“How have you been surviving?”

We asked this question of street performers in April 2021. The world had been almost entirely shut to street shows for over a year. Here are their responses.

Many street performers didn’t give their names, but if they did, we’ve added them below.

Editing help from David Shilman (@marktwangmusic on Instagram), who helped with putting the following responses together.



I’m a student, so busking was a side-thing to earn some money, and also to have fun and be outside, interact with people etc.

In the summer of 2020 I got to busk a few times when rules were relaxed, but nothing significant. I could sense how eager the public was, how enthusiastic they were to hear live music. I miss it.

The biggest thing I miss about this little bit of extra income is the freedom to do/purchase certain things. I have a state loan for tuition, study related costs and the general cost of living, like rent and such, but I paid for the fun things by busking. The stress of deciding to purchase things or pay for any activities is so big when you can’t “compensate” for it. I guess financially it’s become a lot more micro-managing.

I have tried streaming and omegle at some point, but it just feels vain, not honest. It feels like showing off and/or phishing for compliments, instead of honest interaction and emotion from the music.

This is a ramble but thank you for asking for people’s input!



The pandemic has ended almost all gigs. This has left musicians with nowhere to play or practice. From where I am (Hudson County), this has pushed many musicians to play on the street for the first time, which has led to a busking boom. I have met/played with 5 different musicians on the street, almost all of whom never busked before covid (I hadn’t either). While playing, we have had a number of musicians come up, interested to join us.

So, overall, in my area it has been good. Must note, everyone I know including myself has a day job. Nobody is able to get by street performing in Hudson County, although to be fair this was the case before the pandemic as well. Most people in my area will go into NYC to street perform as it is a bigger part of the culture in NYC and there are more people out, resulting in more $.



Appointment to play my Bad Busker
song for two professionals in Bantry.


Well, I went, as promised, but the
Buskers whom I was meant to play
for, failed to show up.

The weather was wet and windy,
bleak to be honest, so I understood
their absence.

They have quality guitars and they
don’t do getting wet without a reaction.
Usually warping and going out of tune.

Having the prime site to myself, while
I was there, I played a few songs on the
guitar, harmonica and tin whistle.

The stall holders were my only audience
but the woman in the Citizens Advice Office
told me to get away from their frontage.

It was a learning experience insofar as
discovering the difference between the
sound on a street as opposed to in a house.

I needed a louder plectrum as strong
words spoken softly don’t cut it in on
the pavement with competing sounds.

I also discovered that my strings are not
holding in tune as well as they did initially.
Perhaps they need replacing.

Discovering that all the world is a stage has
enlightened me to the courage it takes to be a
performer, i.e. being viewed through the fourth wall.

The folding chair was perfect as I am unable
to play standing up for long periods, besides
I can’t see the fretboard & don’t know the chords.

Despite all of that, I made 8 euros, a scone
and a half dozen eggs from the stall holders,
who could have thrown the latter at me but no.

In some ways, what I was doing had a similarity
to cooking for chefs, so I was nervous about it, but
as they say in A.A. “Feel the pain but do it anyway”.

I think the whole experience has put me in good
stead for the back streets of Doneraile when
Holly Barret and I do the North Cork Tour.

Returned to Tragarriff, played for Chessy & Zomba
as we looked out on the bay, an Irish mist came softly
down and leafless trees with water buds, did weep.


Bad Busker


When I was drinking, it was impossible to stop me
from performing, re-inventing myself is a lesson in
humility, that’s for sure.



In all honesty, it’s been a struggle, but as humans we just have to try and adapt.




My main employment: having been TUPEd into a different company where the manager was not keen on giving me any extra work, but had to give me the same work and to furlough me through the pandemic. I was working much of the year.

Because of increased chances for busking, I spread my wings and went to places I hadn’t before, with generally good results. The footfall was down, but also people seemed to be more generous (in recent weeks, though, I think that effect is declining).

I’m glad to have a distraction, to see someone happy, even possibly to have a few words of conversation with them. Managed to get away to my elderly aunt’s (we were her support bubble) at Christmas, despite the last-minute changes.

Then, mid-January, despite both of us being vulnerable and therefore cautious, we caught Covid — hit my wife hard, but she’s now back to normal. After that, due to work/weather/recovering, didn’t busk for several months, but now back out a bit again and hoping to be back to frequent in the next few weeks.



