Busking Etiquette

I have been busking a long time, and have grown to hate certain things about it!  I’ve compiled a list of things buskers/ people passing by should or should not do!  

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I spend a lot of time/money getting somewhere to busk, and someone is already in that spot! It’s not their fault, but it’s frustrating. But they got there first, and they can stay as long as they want…..

1. If someone is busking, let them busk.

When I show up to a spot where someone else is busking, I tend to walk up and (when they finish their song) ask them how late they plan on busking there- sometimes they’re about to leave, sometimes they just got there. If they’re not going to be too much longer, sometimes you can just hang out until they’re finished- but don’t hang around them chatting or they won’t make anything and will leave feeling frustrated, or just won’t leave. And make sure you tip them! You are expecting to make money, and so are they!

If you are shopping at a store someone is busking at, let them busk… stopping to say hi, give a tip, and mention that you love music or something is one thing, but telling them every detail of a concert you went to 30 years ago is just unreasonable and time consuming and even if I’m not in a hurry that would be annoying.

2. Pay it forward!

Whenever I see another busker, if I have change, I like to tip. This goes for any buskers (musicians, jugglers, statues, etc.) as well as waiters/waitresses, massage therapists, etc.

3. If someone talks to you while you’re busking, don’t be rude.

It can be sooooooooooooooo annoying having someone talk to you constantly while you’re trying to busk. Especially when you’re completely broke or have limited time. Understand though, that this person is just being friendly, and they may not realize that you are working, and can’t just stand around and chat.

At times, I just want to ask people to leave me alone, because I will literally have no money and no dog food and only an hour before the store closes (or whatever the case may be), and someone is talking to me about their second cousin twice removed (or is it their third cousin once removed??) who also plays guitar (or maybe it was a banjo?). The details don’t matter, but for some reason they will spend thirteen minutes trying to remember what day of the week it was when their friend played an instrument for them.

4. Don’t stop someone in the middle of a song to ask them to play another song. Actually, don’t stop them in the middle of a song for any reason.

Unless they are on fire, or in immediate danger, let them finish their song. If you want to talk to them, wait until they finish playing. Interrupting someone mid song is so rude and unnecessary. Unless they’re playing something like The Decline by NOFX (which I would love to see someone busk), you won’t have long to wait, so just be patient.

5. If someone is set up busking, don’t just set up beside them.

Or around the corner from them, or at the store beside them. Don’t be an asshole. If someone is busking somewhere, let them have their spot. If you’ve come a long way to busk there, talk to them (in between songs). Ask how long they will be there, and if they mind if you busk across the parking lot at another shop (I can almost guarantee that they won’t mind, and if they do it’s because they don’t make a lot there so be reasonable).

At one spot I busk at, there is often a homeless man panhandling there. Every time I see him, I ask if he minds if I busk while he panhandles there, and he has always let me. If he shows up while I’m busking he also asks if he can set up and I always let him. Even though both of us could guarantee that the other will agree to let us use the spot, neither has ever set up without asking and I think that’s really important. You should always remember to check in with whoever got there first so that you’re not stepping on anyone’s toes.

6. Play Fair & share!

If someone shows up while you’re busking, and politely asks if you’ll be there much longer, don’t just stay till close because you got there first. If you’ve already cleared $100, and the store is only open for 30 more minutes, why not leave 30 minutes early and give this person the spot? Maybe they’ll get there first next time and share the spot with you!

7. Don’t smoke outside the store!

This is a HUGE problem! Stores ban buskers altogether because some people will smoke right outside the door, and not just cigarettes! People will even smoke pot right outside the door and customers will complain, and bam – NO BUSKING. After things like this happen, store owners/managers tend to get a little aggressive and will threaten to call the police just because you showed up to play guitar or juggle or whatever.

8. Don’t drink before or while busking!!

If people smell alcohol on your breath or see you drinking outside the store, they might laugh, take a shot with you, tell the manager, or call the cops. It’s not worth it and doing this is jeopardizing this spot for all buskers. Don’t be selfish.

9. Don’t let crappy customers get to you

When a customer is rude to you (and it will happen) don’t let it get to you. Freaking out/yelling at them/ telling them off/ reacting to them in any negative sort of way will only hurt you and the other buskers who use that spot. Just know that they will die alone and carry on with your day.

10. Don’t be an @$$#0L3!

Be kind to other buskers and to shoppers! Even the rude ones! A positive attitude goes a long way!

liv gains ontario musician

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