We’ve taken The Busking Project from a far-fetched idea to a massive international busking community via an extremely emotional journey. Sometimes surprising, sometimes traumatic, sometimes scary and always difficult, here’s how we’ve survived (and all the mistakes we’ve made).

Have suggestions for where we should be going next? Send us an email 🙂

  • October 2016: Patreon Launch

    We decided that the best way to fundraise was probably to help buskers make money too. So, we’re creating a compilation album of the best street performers’ music as part of a Patreon campaign. The money that we raise will be split (40:60) between The Busking Project and performers (the buskers get the 60%). Our aim is to:

    1. Help fantastic musicians get recognised, discovered and paid
    2. Give people better access to the buskers they love
    3. Show the world that the street art movement is worth supporting
    4. Help pay the bills and our advocacy work

  • September 2016: UN Habitat gets into busking!

    On September 22, 2016, UN Habitat put out a call to “Make your Local Street Performer Famous”. Now, we’re not saying we’re the only reason why they’d do that, but we can’t help but feel like the UN’s newfound interest in buskers might have been to do with our presentation to them back in 2014!

  • August 2016: Busker Landing Pages

    In August, we also launched “Landing Pages” for performers. These were vastly reduced-size profiles that loaded 10x quicker, especially for use in the street. This meant that people could tip buskers much faster. And it worked!

    Oh, and this sweet landing page to teach people about our phone apps. August was a really good month 🙂

  • August 2016: The World’s First Music Platform for Buskers

    When our music platform launched, we became the only site in the world to help buskers get tips in the street, to get hired for gigs and to sell their music straight to people’s phones, with no CD needed.

    This was the largest single update we’d done to the website since launching, and it took us months of hard work. But here it is, in all its glory! 🙂

    busk.co/music

  • August 2016: The Edinburgh Fringe and Toronto

    In August, we tried out our app at two major international busking festivals. In Toronto, we pre-scheduled performers onto a map of the festival, paid for a couple of Facebook/Google ads and created some fancy new profiles (e.g. busk.co/pogofred) specifically for mobile phones. In Edinburgh, 80 performers signed up at the festival and our app got hundreds of downloads. We proved over the summer that we were a valuable tool for street performer festivals.

  • July 2016: App Launch on Android

    Perhaps not as exciting as some of our other launches, but we now had an app out on iPhone AND Android, meaning about 95% of the world’s smartphone users could now use BuSK.

  • December 2015: iPhone App Launch

    It took a whole 9 months for the app to eventually launch, but when it did we made a lot of news. Viewership for our launch was about 7,000,000 people

  • October 2015: Booksellers Association

    Every year, the Booksellers Association puts on a celebration of bookstores around the UK, called Books Are My Bag. As Nick’s a wannabe writer himself, when the BA asked if we’d like to help them find buskers to perform outside book shops all over the UK, we jumped at the chance.

  • June 2015: Walk21 Walking Visionaries Award

    On June 19th, we received this awesome email:

    We have sent a notification today to you as one of the beneficiaries of the Walking Visionaries Awards who received a Jury Prize.

    Our app idea was now the recipient of an international placemaking award, and it hadn’t even launched yet!

  • April 2015: Started Developing our App

    In April 2015, we hired Worry Free Labs to create our first iPhone app. Its main upgrade would be a “live busking map of the world”, so that people could find street performers near them, right now!

  • April 2015: We got into The Economist

    The article wasn’t specifically about us, but this was probably the biggest publication that has either quoted or mentioned us. That’s in addition to The Guardian, NME Magazine, CNN Go, BBC World Service, the Evening Standard and other publications in 17 countries!

  • February 2015: Switching to busk.co

    Our domain now had only SIX characters, less than google, flickr… even the URL Shortener, “Tiny.cc”, has the same URL length as ours. After our previous failure (switching to buskr.com when a service, “Buskr App” already existed), we were really, really happy to be able to call this our own! And, it’s perfect for buskers when displaying their signs in the streets – the fewer characters for people to read/type, the better.

    For comparison:
    thebuskingproject.com
    busk.co

    Awesome, right?

  • February 2015: Nominet Trust Social Tech Seed Grant

    On Feb 24th, we got this amazing email from Nominet Trust:

    I am delighted to confirm that the Nominet Trust Board of Trustees has approved your funding application. buskr.com has been awarded £50,000 over 12 months. Congratulations! Nominet Trust receives many funding applications, so you can be proud of your success. We are looking forward to working with you.

