File Under: Booking and Performing Live

Last week, we posted the first five tips for playing on the street, which include getting a license, creating a good space, and of course, having a well-seeded "tip jar". This week, we're going to take things to the next level by sharing clever ways to boost your income and grow your fan base each time you busk.

Use these ideas to boost your income and get more out of each time you play in the street:

6. Use the Ten Foot/Five Foot Rule.

The Ten Foot/Five Foot rule is a customer service concept that applies to retail employees and how they interact with customers. You know this rule whether you realize it or not, and it's good to use when you're busking or running your merch table at a show. Think of two circles that surround where you're performing on the street. Whenever anyone steps within ten feet of you as you're performing, you should physically acknowledge their presence with a nod or smile. This draws them into your orbit. After all, you want them engaged, listening, and checking out the info you have on your signs or posters. If any person comes within five feet of you as you're performing, you should engage with them. If you're in the middle of a song, you can do this by adjusting your position to face them so you make eye contact and play for them for a bit. If you're in between songs or running your merch table, you should speak and interact with them. They've entered your space and they've given you permission to engage in conversation. You should view any tips into your tip jar or donation box as if they're within five feet by thanking them (if you can). This encourages others to tip as well.

7. Accept donations electronically via app or link.

Even though street performances have been going on for thousands of years, given today's technology, you can bring this old tradition into the future: there's no reason for passersby to dig into their pockets for paper money if they have a smartphone. Services like or Square Cash allow to you share a link and let others pay you. Mobile apps like TipCow or also make it easy for fans to tip you if they have the app installed. Whatever payment method or methods you use, getting tips requires others using the method, so you should add the links on how they can pay or a statement to download the app to your signs or posters. Also, if you have a patronage site, such as Patreon, you should also promote that (create a QR code so it's easy for them to visit the site through their phone).

8. Sell physical products, albums, and merchandise.

Your street performance shouldn't stop at collecting donations. If you and your music resonates with passersby, make sure you have some products you can sell them. CDs still work for now, but there's also USB drives, which are small. Some mobile apps, like, also act as digital distributors, allowing you, for a small percentage, sell people your music when they donate to you. You can also sell t-shirts, although having an inventory on hand can be a little bulky, as well as stickers and buttons, which are small and light. And it doesn't hurt to have some one-of-a-kind items as well.

9. Create short "sets" and ask for donations and sell merch in between.

As a street performer, you're hustling. You'll want to maximize the money you make while you have the attention of passersby. So, you should keep sets short. Play just two or three songs and then address the crowd and politely ask for tips and remind them you have music and merch for sale. You'd be surprised how explicitly asking for donations increases the odds some in the crowd will donate. It's also during the breaks between songs where you can highlight the apps or payment links you're using in case they don't have cash on hand. You can also talk about any upcoming shows, your mailing list, your website, and social presences.

10. Video stream your performance to your online fans.

As we discussed in detail in our DIY Advisor article, The Secret To Building A Following On The Internet, a smartphone, a good phone data plan, and video streaming app like YouTube, Periscope, or Snapchat can turn your local street performance global. Simply lean your smartphone against something so your camera captures your performance and instantly your internet fans can enjoy your street performance too. In fact, because you'll often be playing for long stretches of time, it's your online fans who may engage more with you than even the people on the street, since your street passerby often need to move on. This is a great way to build a following on the internet.

Of course, make sure your video streaming service also highlights your donation methods as well, since you can make money from those online fans in addition to those on the street. Also, add the link to your video streaming site to your signs or posters. This gives your street audience an opportunity to login and keep watching and listening to you even if they have to grab the next train. It's yet another way to help turn a listener into a fan.

11. Use a Busking app.

While we've talked about throughout this article, but apps like Busk combine a variety of features tailored to the street performer. Beyond helping with tips and selling your music digitally, they include other features such as social networking, notifications (to alert your Busk followers that you're playing and where to find you), and more.

As you can see, there's quite a lot that can go into street performances. If you follow some of the tips within these two articles, you not only can maximize the income you pull in, but also grow your following. And your parents told you not to play in the streets!


#playinglive #busking #merch

Photo credit: baris karadeniz