Advice For People Wanting to Busk (Street Performances.)

I have been hired by my town to perform every Thursday night on Main Street for some festivals. Today, when I called to confirm plans with her, I asked what it takes to bre able to perform on the streets whenever you want. (I don't need a permit to perform the gigs on Thursday's)

Her answer was interesting...

She told me that our town, and most towns, wilkl require you to have a "Busking Permit", a document saying that you have permission to show off your talent on the streets. But she also told me that the process to get a permit takes a long time and is a pain. Here was her advice...

She made the recomendation that I just go to the place I want to set up with all my props, a table, a tip jar, etc. And just do it. If I am not causing any issue and not causing a rffic jam on the sidewalk, the police are usually willing to let you perform. She told me that i? should just perform and take my tips and then leave whenever I'm ready. And if a Police Officer tells me that it is against the law to busk without a license then I can just say: "Oh! I wasn't aware that a permit was needed. I just saw like guitar players and stuff and thought I'd give it a shot. Where can I get this permit?" Then I can move on and go get a permit. But she said it's generally not a problem

I think that this may be useful to some people on this forum...

Dylan P.
 
May 6, 2008
29
0
In regards to busking w/o permit

Remember cops have guns, badges, and ticket books. Treat them with respect even if you are being dicked around. If you become an A-hole remember they can do it better. If you get the regular beat cops on your side you are set. A good relationship with the police can make or break you in an area.
 
Oct 21, 2007
3,146
1
29
Bergen County, NJ, USA
And then comes along a cop that has no soul and slaps you in the face with a fine for several hundred dollars. Believe me, 98% of the cops in my town would do that because they are all jerks. I'm sure there are cops in other surrounding areas that would just hit you with the fine as well. Not all cops are friendly. If you want to do a lot of busking, shell out the time and get a permit. If not, you may regret it.

-Doug
 
I've known a few cops that play the "innocence isn't an excuse" game and will cause you a headache.

While I've never been out right fined for busking I have been shut down, and forced to re-locate. Let me tell you, that is a pain in the rear, especiall when the crowed is paying good.

So long as you are aware that this is a possibility, and are okay with it, then proceed at your own discretion.

Frankly, if the city is paying you to do this kind of work, then I would certainly look into applying for a busking permit. At the very least you can have the excuse of having applied for it, but haven't received it yet.

Being professional means a lot more than just being good enough to get paid, it also means that you cover your own rear too!
 
May 4, 2009
132
1
I think the whole issue is about whether someone complains about you. If your set up on a sidewalk somewhere and store owners calls the police and complains about you the cops are going to tell you to move along. If no one complains, usually no cop is going to say anything. Keep in mind that most cops are just average Joes. They don't want to do any more work than they have too.

Now if the city council or mayor has ordered a crackdown, it's a different story. For example, in a lot of downtown areas you will have people who are just borderline bums. They'll have some lame act and want tips and be very aggressive. When people start getting to aggressive, the chamber of commerce complains to the mayor, and the mayor orders a crackdown. Then the police will have orders to clear out everyone.

If your going to actually set up a table, try to set up away from anyone's front door. If you have people watching you and they are blocking someone's entrance, that is what is going to prompt a complaint to the police.
 
Yes it is true that an officer can be a jerk. Understandably so. But in my area, there are rarely police on Main Street. They drive by once in a while but never even stop. I even talked to a whole bunch of people that are always playing electric guitars, without anyone checking their permits. They don't have any. They have told me that the few police that actually patrol Main Street, love buskers, therefor, they look the other way in return for some entertainment. Occasionally, they say, there is an officer who is forced to get rid of you but you just say you didn't know a permit was needed and that you are sorry. And ask where to apply for one. All the people I've talked to this week, I've seen dozens of times, they are Electric Guitar Players, Acoustic Guitar Players, a Juggler, A Break Dancer, and a duo who plays guitar and sings. None have permits, and all have been around for at least 2 years, and at most 10 years. None Carry permits.

Oh!!! I have a story from yesterday that proves that the cops are cool...

My friend and I had bought a couple suits for 20$ each from a local thrift store, te day before the fourth of July. So, yesterday we each took those suits and ripped them all up, and threw fake blood on the under shirts and coat and made ourselve's look super gory. We even put whitish grey make up on and had blood coming out of latex wounds and we looked like zombies. I mean it looked really real. So we went for a walk to Main Street. And we started walkin' the street walking all funky like zombies and scared little kids and what not. It was funny. We even started taking pictures with tourists. Then we started hiding and jumping out at people. Some cop pulled us over and died laughing saying that us scaring a 10 year old kid was the funniest thing he ever saw. he then shook out hands and drove away. That happened 4 times with different cops. They all busted out laughing.

Furthermore, the woman who told me to just sip the licensing and do whatever I want, works for the town. She personally knows the police who walk the street and drive through it and she says they never give buskers without a permit trouble. So I'm safe. Although others might want to contact their town hall.

For people wondering if the Zombie story was true, it is and I've got pictures on my phone to prove it.

