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Busking and its brilliance.

Updated on November 5, 2014
Buskers performing on the streets of Derry at Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann 2013
Buskers performing on the streets of Derry at Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann 2013 | Source

Busking is defined as the art of performing music or any other similar art in a public place. Normally it is for money, however it is a very rare occasion that a busker will actually ask for money. Typically a busker will place down his or her instrument case in the hope that people will enjoy their music so much that they feel they should give something back. The art of busking is arguably as old as music itself and is a pure, enjoyable past time that all musicians should try.

From the moment a child learns a musical instrument they get excited when they play and want to perform to their family and friends. It is a natural feeling to want to perform to an audience when you learn to make music and i believe that this natural instinct to perform should definitely adhered to.

At 18 years old I was rarely seen without a guitar.
At 18 years old I was rarely seen without a guitar.

Have you ever been busking before?

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My story

I began busking when I was 18. I couldn't find a job and had a lot of time on my hands so I decided to grab my guitar and plucked up the courage to give it a go. At first I was very hesitant and it took some will power to perform but I quickly got into the swing of things and soon came to love it. I busked for almost a year, a few days a week, which enabled me to earn some pocket money for myself. I noticed that the more I done it the better I got, which made it very rewarding. When I eventually got a job and became more financially stable I would still go busking from time to time because it became a hobbie that I loved. Here are some things I have learned from my experiences.

A piper busking
A piper busking

Why busk?

Besides a bit of extra cash, there are many benefits to going busking, here are some reasons why I believe every musician or performer should go busking at some stage in their lives.

  • It is a way to gain confidence with your playing. Performing on the street or in a city can be scary at first but with so many people walking past and not notice you can quickly feel like nobody is even paying attention and you will gain so much confidence with playing for an audience.
  • Busking is a good way to practice your skill and perfect your art. Instead of practicing over and over at home, why not challenge yourself and take your practice to the streets. If you forget some lyrics or even miss a few notes nobody will notice and you can keep on playing and learn from your mistakes.
  • You don't have to be very good to busk. Some people will still give you money even if your not playing. Sometimes its about looking the part rather than sounding the part.
  • You can meet new friends and even join in with other musicians. Buskers are really friendly people and if you can play or sing a certain song people will join in and sing along or bring along their own instruments and ask to join you.
  • Hearing a particular song can really make a persons day. Many times I have had people come to me and thank me for playing a song that has meaning to them. For example; a girl came up to me and said her brother was very ill in hospital and I had just played his favorite song (The fields of Athenry). It felt good to know I brought her comfort with my music.
  • Busking is fun. When busking with friends it is good to play around with songs and get a reaction from your audience. People will come and clap along and talk to you and dance and it can really bring a place to life.
  • You can make money. Although some people have and do make a living from busking I would be of the view that the extra cash is just a bonus for doing something you love.
  • Busking can make you famous. There are many stories about people who used to busk, were spotted by a talent scout and made it big. Just think, this could be you!

My son and little brother made 40Euro in just 10 minutes at an Irish music festival. They were just messing around and i could'nt believe they made money at all.
My son and little brother made 40Euro in just 10 minutes at an Irish music festival. They were just messing around and i could'nt believe they made money at all. | Source
Playing in a shopping center at Christmas is a good way to raise money and awareness for groups and charities.
Playing in a shopping center at Christmas is a good way to raise money and awareness for groups and charities. | Source

The best time of year to go busking is at Christmas.

Christmas is the time of year where buskers rally to the streets to take advantage of the masses of people rushing around getting their shopping done for the holidays. Christmas is the time of giving and when people feel most generous.

Everyone has their own favorite Christmas carols and you really can't help but join along when you hear carolers fill the cold winter air with their beautiful chorus. During the dark nights there is always an amazing atmosphere with many people out singing whether for money or not. Buskers just add to the spirit of Christmas so why not grab a few eager friends this year and give busking a go? It could potentially pay for Christmas presents.

A crowded city market at Christmas time. Your potential audience.
A crowded city market at Christmas time. Your potential audience.

Do you enjoy the music?

What is your favorite kind of music to hear from buskers?