Life has sucked to be honest. Before COVID I did the pub circuit, but haven’t played a gig since Paddy’s Day 2020. I adapted to busking for the first 10 months or so, it’s something I’ve done for fun in summers past but it was never my main income till last year. Scotland has been in a full lockdown since December 26th, so I haven’t been out since then.

While I am extremely lucky to have had government help (as I’ve been registered as self-employed for the past 3 years), I am finding it hard. I miss my job a lot. I’ve never been one for streaming or doing much online and haven’t adapted to that as much as I could have, I guess. I thrive on real life interaction and I always feel weird performing to my phone on a live stream. It feels like all the hard work I put into building up a following, getting a solid list of venues locally, the year I spent trying to break into the wedding scene, was all for nothing.

Everyone keeps saying things will be back to normal soon, but it’s been so long I am beginning to doubt things will ever be the same. Realistically, in the future I think I’m probably going to be a full time busker with the odd pub gig on the side. I just can’t see venues having the cash to spare for paying musicians like they did pre-COVID.

While I’ve had help financially, I’m in a ton of debt. My income has halved, probably less if I go by the bookings I had for 2020, which was due to be my best year to date.

Mentally, I’m not even sure I could play a gig now, haha.

Looking forward to shops opening again so I can at least get out singing in the street as it really kept me sane last year.



Life has been a bit of a rollercoaster since the start of last year. I’m sure a lot of other musicians will have a similar story to mine, where suddenly I went from a very busy schedule of gigging and recording and touring to absolutely nothing within the space of a few days. This hit me like a ton of bricks at the time. I had recently moved out of my parents’ house, so I had bills to pay and no way to earn money. Thankfully, applying for Universal Credit here in Scotland was a fairly simple process and everyone was very helpful along the way. Since April 2020 I have been reliant on these payments, and on the SEISS grants, and I have to say I’m impressed with how smoothly everything has gone. The Job Centre staff have been wonderful and supportive and I’ve felt no pressure to seek other work in this unprecedented time. That was pretty much that until restrictions relaxed after the Summer, and I tried my hand at going out busking for the first time since probably the previous year!

I found busking to be a huge catharsis for me at that time. I had missed gigging and performing so much that I immediately felt my spirit lifting and life becoming that little bit easier again. On top of that, getting chosen to receive a tap-to-tip sign was a lovely bonus! I found that I was earning more than I usually would going out busking in a non-pandemic world for some reason. Maybe it was people clamouring to hear live music in any capacity, or not realising how much energy that street performers give to any high street in any town until they didn’t have it for a while. Whatever the reason, it gave me a purpose again.

The second (third? I don’t know – I’ve lost count) lockdown after Christmas was definitely the most difficult. Typically I wouldn’t busk very often in January or February anyway due to the miserable Scottish climate, but the long nights, and no gigs to get me through them really had an impact on me. I’m a very positive person, but I found darker thoughts creeping into my mind throughout this time, and lost a lot of drive to play music in any way. Thankfully, an escape from this presented itself in the form of an artist development grant that I was awarded from my local council to record my very own solo EP – something I’ve been dying to do for a long time. I’ve released lots of music that I’m very proud of with my bands, but I’ve never had the time, nor the money, to focus on writing, recording, and properly releasing my own material. On top of this, I put a lot of time and effort into beginning to grow a YouTube channel that I set up, which is dedicated to various musical content, but primarily drum cover of tv show theme tunes, which has passed the time in a very amusing way. (CWhyteMusic is the YouTube channel if anyone is interested!)

As I type this, the tracks are very nearly ready to send out to distributors and the PR campaign is just about to get underway. I’ve not been able to get out busking since Christmas, but restrictions are due to lift in the next month or two, and I’m chomping at the bit to get back out there and do what I do best.



