Performing music for tips in a public place, otherwise known as street performing or busking, can be a good way to overcome stage fright and get a sense of what works for an audience. And you can even make a little money along the way.
Before you can reap the benefits of busking however, you have to get yourself out there and do it. Putting yourself out there as a performer is not always easy. Playing for an audience can be scary, whether it’s a street corner or a professional stage.
Follow these steps to get started and soon you’ll be out on the streets performing with confidence.
Step 1: Practice, but not too much
Unlike a stage performance where a captive audience expects you to entertain them for half an hour or more straight, people passing by a busker may stop for a song or two at most. If you have 3 or 4 songs that you can play well then you’re ready to start.
Step 2: Research locations
Make a list of possible locations to play. Think of spots where crowds of people will be passing by who would enjoy a little bit of entertainment. If you are not using amplification you probably won’t need to worry much about getting a permit, but there are a few places where you will. A quick internet search should be enough to find out whether this is the case.
(For example, here’s a great resource for finding out information on the legalities of street performing in Los Angeles.)
Step 3: Location scout
Visit the locations you are considering and spend some time sitting there quietly. Observe how many people pass by, what kind of loud noises you hear and whether there are too many other buskers nearby. An area that already has street performers will be more lucrative, but if you’re too close to another performer you might not only be competing for your audience, you might be competing to be heard.
Step 4: Get out there and do it!
Start with a low-key spot that isn’t too crowded. This will take some of the pressure off and help you build up your confidence. Remember, if that homeless guy banging on a drum and howling can do it, so can you, and you can do it better.
Step 5: Keep at it
After you’ve gotten out there a few times you will have great information on what to do to refine your act. Pay attention to what people seem to respond to and tweak your performance accordingly. As you get more comfortable, move your act to more crowded locations. Over time you will become comfortable playing for large audiences, and you will have built up a set of songs and witty remarks that you can use wherever you perform.
It’s easy to put off doing things that are hard. Putting yourself out there and playing music in front of people isn’t easy, but don’t let that stop you. You’ve already taken the first step by reading this, now take the rest of those steps towards becoming the performer you’ve always dreamed of.