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 too 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.
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.
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 managing 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 can earn busking whilst playing and singing along with an acoustic guitar around my home town 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 a session. 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.
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.
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.
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 will come home with a hand full of small change, other times you’ll think you are going to make nothing and will come home with a good case full of pound coins and notes.
Just because the general population of a particular town may be considered to be relatively wealthy, it does not mean they’ll be generous or will appreciate music. You’ll often find towns with poorer residents or student based communities are 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.
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