See results
Joining in a session of buskers playing Irish traditional music.
Joining in a session of buskers playing Irish traditional music.

Some famous people who used to busk.

  • Ed Sheeran
  • Tracy Chapman
  • B. B. King
  • The Stereophonics
  • Rod stewart

To name but a few.

This is a perfect example of using how you dress to stand out in the crowd.
This is a perfect example of using how you dress to stand out in the crowd.

Money making tips!

From my experience there are a few key things to note that can and will help you increase the money you can make while you are busking.


You must be good! It's as simple as that! Practice and perfect what you know and make sure that your music is up to a high enough standard so that it is very enjoyable for the audience.

Play popular songs.

Everything that is new and is on the television and radio are the songs that stick in peoples minds. Basically, If it's in the charts then play it.

Dress for the occasion.

There are two sides to this tip. The first is to dress like a professional. Your personal attire will determine to some people whether or not you are worth giving money to. People will throw you more change if you look the part. The other is to stand out from the crowd. Wear something that will grab peoples attention before they even hear you play. Once you have their attention, you have their generosity.

Choose your spot wisely.

Choose a spot to busk where there is plenty of people traffic. The more people that come through an area then the more potential for money. If you can accompany this with a place with good acoustics then you are on to a winner. The advantage of a place with good acoustics is that your voice will be carried further and for longer and so you expand your audience and give people a chance to give you a good listen.

Bring a friend.

I have found that having multiple instruments and harmonies in vocals really make an impact and can draw a crowd that will bring you in that well earned income. It might seem a flaw to have to split your earnings afterwards however, it can work out better for both of you, depending on your abilities

Put a swing on it.

Don't be afraid to change up a song and play it your own way People love to hear something done differently and doing this will will earn your audiences' respect and make you stand out bringing more money to you.

Busking is not begging.

A beggar will beg and ask for money
A real busker will never ask you for money
Begging is Illegal in most places
Busking is legal in most places, with some requiring a permit
Begging is frowned upon
Buskers create a positive atmosphere
Begging can be unsightly and rude
Playing good music can compliment a place

Some people would compare busking to begging. Although some beggars can use musical instruments as a tool, there are very distinct differences.

A buskers love story.

I thought I would add an example of how busking can open up more than one opportunity for success. I was teaching a friend of mine at work how to play guitar and we would practice on our lunch hour. Gradually he found the courage to try busking so he could show off his new found skill. We decided to venture in to Dublin city one Saturday afternoon and try a few different spots and every spot we tried we would always run in to the same girl who was doing charity work around the town. She really liked our playing and would chat with us whenever we saw her. Well, to cut a long story short they hooked up and have been together for four years now. All because of that one day of busking it changed my friends life forever.


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    • profile image

      Sabine from Abu Dhabi 

      6 years ago

      well done Kevin!

      I like the hub and I love your music! Can't wait for the next time in 3 weeks! ;-)

    • Huntgoddess profile image


      6 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      CrisSp: That is very good to know, regarding the busker's fest in Toronto.

      Are there others of those around U.S.? I love the idea of it --- especially the cause part.

      Kevin Murphy: Thanks again for this very excellent Hub.

    • CrisSp profile image


      6 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Congratulations on HOTD! We do have busker's fest here in Toronto every year during the summer and I enjoyed going all the time. Very entertaining and great talents to see for free. The buskers are actually performing for a cause and every year, donations go out to various charitable institutions which is really awesome.

      Great hub!

    • kevin murphy-87 profile imageAUTHOR

      kevin murphy 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Wow thanks everyone for the amazing feedback. I have been away for a while and had no idea i got HOTD. I'm so happy and overwhelmed with the wonderful comments :)

    • doris and me profile image

      Mohammad Tanvir Ibne Amin 

      6 years ago from Dhaka

      Great hub pal. Unfortunately, in my country busking is not supposed to a good work. Generally considered as beggar job. But, I love to play guitar. especially with my friends. good work friend

    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 

      6 years ago from Washington State

      I can't wait to share with the local street musicians that they are Buskers! They will probably tell me they already know that. I do enjoy any and all types of music played for street audiences. Still a big deal around here.

