If you want to make a little extra money and you have a talent, you can give busking a try. Busking is performing in streets, train stations, or subways for money. You put on your show and you leave a hat, jar, or some other container out for the public to drop money in if they find you entertaining. While you probably won’t make a fortune, you can make at least a little bit of money, if you’re talented. You can also busk your way around the world, using your earnings to fund your travels. Here are some ideas for talents well suited to busking:
- Musical instruments
- Sword or fire eating
- One man band
- Magic or psychic activities
- Portraits or caricatures
- Dance/contortion/gymnastic routines
Where you perform has a direct impact on your earning potential. Busy tourist areas are best, while sleepy little towns will yield very little. Perform during times when traffic is heavy, such as during the lunch or dinner rush. Get to know the area where you’ll be busking and find the best place and time for your art. Make certain that you conform to any applicable laws. Some areas don’t allow busking at all, and others do but only at certain times or on certain days. In some locations you must be licensed to busk. I have heard of people flaunting the laws and just making a run for it if the cops show up, but this isn’t a great strategy. You also want to adhere to any unwritten laws. Make sure that you don’t set up your act on someone else’s corner. There are unwritten rules about who gets which spot, so if you’re new to an area try to fit in. Don’t perform too close to other buskers, either. You don’t want your act to interfere with theirs and vice versa.
Other than your raw talent, you’ll need to be a bit of a showman to get the best tips. You want to get people’s attention without being pushy or coming across as a beggar. You’ll need to get the crowd involved and interacting with you. Crowds like acts that let them participate, so see if you can work some audience participation into the act. Also try to work in some local flair. If you know some local ballads or stories, for example, work them into your act. People like acts that seem tailored to their area. It’s okay to ask for money, but try to work it into the act somehow so it doesn’t come across as begging. If you want to increase your earnings even more, sell your CD or DVD, or create some other little souvenir of your act that you can sell.
You can also use busking as a stepping stone to bigger things. Legends abound of the singer or musician who was discovered on a street corner and went on to record an album. The most recent season of America’s Got Talent featured a singer who used to sing in the New York City subways. She made it to the semifinals and will probably land a decent recording contract when the show is over. Crystal Bowersox busked before she went on American Idol. If you want a career in a performance art but you are shy, busking can help you overcome your stage fright. Performing day in and day out for strangers can tame your nerves. Busking also gives you a place to try out new material. Who knows? You might be the next big thing. Even if you’re not, at least you’ll make a little extra pocket change.