What is Busking

What is it?

Busking is a performance of art, provided to the public for free, with the possibility of receiving tips in return. It’s not, however, to be thought of as begging, a lot of busking performers put a huge amount of effort into their performances and they are generally in three different forms: shows, music acts or walk-bys. Walk-bys being performers such as human statues.

Where can I do it?

When it comes to busking there are numerous places across the UK, and especially London, for you to take to the streets and show your talents. Although legal to busk on public land, it is worth noting that there are still areas that require a permit, and all pitches operate slightly differently. Therefore, keep note of the Busking Code. Here are a few pointers from it…

  • Speak to local buskers to find out how it works in the area before you start
  • Check for a ‘busking queue’ before accidentally pitching up in someone else’s place
  • Do not pitch up too close to another music act, people do not want a sound clash walking down the same street
  • Your performance will affect the audience nearby, so keep this in mind when choosing what to do and where to go
  • If you grow an audience, great! Just make sure they aren’t blocking access to anything

Some areas are home to bylaws that do not allow busking whilst others will allow it but not the collection of money. There are however schemes in London that help buskers find safe spots around the city, for example, London Underground Busking Scheme, Covent Garden & Southbank Centre Busking. These do have entry requirements but worth taking a look at, they normally require licenses, permits or some form of audition.

Can I collect money for it?

Yes! (Unless somewhere like stated above) you can collect money, but only if it’s a donation towards your performance or to any EPs, Albums etc. If you’re found to be selling anything rather than asking for a donation you could be asked to show your trading licence, which if you don’t have can result in some trouble… Also note, if you’re wanting to collect for a charity you’ll need a permit for this to prove you are collecting for a charity and not for yourself.

What are the rules and regs I have to look out for?

There are quite a few rules and regulations for busking, which although may sound long and overcomplicated are pretty straight forward and are there to protect you and your audiences around you. Therefore, it’s worth making note to just ensure you’re not going to accidentally get yourself in a bit of bother. Ideally, you’d be able to just pitch up and start performing anywhere but if that was the case there would be a saturation of people performing and audiences blocking entrances and noise complaints from local businesses and then everyone would argue, and no one would come out anymore and it would just be a whole big mess... Get the idea? Yeah, me too now actually.

  • If you’re found to be behaving in an antisocial manner you’ll receive a verbal warning, after this, you could face a formal warning and if continued could result in a Community Protection Notice (Anti-social Behaviour Crime & Policing Act 2014). Basically, don’t be rude.
  • Amplification of acts after 9 pm could result in a penalty charge due to the Control of Pollution Act 1974. Therefore, keep track of time, especially in the summer when the nights are longer, and it can feel earlier than it is. If you are to receive complaints, you can face a Noise Abatement Notice under the Environmental Protection Act (1990). So, don’t be too loud and turn it off at 9 pm. Also note that repeating the same songs throughout a set can also cause complaints from those nearby, so don’t forget to move around too.
  • If your audience is found to block a path or access to something, this is deemed an obstruction and you can be charged under the highways act (1980) if you don’t move when requested. Summary: choose a big space for big audiences or move on to a bigger space if an audience grows, don’t block anything.

These are only three so as you may guess there are more, we suggest you have a look at sites such as TFL and Busk In London to see more.

Top Tips

Finally, some top tips to keep in mind for busking

  • Pack your water and go before… yes. To the loo.
  • Check the weather and be prepared
  • Ensure your equipment will not trip anyone up
  • Do not play 5 songs on repeat, even you will be sick of playing them
  • Do not cause offence or humiliation
  • Originals earn donations too, use the opportunity to share your own music or unique acts
  • Make a sign with your name and social media - someone is bound to snap it and share!
  • If asked to quieten down, don’t be offended, be respectful. It won’t be anything personal.
  • Take a friend, why not? Get them to take some pictures and videos, it’ll be good to see a familiar face there too (even if it is your biggest fan, thanks mum) and if you do need the loo then someone is there to watch your things.
  • Have fun! It's an opportunity to perform to potentially thousands of passers-by, so spread the fun with them too.