  • December 2014 – Our Graduation from Wayra UK

    The entire business accelerator was focused at preparing for “Demo Day”, Wayra’s graduating event. It was great practice – telling people about our product, but fairly pointless.

    We pitched our idea to investors (although we never met any), Will I Am (who didn’t watch the pitches, but apparently hung out with some people downstairs), the Duke of York (who left early), major press outlets (who only focused on the Duke and Will I Am’s presence at the event, barely mentioning the teams), a Rothschild, two oligarchs, and around 400 other people.

    But, we brought breakdancers, a loopologist and a magician to our pitch, so at least it was fun! And it marked our journey out into the world as a fully-fledged business. On to New York City…

  • November 2014: Quoted in the House of Lords

    Back in 2014, the London borough of Camden was considering bizarrely restrictive new anti-busking legislation. Lord Clement Jones, a live music advocate, decided to quote us in the House of Lords.

    “Busking is an essential element of street culture in London and many cities. It is often the start of a major career. Eddie Izzard, for example, famously started his career on the streets of Covent Garden. As a leading busking campaigner, Nick Broad, has said:

    Street performance is one of the most noble ways that artists can earn a living: performance first, pay later, and only if you enjoyed the show. Making tips as a busker is a great alternative to making tips as a waiter or bartender: you get to practise, reach an audience and learn what people like about your show while earning a living. No managers. No PR. No cult of celebrity. No Facebook popularity contest. No latest gig app. No entrance fees. No service charges. No security guards or fences. No clever lighting. No razzle-dazzle. No fancy brochures or billboards. No sponsorship deals. No product placements. No middlemen. Just an artist and their audience.

  • September 2014: Promoting Busking at the UN

    fop eduardo

    We were invited by UN Habitat to present our research on busking policy at their Future of Places conference. So, at the beginning of September Nick and Vivian Doumpa (our inspired academic researcher) went to Buenos Aires to tell hundreds of urban-planning dignitaries from 50 countries that buskers were the answer to all of their problems. At my presentation, I used the word “fellatio”. Read more about that here.

  • August 2014 – Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2)

    At the beginning of August, we went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to present ourselves to the buskers who were performing there. We didn’t really do much work, but we saw a huge number of great shows, and did a fundraiser on the Saturday which netted us around £80.

  • May 2014: Our Partnership with PPS

    We began to see busking as part of the “placemaking” revolution, the idea that urban planning should be about communities and togetherness, rather than just shopping and transport. I sent an email to the world’s founding placemaking body, the Project for Public Spaces, basically saying “your website is full of buskers, but you never mention them”. They responded “I guess we always liked buskers, just never realised how much”. And we began a partnership. On May 7th we put our first blog post on the PPS website (and here’s our second)

  • April 2016: Filmed the Keep Streets Live Video

    When Keep Streets Live was first starting out in the UK, we got involved, filming both their first Kickstarter video and interviews with various celebrity backers.

  • March 2014: Becoming, you know, businessey

    wayra pitch croppedOn a whim, Nick decided to apply to get The Busking Project into a “business accelerator” (an office space where thirty small businesses try to become successful). One of them, Wayra, had a “social” (that’s business-speak for “good for humanity”) arm,  so he thought he’d give them a go.

    Nick brought breakdancers (B-Boy Mo Stef and his massively talented crew) with him to the application, and for the first 25 seconds of a 5-minute pitch they did headspins, backflips and were jumping off the walls. Nick said some stuff.

    Wayra accepted The Busking Project over 280 other companies. We were the earliest company in the 2014 cohort (“pre-revenue, pre-product”), our business plan wasn’t fleshed out… “The Busking Project” was still more of an idea than a business.

    And yet, thanks to the power of street performing, someone was willing to give us £40,000, office space and a ton of other support to help us meet our goal. We had the most powerful metric there is: a good idea. Now we had enough funds to build a team. And finally, after four years, we had enough money for Nick to start paying himself a UK living wage! His parents are very proud…

    wayra pitch example

  • September 2013: Busking Unbarred

    It took one more month for the team to get major sponsorship from Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, who were interested in commissioning the world’s first large scale study into busking policy, aiming to show that restrictions and harassment do not improve public spaces or encourage the “best” artists.

    They also wanted to do a busking trip. So, Nick went on a four-day (all-expenses-paid) tour with a 6-piece busking band through Prague, Bratislava and Pilsner. The band was awesome, check them out!

    Circus Problem from The Busking Project on Vimeo.