Well it’s definitely been strange. I kept a diary of every single day of 2020 and I remember looking back on the first day COVID started getting bad and I had written, “I can’t even go busking anymore”. I live in Geelong, a little town an hour out of Melbourne in Victoria. If you know about Australia and COVID, you’ll know that Victoria took the pandemic hardest out of all the states in Australia. At one point we were getting about 700 NEW cases everyday, and we are only one state. So in response we had one of the longest lockdowns in the world. I didn’t know if busking would ever go back. I continued playing at home and improving and writing songs so that I would be able to start right back up again as soon as lockdown was over. But for everyone, 2020 had its own challenges aside from COVID-19. A week before lockdown ended I broke my knee. I couldn’t return to busking for quite some time. But nowadays I’m back busking with a chair and a knee brace on. 😂😂 I am so happy to be back doing what I love. I have noticed some changes in the busking scene since COVID. 1. Not as many people carrying cash. One man in particular who I see almost every time I go busking, asks me to buy a card reader. I still get a fairly good haul of money but I just noticed that. 2. Peoples attitudes. People seem to be either a lot more appreciative or a lot more confused. I do get a few looks that seem to say “what are you doing?” Probably because we weren’t allowed to sing and had to wear a mask for so long. But the graciousness outweighs the confusion. I get so many people stopping for a chat or saying thank you as they pass.

Overall, I am very happy to be back busking in whatever form it will take in the future.



It’s been good so far. I’m putting it in perspective with other types of show business that have been hit hard.

Germany has been very generous in some ways, and as I had been doing my taxes properly since 2010, I got access to many of the funds that had been given for both small businesses and also for further artistic development.

As the pandemic started, I was talking to a friend that I met in Shenzhen in November 2019, and she was telling me the situation there that was a few months in advance of Europe.

I saw that as an opportunity, and relying on what I was hearing from her, I put a project together to sell a small event for culture offices that cancelled the usual events they had. We built a team of 10 performers-companies and sold around 20 events last year. We all managed to save the season somehow.

The project can be found under www.boardwalktheater.de

We are booking events for this year too.

I can only say that if there are buskers out there who aren’t currently working, they gotta get together and build alternative concepts until the wave is gone. Or to get regular jobs if that’s the way to make it through.

I can also offer support to anybody willing to talk about the current situation.

Locally, we are building a network to reach some kind of political status to gain busker friendly regulations here in Cologne. (I would love to chat with you about it. I didn’t manage to maintain the appointment we were supposed to have, but I will get back to you.)


El goma



I have been busking for so many years full time, both on the street and in the London Underground. I was also doing lots of private events, weddings, hotels and so on, and in my free time I was doing lots of individual charity works.

I went two times to Rwanda to play in a private school of children with autism, then I did a tour with a piano for 3 months in Uganda playing in many orphanages including a deaf school with over 100 kids. I have been also involved in few tours with a group of artists from Affirmative Art, visiting Rwanda and Uganda, doing over 20 workshops. There my task was to document everything with photos and interviews. You can check their YouTube channel for more info.

Then the pandemic started:

on March 7th 2020 I did my last performance on the London Underground. I had no clue what was about to come. When I realized that they started closing down everything worldwide I had a moment of panic, but it didn’t last to long so I started focusing all my energy on my music and what I could do to keep move forward, without getting depressed or stressed or distracted from the pandemic.

So I started by revisiting all my social media platforms, and day by day I managed to improve them all: Twitter, Youtube, Soundcloud, LinkedIn, Facebook and so on. I also forced myself to learn how to record music from home, even though I’m so slow with technology. As a result, I started recording new compositions and up to now I’ve managed to finish 16 new tracks plus one cover. Overall, I’m working all together on the recording of over 50 new compositions so each time I feel I just open the programme and move forward.

I have also edited in the past months over 100 videos interviews of my last tour with Affirmative Art as well I managed to upload on my YouTube music channel nearly 25 new videos since the start of the pandemic, I also started working on building my new website with two blogs as I did so many things over the years and I never had the time to share it all as I was constantly on the move from place to place. I can’t wait to go back to play in front of the public because that is what keeps me alive. I miss the direct contact with the people so much. I’m looking forward to that day coming soon. In the meantime, I will keep myself crazy busy doing the best I can with all my energy and I want to make sure that each and every day I will achieve something, step by step.

Fabio Tedde / Pianist Without Borders



The lack of gigs has been hard to bear at times, even though the rest has been good to find out what’s important in life.

I had to get away from my wife which has been a toxic relationship for thirty years. It has been tough.

I’m planning a film project involving communication with whales and dolphins with trumpet. Previously, we made a film available on YouTube under putyoursailsup…it’s not all Bad….



When the lockdown came in and school and childcare was out, my busking got cut. But I got singing in churches and at masses over livestream. I am very grateful for that.

I’ve also weekly been uploading music online on community session pages or on my own media. I’ve taken on the internet in a new way this year. Still getting there.

