Busking Online - Musicians Taking Music Off The Streets To Create Online Tip Jars

in music •  last year

Busking has been around since the existence of musical instruments and is alive and well in most cities around the world.

Busking, or street performing, is a great way for musicians to get their music heard, hone their craft, and earn tips for their performances.


Street performance or busking is the act of performing in public places for gratuities. In many countries the rewards are generally in the form of money but other gratuities such as food, drink or gifts may be given. Street performance is practiced all over the world by men, women and children and dates back to antiquity. People engaging in this practice are called street performers or buskers. Wikipedia

Is Busking Legal?

Most cities allow buskers to play in their streets but in the United States there have been many attempts to ban or regulate busking in the city and so far the courts have upheld the rights of street performers to perform their music in public places.

The 1st amendment to the Constitution Of The United States guarantees the right of free speech and the 14th amendment prevents the state or government from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property without legislative authorization.

That hasn't stopped local governments from trying to pass laws prohibiting people from busking, yet each attempt has failed in the courts thus far.

What do these cities have against artists performing music in the streets anyway?


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If anything it makes their cities more colorful and interesting. Are a few bucks in a tip jar really hurting the bottom line of local businesses by redirecting consumer dollars to a few musicians?

It seems to me having street performers on your streets would attract more foot traffic and business in the city.

In the United States there have been numerous legal cases about regulations and laws that have decided the rights of buskers to perform in public. Most of these laws and regulations have been found to be unconstitutional when challenged. In the US, free speech is considered a fundamental right of every individual, guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth constitutional amendments, and in the majority of legal cases, it has been concluded that practicing artistic free speech is legal. Busking is legally considered to be artistic free speech and clearly not panhandling or begging. Wikipedia

There seems to be a prejudice against street musicians in certain locales coming from the local business owners in those areas and there have been repeated attempts to limit or outright ban performers from the streets.

When that doesn't work in the courts then those local businesses try to impose regulations on the buskers and the courts still uphold the rights of the buskers to perform.

Here's a list of recent cases across the country.



What I Learned From A Pro Panhandler

Panhandling is literally begging for money in the street and reminds me of the time I met a professional panhandler who was a graduate of the Panhandling University. Yes, there is such a thing.

I was playing in a club on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California once and noticed a very well dressed African-American holding a briefcase who was panhandling on the street and asking everyone who walked past him if they could spare $5,000.

Most people would laugh and hand him $5-10 before continuing on their way. I watched him clear $100 an hour easily so I couldn't resist approaching him and asking how he did so well.


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He opened up his briefcase and showed me his credentials from the Panhandling University he attended and broke down the three main lessons he learned there.

  1. Don't prejudge. Ask absolutely everyone who walks past you for a contribution. Whether they are 5-years old or 80, ask them.
  2. Don't look like you need the money. He was well dressed in an expensive suit and tie, impeccably polished shoes, well groomed and manicured, and smelled good.
  3. Ask for a ridiculous amount. By asking for a large sum of money people tend to find it amusing and will give paper money instead of coins.

This guy was clearing over $100 an hour and no one bothered him because he looked like he was rich. Not your typical beer bum on the street.

I took what he taught me and applied it to busking with similar results. By dressing well local business owners don't see you in the same light as a typical street musician and by having a CD to sell your tips increase.

I also learned that it is better to choose a location where the traffic needs to keep moving instead of a place where a crowd can gather to see you perform.

A crowd gathering attracts attention but can also attract the wrong kind of attention from the local businesses that can turn against you. A crowd also expects a show of multiple songs.

What I discovered is the majority of the tips I received happened when I was playing 2-3 particular songs. By choosing locations where the foot traffic had to move on I could play the same tip earning songs over and over again and my tips jar would fill up faster. See the 20/80 rule to understand why.

Busking Online

Here in Mexico, there are no such regulations as music is welcomed and encouraged. Most buskers here walk right up to a restaurant owner and ask if they can play for the patrons. I have yet to see anyone refuse them and the patrons usually welcome them and tip them well.

Today, thanks to the internet, there are numerous options for busking online that a musician can employ to fill their tip jar.

The advantages are that once you play a song and post it online it is there forever and can earn repeatedly from that one performance.

No more playing in the cold or hot weather or dealing with rude people, busking online is a real, viable alternative for today's musicians. No more hauling heavy equipment around or playing hour long sets for pennies.


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Here a couple of my favorite online busking sites.

Street Jelly

Street Jelly is a free to use and listen to site that allows musicians to post their performances on the site. Listeners can tip them using a Street Jelly token they purchase on the site that is currently worth .16 cents each.

Once a performer has received $50 in tips they can cash it out to a PayPal account and get paid.

You can see how it works by watching this video


Busker is an online tip jar for musicians and easy to use. It is crowdfunding for musicians that can support and artist or help them raise the funds needed to produce their next project.

Here's a video to walk you through the app.


Periscope is a video broadcasting app that allows viewers to tip you. It's not limited to musical performances yet many buskers are doing very well using the app.

Here's a video review that shows you how to use it.

Steemit Open Mic

Steemit Open Mic is a live music venue on the Steemit platform hosted by me and is a great way to get your music heard and gain a following on Steemit.

Here's a promo video about it.

As you can see there are numerous options to make money playing music online that a performer can use today. I hope you found this information useful.

Do you know of other online apps for buskers and musicians? Please add them in the comments below.

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What an outstanding article, @luzcypher. I've been using Periscope for over a year, and I have found it quite refreshing to see over a thousand people tuning in for a set where there was literally no one at the club to watch it live.

https://resonate.is/ is a site I've used a little bit, as they have a listen-for-credits program that's pretty cool. Thought I'd throw it onto the list. It's for prerecorded sound files, but offers a paid plays format that allows the artist to earn immediately based on their listens...as opposed to having to hit a threshold of minimum listens before payments begin processing.