      Congrats on HOTD.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You made me look at busking in a totally different way. My husband likes to listen to buskers and support them whoever city we are in. Last night, we listened to a woman singing Fado in the street of Lisbon. It was haunting. You deserve this HOTD.

    • Joel Diffendarfer profile image

      Joel Diffendarfer 

      6 years ago from Jonesville

      I am a lover of grass root music and open performances. This article is great. A great example of both content and organization. Great job!

    • Laura335 profile image

      Laura Smith 

      6 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      Really awesome article. I'm sending this to my music-loving sister.

    • Huntgoddess profile image


      6 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      My son has been busking for a few years. I will show him this article.

      It's very good.

      Congratulation on HOTD.

      Up, +++

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Interesting, I've never heard this term, even from friends that are musicians, only as "street musicians." Best I ever heard was on a late evening in SF, a horn player softly playing the blues. Good article!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      6 years ago from Norfolk

      Had to return to this hub to say congratulation on your HOTD - very well deserved. It is great to see live music being supported here.

    • aziasaaa profile image


      6 years ago from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

      I love buskers! especially when I sit somewhere and listen to them playing guitar (or other instruments) and singing.

      Keep on busking :).

    • Lionrhod profile image


      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Excellent article. Although I play an instrument or so, not well enough to busk.

      Instead, I do Tarot. While not totally applicable, this article has made me think.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Congratulations on your Hub of the Day award for a neat look at the brilliance of busking. :)

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      6 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Congrats on HOTD!

      This was a very interesting piece. I love music, and I really love to hear bagpipes. I was doing an errand in downtown San Francisco (California) one day, near Christmas, and there was a piper playing on a corner. Bagpipes were my mother's most favorite instrument, and she had recently passed away when I came upon this musician. Of course, I had to drop a donation, in memory of my mother, and out of my own appreciation for his talent with such a difficult instrument.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Congrats on HOTD! I never knew the name for these musicians, but I have seen them performing. My daughter recently returned from Portland, Oregon, and showed me many photos of Buskers playing guitar and singing.

      I love the photo of the two little ones playing their music; adorable!

      Voted UP, etc. and shared here and on my FB page.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      6 years ago from USA

      I have seen buskers on the street, but I never knew that is what they are called. I learned a lot of good information here. Excellent hub. Congratulations on receiving Hub of the Day.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      6 years ago from California

      The holidays area wonderful time to do this! We often carol during the holidays!

    • mySuccess8 profile image


      6 years ago

      People have performed and provided entertainment on the streets in some form or another all over the world. Busking makes a city attractive for tourists, while strengthening its arts and culture. You have provided some great tips to busking success, and given us more reasons why we should continue to support and encourage this lively street culture . Congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      6 years ago from North Central Florida

      Well now I know. I had no idea there was a name for a street musician. And I am often lured to stop and give a listen when I see a Busker.

      Good wishes to you

      Angels are on the way ps

    • Allison Loker profile image

      Allison Loker 

      6 years ago from Brooklyn

      I live in Brooklyn and see a lot of performers (and now I know to refer to them as buskers). Honestly, nothing puts a smile on my face after a long day like hearing buskers in the subway as I head home.

      Great hub and thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love Buskers...they just make life more fun and interesting! I have always admired their courage to get on up and perform in the street. Lovely story in this Hub and I think really gets across that Buskers do it because they love music and enjoy playing and that is what it should be about. Congratulations on HOTD!

    • kevin murphy-87 profile imageAUTHOR

      kevin murphy 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks eddy. :)

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      Very interesting ;well told and presented Kevin. I vote up and now look forward to so many more by you.


    • kevin murphy-87 profile imageAUTHOR

      kevin murphy 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks sallybea :)

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      6 years ago from Norfolk

      Great Hub with some excellent advice for the Busker. I love seeing Busker's on the street and love photographing them too. Street Photography is one of my pleasures and I am sure that playing music on the streets must give them the same feeling I get when I am out there enjoying being part of the action. Love talking to the different folk too.