I have a different following now, but I’m not as free. I cannot wait for the freedom of busking again. My customers have found me on social media and have told me they miss me.

I’ll be back.

Thanks for asking



After 33 years of spending circa 150 days per year being happily lost out in the world at various events, festivals, performing, teaching or directing, it’s been a fascinating experience being “home” for such a prolonged time. There’s no running away from myself for a change…if that is indeed what I have been doing !?

Although the Swiss government is looking after independent artists as only the Swiss can afford to do…providing we do the reams of paperwork…. the impact has still been substantial in other ways. Initially, I just focused on being creative in other ways….using my time to clean-up, reflect on my career & choices, set some new goals, reach out to new contacts, broaden my collaborations, write some new shows, learn to play a new instrument, draw, paint, get fitter and generally looking for ways to improve my life and be ready for what’s next. This was actually pleasant….as much as I love being out on the road, it can be exhausting, so taking a break felt refreshing.

More recently however, I have started to worry, perhaps irrationally, about how I will react to going back to work. Is my passion and energy what it was? Will I still believe in my performances? Will they still be relevant in the new normal? What un-factored surprises await me ?

I have reached out to people and mentors seeking their advice…and all agree that finding new ways of continuing to self-actualise is essential. Being predominantly an artist in public spaces means I am flexible, adaptable and accepting of surprises….so have a little faith they say.

So, although my financial situation is not grave and I am able to provide for my family, I am aware of the potential mental health toll this situation is having. I see people around me stressing and manifesting their uncertainty as rage, frustration, panic or other emotional outpours…and I wonder how it affects me and how it will impact my work. Perhaps ultimately I have to have faith that if my passions and creative abilities have taken me around the world and back for all these years….and paid the bills….then I should be fine, if not somewhat different.

I wish everyone all the best. And if it gets tough, I encourage you to reach out to friends and mentors. As lonesome as this itinerant life can be, there are people who care deeply. See you out there in the new normal….a normal we as cultural practitioners are now in a position to help define. People will always need to be together….that is the nature of the beasts we are….so have faith and get out there and give them great reasons to be together.

Tom Greder www.kinopan.com | www.tomoskar.com



Fortunately, I am retired and not dependent on busking income (I donate it all to local program for feeding street folk).

My city doesn’t regulate street performers, but there don’t seem to be a lot of them here. One thing that has been striking is the number of people who have stopped (tipping or not) to thank me for the live music and for “helping us through this”. During the eerily quiet time of last summer and fall with the lockdowns and restrictions it seems that the presence of a live musician was comforting and “normal”.

Looking forward to Spring and better weather to continue the journey.



Hello all. I live in the US. San Francisco California area. I was performing at resorts before Covid hit all over the world. I also have been busking since March of last yr. I have an RV which I live in full time with a solar bathroom, shower & kitchen..

To survive, I have been busking in front of Farmers Markets, grocery stores, outside restaurants, patio private parties, etc. even 7/11s

Making great tips, 3-4 days a week.

I play sax, flute, guitar & vocals over tracks. We as artists have to reinvent ourselves, think outside of the box. I’m open to travel anywhere/

Good luck & stay positive..!


Chaz By The Bay !





The pandemic was a relief! Since ages I wanted to have a time out! It rescued me, I was going straight into a BURNOUT and this time out, this sudden stop, was all I needed. In this year without jobs I could recover, and I am still recovering.

Being a travelling artist isn’t an easy job: always on the run, always on the computer, always in the car. Seldom resting and being at festivals is hard work. I have been doing street theatre since 2004 and I can’t imagine not being a street performer. But what a wonder, I can! 2020 gave me the chance to discover new talents:

I wrote and produced 3 albums, and I opened up a little online shop.

Now I am in nature as often as I can. Being a performer is still there somewhere in the ether, and when I write papers or give interviews now about being a street theater maker I get a little bit nostalgic.

There is a new show in the pipeline, sometimes we meet to rehearse, but then I ask myself: ” ..for what…?” – the pandemic goes on, shows are cancelled! Sometimes I ask myself how it will be to come back? Will I be the same performer? Will I work as hard and without no limits like before? Will I disrespect my boarders again? No! That’s for sure. I will not be the same. We all will not.

