What's the world's most busker-friendly city?
February 11, 2005 11:49 PM   Subscribe

What's the world's most busker-friendly city?
posted by Wolof to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One of my friends is a professional busker, and he raves about Australia. Canada is apparently very good too. Montreal and Edmonton particulary. Edmonton has a really excellent annual Street Performers Festival.
posted by painquale at 11:56 PM on February 11, 2005

Montreal is a fantastic city to busk, with a really tight artist/performer community.
posted by Jairus at 12:10 AM on February 12, 2005

New Orleans has loads — they're considered a necessary part of French Quarter life.

However, while the city might be pretty busker-friendly, the sheer amount of street performers means it can get nasty, especially over certain spots. I found this article, which describes some of it.
posted by Katemonkey at 12:14 AM on February 12, 2005

Amsterdam used to be great, I've heard good reports for Barcelona & London has improved with designated busking points on the tube (subway). However, there is still a level in hell reserved exclusively for buskers who play Streets of London in London.
posted by i_cola at 1:09 AM on February 12, 2005

Pretty much anywhere in the UK is busker friendly so long as you pick your spot well, don't get in the way (of crowds, shops etc.), and are good at what you do.
As an example, busking in Guildford High Street can earn you hundreds of pounds an hour especially in the run up to Christmas.
posted by chill at 1:10 AM on February 12, 2005

Great link, Katemonkey! One of my good friends played the streets of New Orleans for years, also was doorman at the original Tipitina's. He will enjoy reading the current state of street music in the French Quarter. He was a washboard player in a jugband. The corner of Royal and St. Peters in front of the A&P used to be considered "jugband corner." I don't know if it still is or not; I hope so. I have seen some GREAT music there. There is still good street music in the N.O., but mostly in Jackson Square for the most part.
posted by wsg at 1:17 AM on February 12, 2005

I take it you are looking to busk for money more than for ego. There used to be a British site that rated countries for busking, but it is gone. Holland was not rated too highly, in fact, while Switzerland did rate highly - a fact that many of my Hungarian busking friends confirm. Depends on the local rules, but some towns welcome buskers, some don't. Northern Italy has been completely taken over by gypsy bands from south Romania - they were all expelled from France two years ago, and they are way to good to compete with (if , like me, you play Romanian gypsy fiddle...)

Busked a lot in England while my band toured there, but my impression was you could make just enough money with a band playing market towns to be able to spend it on pubs at night. Solo or duos would be more profitable than showing up with a five piece Klezmer band (take it from one who knows.)

Forget about: Germany, Austria, East Europe.
posted by zaelic at 5:04 AM on February 12, 2005

Second or thirded on Montreal. The case of Spoonman really demonstrates that people here not only tolerate, but actively protect buskers, at least ones that have earned a special place in peoples' hearts.

(I have my own favourites... particularly the guy who sings rat pack songs but replaces random lyrics with his own, usually about DNA)
posted by ITheCosmos at 6:27 AM on February 12, 2005

Possibly Tokyo. A friend of mine was just telling me he used to busk in Ginza, the ubertrendy nightlife spot for the uberrich. He didn't tell me how much he made, but he'd play Scottish bagpipes outside the ritzy bars at night and the drunken salarymen would just unload the yen in his case. Playing something unusual/avant garde helps.
posted by zardoz at 6:37 AM on February 12, 2005

Denver has Buskerfest. I don't know how well that translates to busker-friendliness, but there are always buskers downtown.
posted by climalene at 7:04 AM on February 12, 2005

Brussels is the only town I've ever been to that issues busking licenses. That doesn't mean I made any money, because I stink, but at least I could pony up $20 for three months and not have to worry about getting busted. I'm sure there are others, I've only ever tried NYC and Brussels. NYC is not the winner by a long shot.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 7:56 AM on February 12, 2005

These experiences are 15 years old, but anyway. Amsterdam is different to the rest of the Netherlands and used to be (still is?) a busking oasis. I was busking there once and was approached by two cops on pushbikes. 'Uh oh,' I thought, but they then proceeded to tell me (in English) that I was standing just a little bit away from my hat/coin-drop, and that I risked getting my money stolen. Anyway it has plenty of tourists, and plenty of bars/cafes open until 3:00-4:00 a.m.

Another good busking venue used to be (probably still is) the various Spanish fiestas, which are basically big al night parties. I did San Fermin (Pamplona) one year, for a week, people were very generous.
posted by carter at 8:02 AM on February 12, 2005

Amsterdam is great, except for the fact that 90% of them suck. You could make plenty of money if you were at least competent. Munich's Marienplatz and the surrounding area seemed pretty busker-friendly, except you might be a bit outclassed if all you've got is a guitar. There's some excellent ethnic bands, when I was there they had some Tuvan throat singers and a native american band or two.
posted by borkingchikapa at 8:31 AM on February 12, 2005

Oh, and, if you're in the UK, there's definitely one open spot in Nottingham...

We need another xylophone man!
posted by Katemonkey at 8:42 AM on February 12, 2005

Seattle's Pike Place Market has an annual Buskers' Festival. I don't know how friendly the city is to buskers (never tried them), but I certainly see a lot of them downtown, and they don't appear too harrassed.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 11:20 AM on February 12, 2005

When I was in high school, Harvard Square in the summertime was always ripe with buskers. We stood and listened to Guster (back when they were still Gus and unheard of) on a street corner for almost an hour one night, bought their CD. They sang happy birthday to me. :)

Haven't haunted the square for years though -- don't know if it's still busker-friendly.
posted by damn yankee at 12:28 PM on February 12, 2005

Harvard Square is good, apparently, but Boston has a very stratified and hierarchical busker community. They have a kind of union. You have to work your way up the ladder before you can get to the top tier at Faneuil Hall.
posted by painquale at 1:20 PM on February 12, 2005

ITheCosmos, that article you linked to shocked me! I had no idea they had outlawed the Spoonman! I always liked him a lot, and occasionally gave him a couple of loonies. Poor guy. The one Montreal performer I'll never forget is the semi-blind woman who played the oboe or recorder or whatever-it-was with her white dog by her side at the corner of Peel and Sherbrooke (Montreal's busiest intersection). I had an apartment just four or five buildings west, and strains of The Yellow Submarine from Hell repeated over and over again kept me up all night.

Anyway, to on-trackify this post: the more I think about it, the more I think that Montreal is definitely top... especially if you can get shows in Old Montreal or break into the Street Performers' Festival. Francophones are very performative and cultural. I'll ask my busker friend what he thinks.
posted by painquale at 1:29 PM on February 12, 2005

Ocean City, Maryland. The city hall sells a license for $2, and the boardwalk hops at night. Not to mention that these IDs are photographic, official, and list your birthdate as whatever you want it to be. Useful for the 16-20 crowd.
posted by The White Hat at 3:42 PM on February 12, 2005

posted by duck at 5:59 PM on February 12, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all your suggestions!
posted by Wolof at 7:09 PM on February 12, 2005

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