    • kevin murphy-87 profile imageAUTHOR

      kevin murphy 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      I agree JTRyder. It's more of an intimate connection, so to speak.

    • JTRyder profile image

      John Thomas Niswonger 

      6 years ago from Dayton, Ohio

      I have a lot of friends who are musicians, sideshow performers, etc. it's great to see the interaction between the performers and the crowds. Sometimes it's more fulfilling then actual staged performances!

    • kevin murphy-87 profile imageAUTHOR

      kevin murphy 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Wow I didn't know that about the council paying buskers. It's really good because they bring happiness and liveliness to places.

    • RoadMonkey profile image


      6 years ago

      My son in law busks occasionally, usually on request for charity because it can get cold. He also does gigs. Belfast City Council sometimes pays buskers and actors to appear in the City to encourage people to come in. I always give the buskers something.

    • kevin murphy-87 profile imageAUTHOR

      kevin murphy 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Whoops I didn't realize that. Thank you!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting article. By the way, you have a typo in your title. "it's" should be "its" without the apostrophe, since you are using the possessive form of it rather than the contraction of "it is."

    • kevin murphy-87 profile imageAUTHOR

      kevin murphy 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      That's and amazing story Besarien. I once busked In Dublin to get the money for a bus journey back to Belfast (110 miles away) and it really worked to get me home. I always support buskers and agree it is supporting your local music scene. I even have my favorite buskers from different towns and would stop to chat with them when i can. Thanks for reading. :)

    • Besarien profile image


      6 years ago from South Florida

      Great hub! I love anyone willing to share their talents for free. To me supporting buskers = supporting my local music scene. I'll give some change to just about anybody who puts a hat or an open case down but have visited a cash machine when empty handed and someone was just that good.

      It is certainly a good skill to have in case the unexpected happens. A while back a local band was busking on the street corner next to their broken down van right outside my business. They were on their way to playing a club somewhere in another state but didn't even make it out of the city limits. They did ask if I minded before setting up, which of course I didn't. I made up my mind that if they hadn't made enough to get it fixed by the end of the day that I was going to help them out. While they were out there busking, a couple guys in the crowd with some time and mechanical skills took a look and got them on their way again. They tried to give them all the money they had collected but the guys wouldn't take it. This is why I love living here in Asheville- the sense of community.

      I imagine busking would help any musician hone performance skills and strengthen rapport with an audience. I have heard that occasionally people like Sting and Paul McCartney have engaged in it long after they didn't have to anymore. It is sort of like doing standup if you are a comedian, I guess. I think the pay is about the same when you just start out too! BTW your son and brother are gorgeous kids.

    • kevin murphy-87 profile imageAUTHOR

      kevin murphy 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks Stella. You should really give it a go! You'll be surprised at how awesome t is.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 

      6 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Hi, Have never done this but it sure sounds like fun. Very nice hub really enjoyed it. Stella

    • kevin murphy-87 profile imageAUTHOR

      kevin murphy 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Haha that would be funny to see indeed. As far as I know there is nowhere in Ireland where I would need a permit to busk but I know it's different elsewhere. I would give it a go anyway and use the excuse that I had no idea. Once upon a time I was actually going to busk my way around Europe, Looking back I really wish I went ahead with it.

    • allpurposeguru profile image

      David Guion 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      I have heard solo saxophone and flute in Chicago and solo all kinds of wind instruments in New Orleans. I heard buskers in the Chicago subway stations, although it's been long enough ago that I can't remember where I heard anything in particular.

      I was on a tour with a brass band, and one of the members decided to try his hand at busking on tuba. He neglected to get a permit. I would have loved to see him run away from his spot tuba in hand when he saw a policeman striding toward him.

      So always check for and comply with local statutes.

    • kevin murphy-87 profile imageAUTHOR

      kevin murphy 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks Jackie. :) I'll go busking this Christmas and maybe make a video and add it to the hub. Watch this space!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      6 years ago from the beautiful south

      Well I learned something new, thank you. Sounds like fun and I am sure I would love listening; can't think of a time I didn't enjoy someone playing and singing (even if I didn't know what it was).

      Up and shared.


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