I stopped thinking about a future scenario of the street theatre industry. I just do what I like, every day, to make me happy. Yesterday the unemployment office called me and told me that they would pay for any course I would like to attend. I will think about it! The pandemic will go on in 2021!



Life has been challenging (is that the correct euphemism under these circumstances?).

Basically, my entire life and livelihood went to shit beginning in early March 2020. The whispers of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States were beginning to materialize into real consequences as I received a wave of gig cancellations. This was punctuated by the abrupt closure of schools, which is how I earned supplemental income as a substitute teacher. So in a span of 2 weeks, I had no income. That was my reality for the next 11 weeks until I received my first Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payment.

I would remain unemployed for a total of 6 months until schools resumed virtually in August (with a somewhat cogent game plan). I then began substitute teaching orchestra full-time in what is called a vacancy position. Basically, the school I worked at had no orchestra teacher, so they relied on me to cover the responsibilities of a licensed teacher.

This was a career change and one that I did not want because of the stress and exhaustion of being an educator — especially in the midst of a global pandemic with Donald Trump occupying the highest office of the land. I did my job, instructing 150 students daily via computer. Once I finished the semester, I was interviewed by the New York Times during winter break (2 weeks).

Currently, I am working at a different school teaching middle school math (once again as a vacancy substitute teacher). When we return from Spring Break April 6, I will have some students in the classroom and some online for the final 8 weeks of the school year. This is what school districts are calling “hybrid instruction” (asynchronous, synchronous).

I will be relieved when this phase is over and hopefully Las Vegas, Nevada’s tourism and trade show industry, will safely return to a sustainable capacity. I make way better money gigging than teaching and it’s much more rewarding. And I deserve to get a reprieve from the endless grading and stress. Also, I miss busking and hope to do so this summer.

On a positive note, I started a romantic relationship that has lasted over a year. I am grateful to have not braved the pandemic alone.

Street performers are still around in Las Vegas, NV. They are suffering as our economy was the most devastated in comparison to the largest US cities. I think performers are hurting more than they would care to admit, but I’ve heard very little on the subject.

I had no idea about the Sarah Everard story. The mass murder of 8 Asian spa workers has dominated U.S headlines this week (we’re almost 1/4 through 2021 and the madness has NOT ceased).

I am disturbed (but not surprised) with the new laws the UK government is trying to pass. I would love to dedicate more time to being involved, but substitute teaching has monopolized my time and energy.

Performers are still busking in Las Vegas, but are being told by police that everything has to be off the ground– so now musicians are strapping amps to their backs and tip jars on their waist (on The Strip). I recently met a guitarist from the UK who is busking in Las Vegas. William (busking911) found me via busklv and had his gear impounded following an arrest. He was recently interviewed by a local vlogger, and the video has received almost 14k views. I think busking will continue in the same fashion as it did pre-COVID, but more opportunities will be available for paid busking gigs.



Ok relatively. I’m a Primary School music teacher so my income has not been affected at least.



Editor’s note: the article mentioned below was by the MU, who claimed that busking had been banned by the government’s new covid measures. This was debatable, as anyone who “cannot do their job from home” was free to continue to work.

I have been busking at least 4 days a week since January. However, at the start of March after the Musicians’ Union published an article on busking, I have been stopped, sent home or threatened with fines in two of my regular busking locations. Fortunately, three or four towns have welcomed me and love the music. I’ve had police officers encourage me there, the local town mayor come and congratulate me and people dancing. So, I know there is some sanity still around!

I receive a small amount of government benefits at the moment, but each week they tell me I really need to get out busking, where I then encounter local government representatives who tell me to go home. It’s a weird circle!

I’ve continued my weekly livestream on Facebook through all of the lockdowns, so am now around week 51! I’ve launched a members-only subscription service, which gives me a small boost in income each month, alongside exclusive merchandise which has been another one off payment boost.

Due to the success of my live streams I was contacted by a company called Tango (similar to TikTok/Instagram Live) to have a three month featured artist residency broadcasting to Asia, Africa etc. It’s been going really well and a new source of income and fans.

Sadly, I sold a number of keyboards I’ve had for my whole career, but with UK venues opening up again soon, I have 30 something bookings back in the calendar and I’m building up hope for a show to an audience!



Last year, in March, one of my biggest fears about not performing and losing my career temporarily was losing my endurance. I was already really weak from my mystery illness, and any more blows to my ability to be a functional circus performer would likely end my career for good. So I started to walk.

