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Busking Earnings

How Much Money Can You Make Busking ?

The amount of money you can make when you are out busking greatly depends on many things, such as what instrument you play, what town or city you’re in, where you pitch, what songs you play, how long you play for, what time of year it is and most importantly, what mood the people are in. To some extent, your age can also play a big part.

You will often find while you are playing, people will approach and chat to you, especially if you are in your own home town. If this happens a lot throughout the day you can easily find that you have only actually played for a fraction of the time you’ve been stood there. You can’t really ignore people or tell them to bugger off while you’re playing but if you do spend to much time chatting this can seriously affect your earnings. People will only throw you a coin or two if they think you are putting in a good effort and have heard a couple of songs they like, so the less songs you play, the less you are going to earn.

Seasonal Earnings

Tourism is a great thing for many towns and cities and you will probably find you earn more in the Summer months when people are on holiday and the kids are off school than you do at other times of the year. If the sun is out and everyone is in a good mood, you are more likely to get people throwing coins at you than keeping their hands in their pockets.

Rainy or cold winter days do not do much for the public’s mood or generosity. There are generally less people about and you will probably find you earn less when the weather is not so good.

Busking In The Rain

Bad weather doesn’t help your earning potential

Weekends are probably the best time to busk as most people are off work, college or school and take a trip down town to do their shopping and hang around. You will normally make an extra £10 to £20 busking on a weekend as opposed to your average weekday if you are lucky.

Christmas can go both ways. I remember one Christmas Eve, I thought I would go into town for an hour or so to play. There were so many people in town having a great time that I earned over £40 in one hour without even getting to finish a song. I kept getting interrupted by people chucking cash at me and wishing me a Merry Christmas. The next year I tried busking a few days before Christmas and only made about £8 in two and a half hours. Everyone must have been saving their cash for prezzies.

In general I would say for two to three hours work, the amount someone like me who plays and sings acoustic around his small home town can earn busking probably ranges from £5 – £10 on a really bad day to £30 – £40 on a good day. Most of the time it is probably more like £10 – £25. Once you take expenses out of that it isn’t much. I have over 90 songs to choose from and they range from all time classic songs to modern day hits. I never repeat myself unless specifically asked.

In the past I have met one or two other buskers who perform in a similar fashion and reckon they regularly make £40 – £60 an hour busking with a guitar in the same streets as I do. After years of busking on and off around the area and in many other places, I can’t help but find that hard to believe and take it with a pinch of salt as I’ve never managed to achieve anything near those sort of figures on a regular basis. Maybe every now and then you might have a lucky day, but never that amount on an hourly basis.

Then again, if you stand there and play The Beatles or Elvis all day, you will probably get much more response from the older generation which make up the greater population of town, and so earn more money. I myself couldn’t do this as I prefer a wide range of tunes and styles.

If you live in a big city and get a decent pitch like on the London Underground for instance, then I’m sure earning those amounts can be achieved quite easily.

Calvin Prior Busking

This lad is Calvin Prior. He’s was 13 when this picture was taken last year. He regularly earns up to £70 an hour busking on Brighton pier. He’s a total genius on the guitar and plays for 6 hours a day. His guitar is worth £2000 and he bought it purely with his earnings from busking. What more can you say.

You will also generally find that the younger you are, or the cuter you look, the more money you will make. A middle aged beer bellied guitarist howling away in the street hasn’t really got the ‘Ahhh’ factor and is not going to make anywhere near the amount a sweet kid singing in the street is.

Divide

The money you earn can also depend on what instrument you play. I have seen many violinists in the street who seem to do extremely well and duo’s and three pieces tend to bring in a fair amount of cash as well.

Trio Busking

Expenses

You often have to travel to different towns and cities to busk as you don’t want to out stay your welcome in any one particular place. People will only throw you cash every once in a while and if they gave you some last week, you may not get any this week. As people are creatures of habit you will often see the same locals in town each time you busk. This can be quite beneficial as they get to know you and appreciate your music but you may find that if you stay in one place too long your earnings start to dwindle and you’ll need to go somewhere else to get a fresh audience.

Traveling costs money, as does everything else. You’ll need to park the car or van in car parks for long periods of time, feed yourself, pay for strings and maintenance, phone calls, batteries and many other things. This all adds up and comes out of your days earnings.

How you busk tends to limit how long you can play. If you are a singer and guitarist it is not wise to sing for more than three hours a day, especially when you are out busking as you often have to sing loudly to be heard over the hustle and bustle of the street.

A couple of years ago I was having a really good day, and after playing and singing solidly for three hours, I thought I would go somewhere else and do it again to get a bit more cash in. I sang for another two hours until my vocal chords started feeling quite strained. By the time I got home I realised the damage I had done and had completely wrecked my voice. I couldn’t sing for a week or so after that and learned my lesson. It’s just not worth straining yourself and over doing it for a few extra quid.

Some towns are great for busking and some are terrible. If you are unlucky, you might find you struggle to make even a fiver in your three hours. It can often cost you more than that in petrol or fares just to get there, never mind parking and everything else. Bear that in mind when you choose your destination.

You can never really tell how things are going to go. Sometimes you’ll expect to do well and come home with a hand full of change, other times you’ll think you are going to make nothing and come home with a good case full.

Just because a town’s people may be considered wealthy, it does not mean they are generous or appreciate music. You often find towns with poorer residents or student based communities are much more appreciative of your music and can be much more generous in giving.

If you get it right, you’ll do o.k and there’s nothing better than coming home with a reasonable amount of cash and a load of compliments to make your day.

The only way you can really tell, is to get out there and play.

Other Posts of Interest

What Equipment Do I Need ?
Street Musician Busking Pot
Busking
Busking Permits and Permissions
Famous People Busking
World Record Busking Attempt

Posted 13.01.09

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66 comments to Busking : Earnings and Expenses

  • Dave

    This article is bonkers, I’m 9 years old and I play the bouzouki in London and I make between 1,200$-1,500 every couple hours

  • paul

    yeh right..so youre not making pounds eh..either a adult fantasising..or if youre nine..well done mate!!!i am being sincere,not sarcastic!

  • Loopen Cash

    I live in Shania Twain’s home town of Timmins ON. Canada.
    I would like to busk next summer and get outa this Lodi town,
    (get outa Dodge)ha ha. (In my pick-up truck)

    I’m looking for a busking amp and a mic to sing and plug my d-28 Martin flat-top
    Also would like to play my Original C’D's through the amp
    when I’m out of breath for a break.

    Any ideas would be appreciated,
    I personally wish I had an slap up-right bass player with me also.However?.

  • JON

    WHERE DO YOU GET PERMITS FOR THE SOUTHBANK ECT CAN’T FIND ANY INFO….CHEERS

  • Katie

    I went bisking violin with a friend, we are both 14 and we made £40 in two and a half hours, this article reassured me that that is an ok amount to make and not totally rubbish
    Thanks!

  • Ian

    Hi
    Ib play acoustic guitar(lowden 010 and use an AER small 60 watt acoustic amp,with an Alesis microverb
    reverb through the effects loop,I play Tommy Emanuel instrumentals,have only busked once,late at night with a vocalist,made £26 in an hour,what I would like to do is have my equipment hooked to a small genarator,would appriciate any feedback on pros and cons of this setup.
    thanks Ian

  • Hi Ian, sounds like a great idea if you can get a nice quite generator. They are very expensive though so you might like to try out some of the battery powered amps which often have built in effects which are very good nowadays. Roland have a cube series and there are various others on the market, so do a bit of research and I’m sure you’ll find something suitable for your needs.

    For time and legal reasons I don’t answer questions on calculations or individual set up’s, but if you need to know anything about creating your own power set up or need advice on calculations, make sure you fully read through my battery guide and posts on inverters, battery calculations and battery connections which will give you a further insight.

    Good luck. :-)

  • I am a balloon artist and my main costs are the balloons and traveling.

  • Hey! Me and friend wish to busk during the summer in the west of ireland (galway) (: We are beginning to practice now and I was just wondering how many songs do you need to learn? And what songs do the public prefer? Up-tempo or slow picking style music? I hope to make some money and have some fun :D Good luck with the busking! Hope you reply.

  • Hi James, I reckon you need about ten songs to get you going and from there you can add more as you get the feel of how your set sounds in public and how you would like it to sound.

    I always feel the upbeat tunes tend to create a better feel and probably pay more in the long run as opposed to the more solemn tunes, but then again you always need a bit of moodiness in there to compliment the happier songs and give your set a good balance.

    There is no real formula on the best songs to play and you’ll find different towns appreciate different types of music, so I would say play what you love and in time go for more challenging songs that push your guitar and vocal skills. That way, even if you make very little money, you’ll still be improving your abilities every time you play and be well on your way to becoming an excellent performer.

    Good luck. :-)

  • lee

    would you consider just playing fingerpicking guitar tunes and or maybe flatpicking,i dont like to sing and was wondering what your opinion would be on pure acoustic guitar for street appeal,cheers

  • Hi Lee,
    There’s plenty of buskers out there who finger pick tunes all day very successfully but I think it depends how you go about it. There are a few regular buskers in our local area who play in a classical style & sit there for hours playing favourites from the old masters and finger picking their way through more modern songs giving them a classical edge and it works very well. If you’ve got a good sound and can fill the street with with your music creating a good ambiance then you could do well. However, in the past when I’ve been out with an injured voice or throat problem and decided to just finger pick my way through my usual songs, I’ve found my revenue drops considerably. With the right set up and a song list designed for purpose, I’m sure that could be easily corrected.

  • jill

    what random idiot agreed to use a permit..this is our land and our train stations..we payed for them out of our taxs..now we have to get a permit to play in our own train station? dont agree to this you fools

  • Great post and great comments. Thanks guys! I might have a go. The only worry is that I hear busking is actually illegal in Spain. I will have to look into how that works out in practice. Wish me luck!

  • I’m twelve and me and two friends were hoping to busk in Plymouth, Devon. We will be singing our own songs with a couple of classic songs. We have no equipment except a guitar but it is free to busk here and we get free traveling from a local bus company. We would be busking from eleven until three on Saturdays and sometimes two until three on sundays. Good idea or not?

  • Hi Daniella, apologies for the late reply. Sounds like a fantastic idea and I’m sure you’ll do well, but please be careful and be sure take an adult with you just in case of any problems. I understand you and your friends will be quite independent at 12 years old, but you must remember you are dealing with the general public and you will be making an exhibition of yourselves which most people will love and appreciate, but there are plenty of less pleasant people around of all ages and I would certainly advise you to take a capable adult with you to ensure the days pass without any problems and your experiences are as happy as they should be.

    Don’t be put off by my warning, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. Read my post about getting hassled in the street when your busking which will give you an idea of how things can go sometimes. Good luck and be safe.

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