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How to Become a Street Musician: Guide for Aspiring Performers

Becoming a street musician, also known as busking, is a great way to hone your performance skills, build your confidence, and make some money doing what you love.

Image by Filip Mishevski via Pexels - street musicians

Street music has a rich history and serves as a significant cultural element of urban life. With the right preparation and mindset, you can truly thrive as a street performer and make a strong connection with your audience.

To get started as a street musician, it’s essential to choose the right music, location, and attitude. Learning and memorizing a diverse set of songs will not only keep your performances fresh but also cater to various listener preferences. Furthermore, selecting a location with high foot traffic will ensure your music reaches a wider audience. Also, remember that engaging with passersby through a friendly and polite demeanor can greatly impact your success as a busker.

In this article, we will cover several tips and recommendations to help you make the transition to becoming a successful street musician. So, grab your instrument, prepare your repertoire, and get ready to turn the sidewalks into your personal stage.

Starting Your Street Musician Journey

Choosing Your Instrument

The first step in becoming a street musician is choosing the right instrument for your performances. Although any instrument can work, some are more suitable for street performing. The acoustic guitar is a popular choice, as well as a cappella singing, which requires minimal equipment. Other versatile options include the violin, saxophone, and keyboard. Consider availability, portability, and sound projection when making your decision.

Developing Your Talent and Skills

Once you’ve chosen your instrument, it’s time to devote yourself to practicing and refining your skills. Dedication and consistency are vital in developing your talent, as street performing demands attention and engagement from passersby. Consider setting aside specific times for practice, working with a music teacher, or using sheet music to learn new songs.

When practicing, focus on the following:

  • Technique: Ensure you have proper posture and hand positioning for your chosen instrument.
  • Repertoire: Learn several songs in various genres to appeal to a broader audience.
  • Dynamics: Incorporate changes in volume, tempo, and style to create an engaging performance.

Building Confidence and Technique

Finally, build confidence in your ability to perform and connect with an audience. Those starting as a street musician should consider:

  • Performing for friends and family: Gather feedback and gain experience in a more comfortable environment.
  • Recording your performances: Assess your strengths and weaknesses through self-evaluation to improve your skills.
  • Participating in open-mic nights or small local events: Gain real-world experience and learn how to cope with performance anxiety.

Remember to prioritize politeness and friendliness to establish a positive rapport with your audience. A street musician’s success often relies on charm, connection, and enjoyable musical experiences.

Selecting Your Repertoire

Exploring Different Genres

Becoming a successful street musician requires a versatile and well-rounded repertoire. To begin, explore various genres such as rock, pop, jazz, and classical. By familiarizing yourself with these styles, you can engage a diverse audience and broaden your musical skills. Dabble in each genre by:

  • Listening to different bands and artists to identify their unique styles
  • Studying famous composers to appreciate their contributions
  • Practicing various techniques and styles specific to each genre

Originals Vs Covers

As a street musician, you may choose to perform your own originals or cover popular songs. Both have their merits:


  • Showcase your creativity and individuality
  • Provide a unique listening experience for your audience
  • Establish your distinct musical identity


  • Attract attention with familiar songs
  • Engage a wider audience by playing popular hits
  • Showcase your skills in interpreting and adapting well-known music

It’s essential to strike a balance between originals and covers to ensure variety and maintain audience interest.

Choosing Popular Songs

Incorporating popular songs into your repertoire can attract an audience and increase your chances of receiving tips. To select popular songs that resonate with your audience, consider the following:

  • Determine the demographic and preferences of your target audience. Are they fond of top 40 hits, classic rock anthems or jazz standards?
  • Research current chart-toppers and timeless classics that have widespread appeal.
  • Assess the complexity of the songs and adapt them to suit your own skill set.

Remember, as a street musician, a diverse and engaging repertoire is crucial in capturing the attention of passersby and leaving a lasting impression. By exploring different genres, finding the right balance between originals and covers, and choosing popular songs, you can set yourself up for success on the streets.

Preparing for Street Performances

Finding the Right Location

The key to a successful street performance lies in finding a suitable location with a good amount of foot traffic. Look for busy areas such as town squares, parks, or popular shopping streets. Make a list of potential locations and take note of existing performers to get a sense of competition. Ideally, you should set up near a crosswalk, as this ensures people will be listening while waiting for the light to change. Keep in mind that the more visible and accessible you are, the more likely you are to attract an audience.