I lived in the heart of Toronto in 2020, which, in January, had so much promise. It was a large condo, but a cage is a cage and I decided to take the opportunity to ensure me and my 2 1/2 year old son got exercise.

So, I would pack him up in a monster stroller and I would walk through the city. It started in Toronto Busking pitches, they were all about a kilometer from the apartment, the only year I’ve ever lived that close to a pitch. It’s all I could do to start. I packed—just like busking—to the limits, I mean, the 50lbs kid isn’t light gear. I also needed the same things: my trolley, food, water, protection from the elements. My days felt very similar to busking.

We would walk every day, and stretch our distance farther and farther as we got stronger. We would bring toys and find places with public art. We explored 20kms in every direction just by foot by the end of the summer. It was as satisfying as busking, with my tiny audience of one.

At the time, I had to give up performing. I tried at the beginning of the lockdown, but with my kid I can’t get the right focus to do a good job. Daycare costs as much as any menial job I could get, so I just surrendered and spent the time with my kid, exploring, seeing the city “urban hiking” and at the end of the year, I got news that I received my grant. So I now get to build my new letter-prop show.

🙂 yay!



Sidewalk Frank here from across the pond in Oakland CA. My two cents – this pandemic will be used to further curtail the rights of people in the US of A, where the police already have the right to shoot anyone who they claim “I thought my life was in danger, so I shot him/her.” 1984 was here a long time ago and with the advent of new technologies, mainly cameras everywhere etc. It will only get worse.

On the brighter side – I think people are starved for real live entertainment. We have done some street performing over the past year and people are very excited to hear live music, played by real people. But the push is to license street performers so they can 1) limit the amount of people performing and 2) tax them. It’s all about control man.

When this is over I’m getting back in my Sprinter Van and hitting the streets. I was in Montreal and Quebec City two years ago and busking was alive and thriving. I have a busking rig for amplification but was completely acoustic on that tour.

I did have the problem of people wanting to donate to me but they weren’t carrying cash. Some app would be helpful for this. The general direction worldwide is to have a cashless society, which will be another way of tracking where people are and, of course, their spending habits, so they can be targeted by companies to sell them more shit they don’t need.

The other thing, which is already happening, is if you are NOT vaccinated you will not be able to travel – especially internationally. Why one wouldn’t get the vaccine is beyond my comprehension, but what the fuck do I know.

Hope this helps. Thanks for the emails. I look forward to them and keep up the fight. Someday willing, I’ll make it to the UK. It’s on my list and I will be busking, damn the torpedoes.





I live in Israel. We have many circus and street artists. Most of us work with promotion agencies. We are approached by people to work at their venues / shopping areas to help them get more incoming customers, but we are not prepared to work for hats only. We have a price list as a guideline and if a mall wants an artist we demand a basic payment, plus the opportunity to put down a hat.

If we choose to work in the street or traffic light pitches it is hat only. Musicians have a hard time with the volume of their amps. It’s always a real pain in the neck. Also, in Israel we are not permitted to sell disks.

Good luck to us all,

Human statue Michelle Tam



Hi Nick,

Thank you for the update of the bleak goings-on in London.

In NYC there is talk about the city designating outdoor spaces for performances soon, but only for roped-off spaces where people wanting to enter will need to buy tickets. The performers will have to pay a fee for using the space each time they want it.

This could be good for some performers who can draw large crowds willing to buy tickets, but most NYC buskers are single musicians who rely on crowds passing by, not staying for an hour of a concert, and the police will not let buskers be within earshot of these ticketed performance spaces.

Right now the MTA prohibits busking in the subway, but they will re-open MUNY once everyone is vaccinated – so there is hope there. There are some (non-MUNY) folks who busk there now, but I understand it is not lucrative at all, since there aren’t many people using the subway these days.

I have not busked for a whole year now. When temperatures are warm enough I plan to go play in the park, and possibly in an elevated subway station (open air) even though I know there will be no money to speak of there. I feel I need to play in a public space for the sake of not forgetting who I am…

Hope you and yours are keeping healthy these crazy days,
thank you for everything you do for the busking community!

Here is a link to “Open Culture”.

Notice how they emphasize that it is NOT A PERMIT FEE but rather an “application fee” – because they know that a permit for a public space performance would be illegal. Also, they make it seem as if an application fee is a one time thing, but I understand it is every time you want to use any of the spaces.

