Tips on Busking?

Levi Hunter

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So, I've busked before, mostly in places where its extremely legal (Asheville) or in my hometown, very rarely out. But I'm doing this hole DIY tour and can't be hindered by my at times anxiety fueled apprehensions.

I'm currently in Jacksonville, FL and couldn't really find any internet low down on the legality of busking here, but can't quite let the law stop me. Except for the once time when three plain clothes officers felt the need to tell a 120lb woman she couldn't busk where she was.

Any advice on busking in general, places where its not so legal, etc.?

I i magine, not knowing how it stands legally, that I should make my busk brief (an hour or so) before I switch to a new location.

Thanks so much,

Levi
 
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If you're traveling, grocery stores are generally a great place to busk Nationwide. You will have a higher chance to stay longer if you don't have a sign or tip jar. Oftentimes the manager of the establishment will come out and either ask you to Leave because of complaints or will kindly ask you not to beg for money and allow you to continue your routine. Public areas(walking bridges, Downtown restaurant areas, Etc.) Are good spots in most city's. There's some useful information regarding the legality of busking nationally here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Busking_(U.S._case_law) however arguing with police officers about the law is never a good idea unless you can tactfully and accurately represent the Constitution. It's often In Your best interest if approached by the police to say yes sir, no sir, and maybe ask if there is an area in town where you can continue to busk without fearing repercussions. I hope this helps!
 

Troubadour90

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Jun 12, 2017
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As far as I'm aware, if your on a public street, you're covered by the 1st amendment, but this is just something I heard, could be wrong...
As for tips... I like to play on moving trains, but only in cities where the trains aren't too loud. can be super rewarding
 
Joined
Jan 3, 2017
Messages
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Age
31
Current Location
6807 Springwood Dr, Sacramento, CA 95842, USA
As far as I'm aware, if your on a public street, you're covered by the 1st amendment, but this is just something I heard, could be wrong...
As for tips... I like to play on moving trains, but only in cities where the trains aren't too loud. can be super rewarding
Yeah protected under the 1st and 14th amendments but local laws supercede that if the cop wants to be a dick. Most public areas are shit for busking unless there is some event going on. For instance a sports game, or a stadium where a bigger band is playing if you have a solid act it will pay. Also trust me on the grocery store thing. It seems weird but really works out. My buddy got 300-500$ a day for 3 days In a row at a Kroger. Good luck and happy busking. Practice practice practice!
 

Beegod Santana

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Jan 28, 2008
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everywhere
In theory it's legal everywhere but there's a few ways they still get ya.

1) Sitting / Space: If you sit when you busk a lotta places are gonna shut ya down due to sit/lie ordinances. Also if you take up too much of the side walk your gotta kick rocks. Always ask "could a wheelchair easily pass by me"

2) Volume: This one always drove me nuts because I tend to kill it bucket drumming, but tons of cities will shit you down for being too loud. Lots of towns also require permits if you wanna be amplified or ban amps all together. Some places have a specific decibel it has to be below, some places just say it can't be audible from a certain point.

3) Crossing the panhandlers line: Places that have laws regarding pan handling also tend to have a nasty habit of applying those laws to buskers as well. Basically having a sign or tip jar can qualify as asking for money to some cops, not sure how legal that is, but ya, they're gonna win that one, at least immediately.

In my experience if you're playing traditional music on a small instrument you can get away with it pretty much anywhere. If you've got some crazy amplified act based outta your van, spots are gonna be a lot more limited.
 

6StringLovin

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Sep 2, 2017
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Tecumseh Missouri
Wanna agree with the grocery store thing and add that any strip plaza/mall is a good place because of the volume of people and the fact that theyre out shopping anyway, theres change and loose bills floating around. Not all places will be friendly but i move my spots periodically. some cops will be dicks some wont say a word. a tip here is every time someone puts money down you pick it up (be discreet about this as i feel it comes off as weird if they or other prospects watch you do it) but if youve got no money in your case/hat whatev, the cop cant really give you a ticket for beggin, they will just run you off. If that happens you have to lay low till after shift change,(7am 3pm 11pm) you dont want them to spot you somewhere else in an hour or two. Any sort of attraction town will be profitable too. pick a main st with a ton shops and or attractions, hershey, cville, gatlinburg, roswell, places like that.

Also, large truck stop gas stations, pilot,heart, turkey hill, any of those are good. they are 24hrs and always have a high volume of people coming through, and the employees could really care less, especially on the night shift. theres shower and laundry inside and truck drivers always look out for travelers.(in my experience)

lastly, just carry that thing everywhere. more people will want you to play than you think, bus stops, coffee shops, bar n grills, campgrounds (not a money spot, but def free booze,food and contacts)

Dont forget the obvious, look like youre having fun, smile at people and nod, conversate with them if they want to. you never know where itll go. mind other musicians out there. there is a code within the culture and folks dont take no shit when it comes to their living.
 

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