Securing Necessary Permits and Licenses

Before you begin street performing, ensure that you have the necessary permits and licenses. Different cities have different rules for busking, and you should be familiar with the local regulations. Check if you need a street performer permit and find out how to obtain one, whether it’s by applying online or in person at a municipal office. Keep the permit visible during your performance, as this demonstrates compliance with local regulations and helps avoid potential fines or penalties.

Adapting to Your Environment

As a street musician, you need to adapt to various environments and react to changes in your surroundings. Be ready to modify your setlist according to the context, the crowd, and the overall mood. Ensure that your music can be heard well, without causing disturbance or violating noise bylaws. Additionally, interact with passersby in a friendly and engaging manner to encourage support and appreciation for your art.

When it comes to weather conditions, be prepared to perform in various scenarios. This may involve investing in a portable shelter or protective gear such as a waterproof amp cover. Remember that safety comes first, so avoid performing in extreme weather conditions or locations that may pose a risk to you or your audience.

In conclusion, a successful street performance requires thorough planning and attention to key aspects like location, permits, and responsiveness to your environment. By following these guidelines, you can increase your chances of enjoying a fruitful and enjoyable street performing experience.

Mastering the Art of Busking

Engaging Your Audience

To become a successful street musician, it’s crucial that you captivate your audience with exceptional performances. Practice different playing techniques and styles to become more versatile in your art. Remember that an engaging show is the soul of busking! Develop a personal connection with your audience, maintain eye contact, and use positive body language. Incorporate elements of creativity and spontaneity to make your performances more appealing.

When picking your songs or pieces to perform, consider the demographics of the area you will be busking in. Keep your repertoire versatile, and adjust it based on your audience’s reactions. Maintaining enthusiasm throughout your performance will help you retain your audience’s attention and spark their interest in your art.

Promoting Yourself and Selling Merchandise

As a busker, self-promotion is essential for building your music career. Keep business cards or promotional flyers to hand out to people who enjoy your performance. Spread the word about your shows on social media and inform your followers of your busking schedule.

Selling merchandise is another opportunity to promote your brand and supplement your income. Offer items such as CDs, T-shirts, or even art prints related to your work, if relevant. Make sure to have an eye-catching, well-organized display to attract potential customers.

Handling Cash and Donations

Helping passers-by make cash and non-cash donations as smooth and safe as possible will boost your earnings. Keep a visible and secure container for cash donations, clearly labeled with a friendly message. For non-cash options, use a smartphone-compatible credit card reader or display your digital wallet details (e.g., PayPal, Venmo) prominently.

When handling cash, be mindful of local regulations, and ensure you have the necessary licenses or permits. Always be prepared to count and secure your earnings at the end of each performance day.

By mastering these aspects of busking, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful street musician. Remember that practice makes perfect, so keep honing your skills and learning from each busking experience.

Growing Your Music Career Beyond the Streets

Building a Fan Base

One of the first steps to take when going beyond the streets is to build a fan base. Engaging with people who enjoy your music is important for creating a community of supporters. Here are a few effective approaches:

  • Interact with fans on social media: Share updates, respond to comments, and like their posts. This can help create a relationship with your audience and keep them updated on your latest performances.
  • Create an email list: This is a more personal way to connect with your fans and inform them about upcoming shows, new releases, and other exciting news.
  • Participate in local music events: Perform at open mics, music festivals, or other community gatherings to reach a wider audience and create buzz around your music.

Recording Your Music and Releasing Albums

Another important aspect of growing your career is recording your music and releasing albums. This allows you to showcase your talent in a more polished format and helps fans enjoy your music whenever they want.

  • Find a suitable recording studio: Invest time in researching a suitable studio that understands your music and budget.
  • Develop your sound: Work with a producer or audio engineer to enhance your music with better arrangements, mixing, and mastering.
  • Release your music online: Use platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp to make your music accessible to your fans.
SpotifyWidely used and popularLower royalties
Apple MusicSlightly higher royaltiesMay require apple device to use
BandcampDirect interaction with fansLower visibility in comparison

Connecting with the Music Industry

As an independent musician, you’ll want to connect with the music industry professionals to boost your career. This includes promoters, record labels, managers, and more.

  • Network at music events: Attend industry conferences, panels, and workshops to introduce yourself and create meaningful connections.
  • Collaborate with bands and other musicians: Join forces with other musicians in your local scene to share fan bases, resources, and increase your presence on the scene.
  • Reach out to record labels and music businesses: Do your research on who might be the best fit for your music, and develop a professional pitch to send to potential partners.

Remember, patience and consistency are key when growing your music career beyond the streets. Keep practicing, connecting with your fans, and supporting other musicians, and success will follow.