run. This capitalises on a unique benefit of busking. At a regular gig or jam environment, instrumental solos are usually clipped. But with no time restrictions or captive audience, busking instrumentalists can really ‘go off on one’ — and spend minutes developing ideas. If people don’t like it, they can just leave. By the same token, don’t be deflated if people are indifferent to your crowning guitar solo, or perfect vocal run. You’ve just hit them at a busy time.

Little L.A. from Bradford

Dip your bucket, or hat, into the money stream.

Even if you’re not quite ‘professional’, or feel weird about donations, throw out a hat anyway. It will collect money passively whilst you play. There’s a lot of money spinning in this world, and you might be surprised how many people want to lighten their pockets. Often, donations come from people who don’t even stop to listen, but like the idea of contributing to artists.

Regardless whether you use a hat or an instrument case, it should look ‘inviting’ and face away from the band. Remember to place it a few meters away - nobody wants to place money at your literal feet. And if you’re lucky enough to receive paper money, remember to weigh it down under a coin or two. Nothing will break the magic of your performance like you chasing a windswept bill.

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Tags: audience, street music, parts, article, busking