Performers will have to apply with the different art institutions that will be in charge of the different street spaces. Of course these art institutions will favor their own artists over buskers. The point is, the entire block or park will most likely not be available for any other performances. So many good streets/parks for busking (like Washington Sq Park) might be closed to us.

All the best,





Thought I would link my covid parody I was busking with last year before we went into
another full lockdown here (I’m in the UK)

Cheers and all the best!




Hi Nick,

Apart from not having any live gigs, it’s actually been a really good year for us. We’ve started to record our own music to be distributed on Spotify etc. We released our first EP in May last year and tomorrow we will release our sixth single in a row. We’ve gone from almost zero listeners to more than a thousand per month, and although Spotify isn’t going to make us rich, we’ve grown our fanbase much faster than we could ever have done with live performances. It’s also been a great year for writing (we’ve got almost 50 new songs written in English and in Dutch) and the creative juices are really flowing.

As a side project, we started a podcast (Your New Favourite Song) interviewing other indie musicians about their song and it led to us collaborating with one of the artists on our Christmas single. It is awesome sharing tips and tricks with other musicians and getting a peep behind the curtain of their songwriting and composing process, not to mention the whole production aspect.

At the start of the lockdown we did a short series of live videos of our (at the time) new songs which we posted to a Lockdown Sessions playlist on our YouTube channel. We didn’t really get into the whole ‘bemoan corona’ vibe that has been going around and we studiously avoided writing poems or songs inspired by the whole situation, but out previous single ‘Holiday’ (also here) does kind of fit in with that theme, although it was written years ago and we’ve performed it live dozens of times. It’s raw and authentic and it is just how it feels to spend your holiday within four walls. It’s definitely not just another COVID lament, it kicks ass as it should, being produced by Band of Rascals guitarist and ace mixer Malcom Owen-Flood.

He also hosts two podcasts which are invaluable to any independent musician and in part inspired me to start our own podcast. The podcasts are ‘Your band sucks (at business)’ about the business of running a band, and ‘The self-recording band,’ which is pretty self-explanatory. Both podcasts are on Spotify and Apple and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Captain Charlie



The pandemic is awful, but the police response to performers killed a lot of spirit before corona ever existed. Most of my busking family has housed up, got regular jobs, and put their instruments away after what happened to Vegas. We were arrested, had our property impounded, beaten, and threatened on a regular basis. A lot of us lost souls are just trying to find a new, better way to perform without the threat of cuffs. Venues are great but most buskers I know are not fans of microphones and set times. So we are just searching, doing facebook messenger performance for each other, brainstorming on what busking in the 2020s can become.

I actually moved pre-pandemic because Las Vegas was getting too rough with the cops. Tourists also had started getting violent and it was taking all the love out of the performance. I started busking in rural Minnesota, doing pop up shows in towns that haven’t had buskers since the hippy days and it goes over well. Busking was also the best way to test out new material and polish it up before putting down tracks. Though I haven’t been able to make music in my usual way, I have found a lot of sanity in writing new music to bring to the streets once life reopens for business.

Since the pandemic started, I have had to take on more odd jobs to keep finances right. Currently seeking more stable employment to make up for some of the losses of not getting out on the street.

I am 30 in August and have decided to go to college next fall so I can get a serious career in environmental science and hopefully find a way to connect my music to that path. Maybe put on educational concerts at state parks to teach kids about nature. Whatever the future holds, the rough spots behind us are just part of the journey, and that’s where the best music comes from.



Hi Nick!

I’m glad I discovered your group, it’s a very much needed service for buskers everywhere. Excited to have found you.

Like every other performer, this global lockdown has had a seriously negative impact on everyone. Worse still, since busking is now a global activity, the lockdown has shut down virtually every major country on earth to both tourists and travelers, so the economic effects have been utterly devastating.

As the entire world begins to slowly re-open, I believe it will take YEARS to undo the damage done to everyone, not just in terms of any mere virus, but in the horrific way the government has handled it. Since covid is an entirely outdoor activity, to ruin everything for buskers only makes these draconian restrictions more regrettable. I had planned to go for the NYC MTA auditions, even visiting Europe to perform this summer, but all of my hopes, plans, and dreams were destroyed by this horrific event.

Let us all hope that the world returns to normal ASAP, and thank you so much for all that you do.

