Busking in Sydney

Tips for Busking in Sydney

Busking in Sydney

I’ve decided to write this article describing my experiences of busking in Sydney as a musician. A general rule I keep is that if I don’t have any gigs in any particular month I’ll go busking. Busking for me is not about making money and more about the practice. There’s a big difference between playing at home and playing in front of an audience. I’d also like to mention that the intended audience of this article are your day to day music buskers and not professional street performers.

Now we all know with a lot of things there are rules therefore I also encourage you to read you busking area councils guidelines and policies in relation to busking. In Sydney it’s the city of Sydney. With all that out of the way let’s get on with my experiences and locations I recommend.

Experiences of Busking in Sydney

If you’ve taken the time to read what the city of Sydney or your local council has to say about busking, you’ll have read that you’ll need a permit, only certain areas are accessible between certain hours, days, you may need insurance and so on. Now to let you know on a little secret. I’ve never applied for a permit and have not restricted myself to any locations. Thankfully I’ve never been fined. Having said that there have been times when I’ve tried to busk in popular places such as Circular Quay or Pitt Street Mall and have been asked questions or have been asked to move on by the Authorities for not having a permit. If you intend to busk in these areas I do encourage you to go through the right channels and get permits and insurance where required. The next section of this article will focus on the hassle free areas.

My top 3 locations for hassle free Busking in Sydney

  1. Central Station: You’ll want to busk in the tunnel. This is a great spot as there’s loads of foot traffic and the acoustics are good. As long as you don’t look like you’re going to cause trouble you will be left alone. Your earning potential on average based on my experience is between $10 to $15 per hour. On the downside it is a popular spot and you may be competing with other musicians. In some cases drowning each other out.
  2. Hyde Park: What better place to busk than Hyde Park? This is a great place as it’s outdoors with nature and there are loads of tourists and small children who will only be too happy to hear you play and contribute. Once again it’s hassle free. Your average earning is the same as the tunnel, $10 to $15 per hour
  3. Street Corner: Now I’ve never had much success with busy street corners. It feels like people are in a rush and there’s not enough time to grab them. Once again street corners are hassle free. Your average earning based on my experiences will be $10 per hour.

Summary

As you can see, there isn’t really much money to be made on average with busking so you’re better off treating it as a practice session. Having said that I do know a musician who travels the world busking full time making a comfortable living. How you ask? Well first he’s very good on his instrument but more importantly he’s a people person, a great entertainer and he also sells merchandise such as CD’s. I’ve seen him busk and he’ll often sell 3 to 5 CD’s per hour. Reasoning is that he puts on a show people want to see and/or they want something to remember the experience. I’ve seen others try the same model and fail for the key reason of not being able to engage the audience. Having merchandise, knowing how to sell it and engaging the audience will definitely make a difference to your average hourly rate.

I know I gave the earning averages however there are always exceptions such as special holidays such as boxing day etc. and if you manage to jam with another musician or have an act that catches peoples attention you’ll increase your earning potential. Years ago I used to play Spanish guitar with an Accordion player busking. We weren’t anything special however as the sound was unique we often got people stopping and as a result we got lots of compliments and made more than the average. Maybe it’s about getting people to stop?

Gear you’ll need for Busking in Sydney

Unfortunately due to outside noises having an acoustic only setup won’t cut it. I recommend you use an amplifier or powered speaker. For this you’ll need an amplifier, external battery and power inverter. Including any additional cables. I have found using a portable trolley to carry all the gear in the past a great way of getting mobile.

How to maximize busking in Sydney

  • Get really good on your instrument
  • Read the local council guidelines
  • Get a permit if you’re planning on busking in high tourist areas and find out the rules, i.e. do you need to book your spot?
  • Become a showman or having something that will make people stop
  • Have merchandise
  • Choose locations with small children

Hopefully this has helped someone planning to go busking in Sydney. If you have any questions feel free to get in touch or submit a comment.