For others wondering why the F*** we'd dress up like zombies...Well, we do random stuff when we're bored. That's all. No joke. We just were bored.

Dylan P.
 
I think the whole issue is about whether someone complains about you. If your set up on a sidewalk somewhere and store owners calls the police and complains about you the cops are going to tell you to move along. If no one complains, usually no cop is going to say anything. Keep in mind that most cops are just average Joes. They don't want to do any more work than they have too.

Now if the city council or mayor has ordered a crackdown, it's a different story. For example, in a lot of downtown areas you will have people who are just borderline bums. They'll have some lame act and want tips and be very aggressive. When people start getting to aggressive, the chamber of commerce complains to the mayor, and the mayor orders a crackdown. Then the police will have orders to clear out everyone.

If your going to actually set up a table, try to set up away from anyone's front door. If you have people watching you and they are blocking someone's entrance, that is what is going to prompt a complaint to the police.

I've scoped it out. I'm either going to be on a thick on a wide sidewalk near some parking lot, but I won't be blocking the exit to the lot, or I'll be across the street on a really wide sidewalknext to a statue in front of "The Village Green". It's a feild tourists go to.
 
May 4, 2009
132
1
I've scoped it out. I'm either going to be on a thick on a wide sidewalk near some parking lot, but I won't be blocking the exit to the lot, or I'll be across the street on a really wide sidewalknext to a statue in front of "The Village Green". It's a feild tourists go to.

In downtown Charleston you have people known as "Geechies." Basically elderly black women who sell baskets on the sidewalk. They strew their crap everywhere and hustle tourists. You have to walk into the street to get around their crap because they will fill the entire sidewalk.

I've often wondered why the police never chase them away. I've noticed they set up far away from the stores. They target government buildings and churches and plop down in front of them. If they set up in front of stores or restaurants, I know the owners would be complaining like crazy.

There was a big scandal a few weeks ago. People from a homeless shelter were very aggressively harassing people for donations and the city sent out the cops to keep them off the streets. A friend of mine told me a guy followed him down the street demanding money for the homeless shelter. He thought it was just a bum pretending to raise money. Then two days later it was all over the news that the homeless shelter was actually sending these people out and the mayor's office and the police had been swapped with tales of "overly aggressive solicitation." They sent out the police to keep them in line.
 
Sep 9, 2007
513
0
I thought this was common knowledge. Busking is a rather minor offense, and unless you're really causing trouble, most people don't care.

A few more tips.

Advertise local business. If you're busking near a restaurant or something, find out what the special is. As people leave, say "Hey, try the catfish (or whatever the special is). It's really good." The restauranteurs will hear that it was recommended by the magician outside. 9 times out of 10, they'll actually be thankful, but won't do anything. Them happy, doing nothing is better than them pissed off, calling cops because you're soliciting. Like it or not they'll always be aware you're around - make the experience pleasant for them. Also, be nice and get to know them. Spend a bit of your tips on lunch there. Who knows, you might even get a walkaround gig in there.

Don't leave your tip jar out all the time. Make it look like you're just performing without the money component. Don't be sneaky and look all suspicious. Just perform, and every so often pull out the tip jar and say something like "I hope you guys enjoyed that! I'm pretty sure if I did that in a bar you'd buy me a beer, and this is how I make my living so tips are appreciated." Leave the tip jar out for one performance, and then put it away again. Remember: you don't need a busking license to perform, you need it to take tips. So if your jar's not out, they don't have much proof. Use a hat or napkin to collect.

Always, Always, ALWAYS (did I mention "always"?) "salt" your tip jar. That means, leave some money in it when you put it out, not too big, not too little. Bartenders do it. Musician buskers do it. Even panhandlers do it! The idea is that you have enough in there to encourage social compliance ("If someone else tipped him, I should too") without making them think "everyone else tipped him, he doesn't need my money"). Surprisingly, not too many people know about this.
 

byu

Jul 1, 2009
73
0
USA
I think it's best to just get a permit. But how far does this go?

Does this mean that we're not allowed to just walk down the street and talk to someone, and then show them some magic unless we have a permit?
 

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
5,754
2,860
I think it's best to just get a permit. But how far does this go?

Does this mean that we're not allowed to just walk down the street and talk to someone, and then show them some magic unless we have a permit?

The post above you put it well. You do not need a permit to perform for people, you need a permit to solicit tips.
 
Always, Always, ALWAYS (did I mention "always"?) "salt" your tip jar. That means, leave some money in it when you put it out, not too big, not too little. Bartenders do it. Musician buskers do it. Even panhandlers do it! The idea is that you have enough in there to encourage social compliance ("If someone else tipped him, I should too") without making them think "everyone else tipped him, he doesn't need my money"). Surprisingly, not too many people know about this.

Also, make sure you have one large bill that is easily viewable and a bunch of smaller ones.

No one likes to be the first to tip, and dear god no one likes to feel out done either. So they are likely to tip higher.
 
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