Cool! I will check that out. Thanks for sharing it. That's amazing that a live performance given in an empty venue could perform so well online. Makes you want to record every performance, right?

I sure wish these online apps were around when I was touring but then again I'm grateful that Facebook and YouTube were not invented yet when I was doing that.

There would be a lot of incriminating evidence against us if they were around when we were touring. We were a crazy, partying, rock and roll band. Let's just say I'm not going to be running for office anytime soon. The dirt would crawl out of the woodwork if I ever did,


If performing online has taught me anything, it's that a person can't always trust their local region as a gauge of how well-received their music is. The internet likes my music a hell of a lot more than Springfield, MO. 😂


Isn't that the truth. What I learned from touring all over the US is that each area is different in the way they react to your music. In San Francisco people would get on the dance floor and dance, but in Los Angelos, it was not cool to dance when seeing a band. The only way we knew they liked us is they would actually look at you and nod their head. That is LA speak for I like your band.

To each their own I suppose. We had fans that followed us on the road and in some venues they would be the only people dancing. Some cities just don't dance to live bands. Sad but true.


Ha ha, you are doubtless not alone with that policy @luzcypher 🙉🙈🙊😉


Awesome, great tip. So many great opportunities, so little time!

Fascinating article for which I will save. There is a lot of truth in this post. I am a musician and tried being a street musician once in Chicago. Many cities will require a yearly license fee to do it. You have given me some ideas. However it is harder when you play a piano rather than a guitar or drums, Then the equipment is heavier and you need electricity! LOL Great read, - Troy


With online busking apps one of the benefits is you don't have to lug your gear around.

I used to tour in a band and we did 300 shows a year. It was a lot of work hauling all that stuff around, especially for drummers. Online busking saves your back from all that hassle.

Brilliant post!
The Panhandler story is genius. It kinda works in all areas of life, if you look just confident (even if you aren't) people will believe you in that particular moment.
And ofcourse, Steemit open mic is becoming super popular.
Which reminds me I have to make time to shoot a video participate this week. 🙈
Resteeming this!


Thanks for the resteem.

Yes, confidence sells. I'm in sales and it is the number one thing that makes a good salesperson so good.

Awesome post, @luzypher :) Upped and resteemed. Those busking sites look great and I'll definitely check them out. Won't be ditching steemit though ;)

This post will be of particular interest to @dandelion who's out and about busking around Europe and posting great street performances and mini-documentaries. Also tagging in @kiloindigo, another great performer and songwriter on Steemit. Cheers!

P.S, My latest "online busk": https://steemit.com/music/@thebigdelay/god-s-song-by-randy-newman-cover


Randy Newman. There's a name I haven't heard in a while. He's been doing movie soundtracks lately. Did most of the Toy Story tracks for Pixar.

Thanks for forwarding this to your busker friends.


I think it's so interesting that basically an entire generation only knows him from Toy Story...however, that's a generation that may not have known him otherwise. Surely some kid has gone Randy Newman digging after figuring out who he is...


haha Mr. Newman was totally on Marc Maron's podcast a couple weeks ago



Remember "Short People"?


A pleasure. Thanks for checking out my post. Bit of an odd one, Randy. Not that familiar with his stuff but love that particular song.

Thanks for the info.. I will check out those other sites. The openmic here is awesome! Nashville and New Orleans are the 2 cities here in the US that I have witnessed the most buskers. Most of them are super talented as well


I used to play a Tipatinas in New Orleans right in the French Quarter. A lot of musical history stood on the stage there.


Very cool, yes there is!

How cool! I never thought of this. I'm gonna have to link a bunch of my musician friends (:

Great ideas, nothing like expanding your audience to globally.
Life is Good


Global reach is helpful and also the permanence of an online performance means your song can earn 24/7 even when you're doing other things. In a way, it is like getting radio play. One performance can keep earning for the musician.

cool topic... fantastic post

Nice Post !! Thankyou !!

Nice write up. I enjoy playing at places with pedestrian traffic and also some benches or terraces for balance. But I also like to play a lot of different songs.


Playing different songs is cool but when I play in the street I'm doing it to make money. You'll find that 20% of your songs will make 80% of the money.

Finding places to play that you can just play those songs over and over will get you the cash and you're in and out without wasting your whole day.

The 20/80 rule applies to almost everything and I wrote more about that with a link in this post to that story.

Thanks for checking out my post.

This post was featured in Cool Stuff Curation! :D


Read it here.

Thanks for the mention.

0_0 I have no idea why I have never thought of this before.

Wow, there's so much great information in this post. I'm planning to try the street musician thing here in Denver, so I'm happy for the tips you gave. The online sites are intriguing too. Thank you!

@ luzcypher
Great post! Your posts are so well written.
Thank you for sharing this!

fabulous music

I ended up in Jail for three days for playing street music. The Cops gave me a ticket for playing on the Monterey Bay Wharf which i never payed and a couple years later when my van broke down in the same area, Cops came, ran my name and hauled me and my dog off to jail in Monterey Bay, CA.

Here's the video i recorded while getting the ticket.

I wish i could have captured it on the video as well but the cop actually gets heckled by people passing by. Everyone liked what I was doing except for the Police. It's why I hate them and I will never ever RESPECT them. When they're not jailing me for music Police are busy stealing my property/home.

Any it was this post that spawned the idea of a "busking-trail" i'm officially starting work on today to help street musicians like myself who are making the transition to online performance.

Huge value in this post for sure. Resteeming