Kind Regards,

R. Kim



Dear Nick,

Here is a link to my Facebook Live of my song ‘Creepy Lil Thing‘ which is all about the lockdowns and pandemic. ‘There’s A Creepy Lil Thing Creepin’ Around…’

I am an ex-London Underground busker who also busked a lot when I lived in Derry in Northern Ireland. I have been surviving the lockdown by doing other things, for example I am a support worker and Life Coach specialising in mental health. I also do a bit of charity fundraising from home. So I am very fortunate.

Lockdown has also given me the chance to really work seriously on my novel ‘Quadvia’ which is all about strange meetings at the crossroads – and a whole lot more. The first novel is nearly completed at over 80,000 words and I think it’s going to have to be a continuing saga, perhaps a trilogy.

It’s taken me a while to figure out how to busk and perform with no physical venues to perform at. I have been inspired by other friends and performers who have taken to the internet so I am doing it myself and frankly. It’s been a lifesaver, especially for my general morale.

Hope you enjoy the video. If you need to join my Facebook group ‘The Language of Songs’ in order to watch it, please join us. You are most welcome.

Many thanks for the Busking Project. It’s great.

Be good and kind to yourself and your close ones.

All the best

John Vanek.



When the pandemic hit in March 2020, literally all my gigs for the entire year were cancelled within a week, and Universal City Walk—one of the main places I would busk—was shut down. The Santa Monica Promenade and pier shut down as well so outside out paid gigs I couldn’t even street perform.

The MusiCares COVID-19 relief package (which is sponsored by the recording academy) was a big help in the beginning. I also received some local Los Angeles grants for performers. One other thing that has kept me afloat during the pandemic has been remote recording for labels and producers in America and different parts of the world. I invested in a Kaotica Eyeball so that I could get some decadent quality vocals from my home. I put up a post on my Instagram and Facebook that I was available to record and from there I got in contact with people to work with.

I was live streaming from home at the beginning of the pandemic and even set up a Twitch account, but honestly I really hated it. The money was good in the beginning but I didn’t like having to be sitting at a computer for 3-4 hours a day. IMO it’s not the same as busking—similar, yes, but I definitely don’t think it’s for everyone.

I started doing more private streams for charity fundraisers. Having knowledge of how to get good audio in my stream really helped, as well as knowing how to use zoom. Malls and restaurants have also hired me to help promote their Facebook pages through live streaming. I would definitely recommend this as a practical way to stream. Maybe you try teaming up with a local business who could really use the promotion so people order takeout online. IMO it’s probably cheaper for them to have you play then spend money on Facebook ads.

Honestly, after 6 months I got a day job working in a school. I don’t think there’s any harm in doing this as an artist. There’s always work available if you are in the field of education or health. I spent my evenings tracking 9 new songs that I’m releasing this year.

Now I’m starting to book gigs again and hopefully busk on my days I’m not booked. I think the pandemic has shown that we all need to just switch gears when it comes to doing music. For me, that meant learning about audio and home recording. It also meant just finding a way to work “smarter” and not “harder”. Americans are obsessed with hustle culture. I think if you are going to do music especially, you need to have that balance between making money and having a life. Sometimes you will have to do things you don’t want to do in order to pay the bills. Sometimes you just need to realize your worth as well!

I hope you are doing well Nick!

Katie Ferrara



The first couple of weeks were kind of a novelty. Wow, no responsibility! What should I do? Watch movies all day, take care of household projects that have been piling up, video chat with family and friends, try to distract myself from the ever growing fear that everything would not be going back to normal anytime soon.

Financially, we tightened up, only spending money on food and bills, and hoping for some kind of government assistance, which did eventually come, thankfully.

BUT I quickly grew tired of staying home, and signed up to a delivery service, just to get out of the house, do something productive and have a little income. It was very busy. No one wanted to leave their house and they all wanted their groceries delivered. But It just felt like wasting time to me.

I needed to do something to distract myself from the fact that I was growing more and more depressed and insecure about the future. I needed a project to keep me occupied. So, I decided to write the story of my life as a street performer.

I woke up every day and started writing. I was about 20 chapters into it when I randomly watched an online webinar on digital marketing. It inspired me, and convinced me to switch from writing the story of my life to writing a mini E-book on street performing. Maybe I could summarize my street performing system down to a 30-50 page booklet that might help beginner street performers.

I made an outline and started writing. