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Thread: A Different Busking Question

  1. #1

    Default A Different Busking Question

    I didn't want this to get mixed up in the other busking question so posted it separately. For those of you who do busk, what is the typical tip from an individual? Do most people who do take the time to stop and listen to a tune or two tip?

  2. #2
    Registered User tjmangum's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    I've never busked, but if I did my tip jar would read "Pay Me to Stop!"
    Seriously, I love to support street musicians. If I listen for a bit and they are either good or putting on a good effort, I will toss in a few bucks. If they really strike me and are playing music I enjoy, I might toss in $5.
    However, in the last few years I don't carry a lot of small change around. Just a couple of 20's maybe. Most small purchases I pay with a card. I wonder if others are like this and if that would impact street musicians?
    " Give me some words I can dance to and a melody that rhymes" - Steve Goodman

  3. #3

    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    Mostly singles. Some fives. Maybe one or two tens. And once in a while a twenty or two.
    We average somewhere around $100 for two hours of playing. We once got a plastic bubblegum machine ring.

    It all goes to the seed money fund for

    http://otteropry.org

    which is affiliated with the California Bluegrass Association and brings bluegrass/oldtime shows to Monterey, CA.

    Next show:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Roger

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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    Mostly singles. Some fives. Maybe one or two tens. And once in a while a twenty or two.
    Same here. But in the spirit of true musicians...we go blow the money on beer. Makes for a fun evening all around.

    Kirk
    Lost Creek Bluegrass Band

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    I have made enough in an afternoon to maybe get dinner at a diner, or some drinks, or at least a coffee or two. That's about it. Rarely enough to pay the actual expenses of the activity.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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    Registered User Monkshood's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    I carry so much less in bills and coins, compared to ten years ago. Everybody except my barber takes cards. That must have an impact on buskers.

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    small instrument, big fun Dan in NH's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    I was hoping that by the time spring rolled around, and after starting lessons in January, I could manage a 10 song set for busking. Put the proceeds toward more & better mandolins.

  10. #8

    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Monkshood View Post
    I carry so much less in bills and coins, compared to ten years ago. Everybody except my barber takes cards. That must have an impact on buskers.
    We also take Venmo. There's a QR code on our sign.
    Roger

    1920 Martin Style A
    Don MacRostie designed Stuart MacDonald A-style kit I built myself.
    2022 Kentucky KM-1000B
    Plus guitars - lots of guitars
    And two banjos

  11. #9

    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    I would say it would depend largely on your location. Also, on your ability to "entertain" which is different than having talent. "Working" a crowd, so to speak.

    A busy tourist area might help. There is a cute teenager on youtube named Allie Sherlock who plays in Dublin and draws a huge crowd. Decent voice and sings current and oldie hits that the crowd would recognize. I have no idea how much she makes. In addition, she videos everything an puts it on youtube, which is where I heard of her.

    Another example, I saw an angry, filthy punk singer with an acoustic guitar playing outside a hamburger joint in a small town. He had talent, but his presentation was so disarming that people ignored him = no tips.

    I've told the story before of the Juilliard-trained string quartet I saw perform outside regularly at Rockefeller Center in the late 70's. I felt sorry for them, with such talent, they still had to play "on the street." That fall the local tv station did a piece on them explaining their background, also explaining part of their motivation for busking was they made $400 EACH per day! I staggering amount even today, IMHO.

    I would say most of the country would "pay" much less. In fact, in many areas busking is looked upon as panhandling and you would be ignored, at best.

    If you are a songwriter, it could be disappointing IMHO, if you plan to do all original material with no known "crowd pleasers" to ring in the crowd. Once in a while, you are bound to meet some likeminded person who enjoys what you are doing. In other words, have fun with it, but I wouldn't count on it as income.
    Last edited by Jeff Mando; Oct-29-2022 at 1:26pm.

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    Similar to what others have mentioned, I got mainly ones, sometimes fives, occasionally tens and twenties. Sometimes got change too, quarters usually, which was handy for doing the laundry. At a farmer's market a small boy put a peach in the case, and a stall holder put a bag of blueberries in it!
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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    I play solo mandolin, sometimes strolling, at Farmers Markets. The customers mostly give ones, an occasional five, but the best part is the Farmers all donate produce at the end of the gig. That’s the pay for the gig and it works for me.

  14. #12

    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    Definitely most people who stop to listen do not tip.

    Some things Iíve noticed:

    - the more money you have in the case already, the more likely people are to tip. Itís like they are more likely to notice it maybe?
    - people often tip when they see someone else do it
    - living in Canada, where $1 and $2 are coins means a tip is usually composed of a few of these coins or a $5 bill.
    - we have a sign with a QR code for busk.co but it is very rarely used. On average once every two sessions,
    maybe less

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    Humour helps a lot.
    I saw one guy with a whole load of money, bills in his guitar case and it was a windy day so I wondered why he wasn’t concerned that it would all fly away. Then I realised that the notes were all glued to the inside of the lid! Some of it was monopoly game money but there were quite a few dollar bills too.

