Ari's Yammerings - A Dozen Do's and Don'ts for Decent Busking

Hi.  Well, we've been in Salmon Arm for about 2 months now, and I'd have to say, it's been a welcome change from the hustle in Vancouver.  My "day job" was busking in the train stations in Van.  I called the train station my office.  I call coins shrapnel.  A good day for me would be a few handfuls of shrapnel, some paperwork and a few CDs sold.  That and then seeing kids dancing to the tunes.  Kids are the best part of busking for me.  But, towards the end of my time living in Van, I was startin' to get a more and more pissy at people.  Some days would be good, and others I'd get pretty grumpy for seemingly no real reason except that I was probably just burning myself out.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy busking, but doing it every day for so long was starting to grate on me.  That said, I guess I have a few tips for people for successful busking.  These are obviously not guarantees, but just things that seemed to work for me.  A quick note before I start:  I don't know how popular songs do when busking, I never really learned any super well known songs.  So that might be something you might want to do, if you want to make more money.  I always thought of busking as paid practice, so I wanted to practice songs that I want to play- originals, old blues, rags, etc.  Ok so here we go:

A Dozen Do's and Don'ts for Decent Busking:
  1. Don't even go busking when your angry or pissy.  It comes across in the songs, or in your face maybe, and usually it means you don't make as much. 
  2. Don't go out thinking that "I need to make a lot of money."  I find that if that's the case, you will easily get disappointed.  Go out to have a good time, if you're having a good time, people notice, and then you tend to make more money anyways.
  3. Do have at least an hour and a half set of songs.  Don't play the same song all the time.  Unless, you want to get better at a certain song.  Then maybe play that one every fifth song or so.  Until you get good at it, then rotate it in normally.
  4. Before you go out, do have your songs at the very least so you can play them all the way through without stopping.  If you're going out everyday like I was, I would do just that, and then hone the songs as I go.  So each day the songs would get better and better.
  5. Do learn/write new songs.  This is a big one actually.  You can easily get trapped playing the same old songs cause you've gotten so good at them.  So even though you may not do well monetarily with the new songs, just keep playing them until you get good.  
  6. Do change your old songs.  Maybe just a key change would freshen up a song so it's more exciting for you.  I feel if you are more excited about the song, then you end up doing better with donations.
  7. Sometimes you don't make any money for a long period of time.  Don't get discouraged, just keep doing what you do.  I once had 30-40 minutes go by with nothing, and then a nice old lady gave a $100 bill.
  8. Do train a rat to play a mini squeezebox with you.
    • Meet Ronald McGillicuddy:
    •  
  9. Do have a sign that has your CD price clear on it.  (if you have CDs.  you should have CDs)  Make it a decent looking sign.  Print one off and maybe get it laminated.  Depending on your style, like if you're a crust-punk, you can do a corrugated sign too, but try to make a design that looks nice.  Look at the Crow Quill Night Owl's stuff, pretty cool.  Plus, if you don't know them, check them out anyways.  They are awesome.
  10. Don't be too loud.  I used a battery amp most times so I have more dynamic range.  You might want to do that, except that means you have to carry more.  I used to probably carry about 50 lobes in each day.  But anyways, don't be too loud! 
  11. Do try to have a style.  I wore my grey coat and grey hat all the time.  Made me look bluesy I guess.  Fit your style of music.
  12. Be respectful and friendly to other buskers.  It's a community.  Don't set up too close to another.  A bit of a habit of mine was to keep a loonie in my pocket just in case I see another busker before I start my shift in the office.  Gives you some good luck.
OK, that's probably good enough for now.  Hopefully this helps somebody.  Good luck in the weird and scary new world out there.

Yours Cordially,
Ari Lantela

12 comments

  • Kyle

    Kyle L'ecole de Vanquoivier

    what about setting up in whisltler proper and makin the big $$ til u get the boot??

    what about setting up in whisltler proper and makin the big $$ til u get the boot??

  • Ari

    Ari Fish Appendage

    Hey Kyle. Sometimes you gotta break the rules mate. But I don't officially condone busking without a permit where you need a permit. Wink, wink, nose tap.

    Hey Kyle. Sometimes you gotta break the rules mate. But I don't officially condone busking without a permit where you need a permit. Wink, wink, nose tap.

  • Ted

    Ted The Road

    Anytime, anywhere one plays for anybody it is an honour. I like what I think you are saying Ari - be proud of your craft!

    Anytime, anywhere one plays for anybody it is an honour. I like what I think you are saying Ari - be proud of your craft!

  • Ari

    Ari Fish Appendage

    Indeed Ted, be proud of your craft, and put a lot of work into it!

    Indeed Ted, be proud of your craft, and put a lot of work into it!

  • Sharky Modak

    Sharky Modak Langley soon to live in Sicamous

    Although I have only bused once I thank you for the helpful tips....... I will try your techniques next time I play....... Cheers

    Although I have only bused once I thank you for the helpful tips....... I will try your techniques next time I play....... Cheers

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