  • June 2013: Vancouver Busker Festival

    The following year we co-produced with aMillion baZillion the Vancouver International Busker Festival (with a total audience size of 110,000 people on an initial budget of just $5,000 CAN). It was immediately obvious how easily busking can transform public spaces, with a tiny budget.

  • May 2012: Becoming an actual thing!

    Coming back, we were shattered, and did basically nothing for about 6 months. Nick had TMJ in his jaw (it kept clenching by itself), and didn’t leave the house much. We knew that the issues facing buskers were global, that nobody out there was doing anything about them, and that we potentially had the resources (and willingness) to help. But if were were going to try, we needed to take it seriously…sort of.

    And so, in 2012 we founded “The Busking Project Ltd”. The Busking Project was now a tech start up based in London! We sourced a developer (friend of a friend), raised some more money in donations and from our own pockets, and built a new site (see our first site here).

    Permits and prejudice promo from The Busking Project on Vimeo.

  • 2011: 40 cities in 30 countries on 5 continents…ouch

    The Journey Begins! from The Busking Project on Vimeo.

    With the help (thank you!) of hundreds of hosts, guides, fixers, networkers, translators, transcribers, technical consultants, filmmakers, editors, volunteers, chefs and impromptu therapists, we filmed an average of a busker a day for 287 days, captured 27,000 videos, 45,000 photos, gained press in 11 countries, posted hundreds of shorts on Vimeo and YouTube, overcame exhaustion, stress and a lack of training, and grew a network of thousands of buskers worldwide.

    We found the same thing everywhere we went: talented artists facing negative public opinion, inclement weather, legal restrictions, the privatisation of public spaces and the difficulties of the daily grind. It also seemed to us that things were getting worse for buskers, with an increase in the number of warnings, fines, confiscations and arrests of artists.

    This Happens Every Day from The Busking Project on Vimeo.

    Emotionally things were … a little rough. We weren’t just travelling together. We were travelling, filming, eating, sleeping, working and everything else together. It was such an intense trip that we never had time to do touristy stuff, and the cities began to blend together, differentiated most by how much traffic we had to sit in between shoots.

    Put simply, it was the most traumatic thing any of us had ever done.

    It was also very worthwhile. Bouts of anger, resentment, remorse and exhaustion were punctured by an intensely vibrant population of buskers with incredible talent. And, it seemed that not many other people were taking a real interest in their lives. The footage we took was glorious. And the story was very human. Video time!

  • April 2010: Planning a Global Busking Documentary

     

    The beginning of a Global Busking Documentary here is the TBP Promo from The Busking Project on Vimeo.

    The day after the idea, Nick asked Chris whether he thought a round the world trip exploring busking was possible, and whether he’d like to come along. One day later Chris said yes to both. Soon they were joined by Belle, and the team began researching where to go. We came up with a list of the world’s best busking venues (about 160 cities), and then cut the list down to places where it was easily possible to travel to overland (80), then cut again to a continuous path.

    Planning for a Global Busking Documentary

    The result was 40 cities on 5 continents, on an intense schedule of spending 6 days in each city, enough time to scout, network and film in each location before moving on. They came up with a budget, worked out how much they needed to raise, did a Kickstarter campaign (see the video above), and then, On March 9th 2011, still completely underprepared, we set off.

  • March 2010: The Birth of an Idea…

    Nick had also been living with his nonagenarian grandmother for 6 years, who passed away after a long and wonderful life. Then he lost his job. No job, nowhere to live and a bachelor’s degree in general studies (which qualified him for delivering pizza and not much else). Still, he’d been filming buskers for years, he’d created a few websites, he’d been a journalist and a published author, and UndercoverNY had been doing well.

    So, over dinner one night, he spoke to a friend about his options. The result of a long conversation was an important question: “What if Undercover New York went global?”

    going global

  • 2009: Undercover New York

    For fun, Nick started a hobby website, Undercover New York, to document the buskers he passed by while riding his bike around the city. He’d upload videos and photos to profiles he created for them, add their contact details, and then tag the pages with things like “hire a musician in New York City” and “amazing street performer”. Buskers started to get hired.

    Undercover New York Screen Shot

     

  • Origins: 2004

    In 2004, Nick moved in with his nonagenarian grandmother and a Chinese violinist who had been busking in the Manhattan subways for 18 years. Chen Cong’s story was inspirational (read it here), and opened Nick up to the culture of busking on the island. And for several years, every now and again Nick would pass a street performer, take his camera out and record a video. Like this one, of Chen.

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