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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Monkshood View Post
    I carry so much less in bills and coins, compared to ten years ago. Everybody except my barber takes cards. That must have an impact on buskers.
    Many folks, mostly younger, don't carry any cash. They use the phone for everything

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  19. #15
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    I always tossed a dollar of my own into the case to get things started - if I didn't do that I noticed that I'd get less passersby putting money in. It's like if they see an empty case they think, "oh no one has given that busker any money, they must be a terrible player!" but they see a dollar already in there and follow suit themselves. Similarly if I didn't have any paper money and only had pocket change to toss in the case then I tended to get mainly change tossed in by passersby!

    At the farmer's markets I always seemed to attract wee kids - the photo of my dog might have acted like a magnet. Parents would always toss money in the case.
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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    Another one I saw was a poster with large text at the top. It was an interesting, quirky and ambiguous story about the man's dog.
    (Written by the dog)
    As you read further down, the text went from HUGE to smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller

    In order to read the latest part of the story you had to get really close
    Last edited by Simon DS; Oct-30-2022 at 6:37am.

  21. #17
    Registered User BoxCarJoe's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    During the Pandemic I stopped asking for money (that was an odd time in NYC).
    The interactions became very satisfying.
    I still politely refuse any money. It simplifies things.

  22. #18
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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    It tends to be singles or change, with some fives. Occasionally, a bigger bill. One time, I got a bunch of $6 tips: parent and child would walk up, the kid would drop in a one, and then the parent would put in a five. Several people did that. Played the same event a year later and nobody did. Once, somebody put two 1943 steel pennies in my basket. I used to be a bit of coin collector, so I was thrilled, but I bet it was a kid who got them from an adult's collection. And once, a glass of a delicious hard cider from a winery's booth.

  23. #19

    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    Not the same as busking, but my niece as a teenager worked the snack shack at the local golf course. I asked her how much she made in tips. She said she didn't think she should have one since they paid her for her time. I said you gotta be kidding! I told her to get a tip jar and prime it with ones, fives, and some change. Every day she made a little extra for just the mere suggestion.

    Recently, I saw a nice note on the tip jar at a local ice cream shop that read: "Tips are never expected, but ALWAYS appreciated!"

  24. #20
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    I like to "prime the pump" with some gold colored dollar coins. They are pretty and catch eyes.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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  25. #21

    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    Before the pandemic, there was a guy outside our local Kroger store busking with a banjo. He could really sing. I didn't have any change, but use the cashback thing at the register. He was gone when I went back out with the intention of throwing in $5.

  26. #22
    small instrument, big fun Dan in NH's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    I would be hesitant to busk outside a grocery store or at a plaza or mall. Private property and all.

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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    Where I live, Charlottesville VA, USA, with Jeffersonís Monticello close by, we sometimes get $2 bills as there are a lot in circulation here, with both Jefferson and Monticello being on the bill. (Monticello, the historical mansion, gives out $2 bills in change frequently) We mostly get $1 bills, often $5s, and the occasional $10,$20 or $50. Somebody once gave us a $100. Once.

    Itís interesting to note that though we often get coins, we might not get any at all in any given busking session, whereas in places where coins can have larger value (UK pounds, European Euros) you might hardly get any bills. I have quite a collection of foreign coins which have been tossed into the bucket over the years.

    Pete

  28. #24

    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    I've been seeing buskers with Venmo or Cashapp links and QR codes more often lately - seems like a good work around for the "nobody carries cash any more" problem.

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  30. #25
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Different Busking Question

    Tips always vary depending on the location, day, and etc - I've gotten everything from dimes to hundred dollar bills busking. Location is a big part of it - nicer areas may have more money, but less people stop. Artsy areas more people stop, but may give less (either due to the amount of other people doing it or otherwise). The time of year and what you're playing has a big impact too (holiday songs during the holidays generally make for good tips).

    Hard to say the average tip per person, but I'd say the average denomination is about $5 or less with the most common being $1 bills. Depending on the traffic, you could make over $100 in a day busking without too many individuals tipping (20 people tipping $5 isn't that hard if you're out for a long enough time). But, the more of an entertaining act you have, the better chances you have of getting people to stop and throw money.

    If you just play songs and sing, keep your head down, and don't engage - you likely won't get many people stopping (even if you're amazing, see Joshua Bells example). If you engage with the crowd, smile, and entertain people - the more likely people stop to listen and be entertained regardless of your skill level. Bigger the crowd, the more of a crowd that usually joins to see what the fuss is about. There was a dude that used to busk in San Diego with a didgeridoo. I'm no didgeridoo effiecando, but he didn't sound like he was super skilled to me (not that he was bad, he just wasn't the "Thile of the didgeridoo" ya know) - but he engaged the crowd really well (would get their names and "sing them" through the instrument etc) and used effects you wouldn't expect with the instrument. His case was always filled high and he always drew a crowd.

    As of people stopping for a song or two - I think often you're lucky if they stop for a full song even if they tip. If you're doing it for money and just want to do the bare minimum, you only really need five 3 to 4 minute songs to be able to busk on a busy corner. The more you know the better (for your own sanity mainly) - but really 5 would be enough (think about the Muzak tapes at department stores - anyone that's worked in retail knows those tapes inside and out haha).
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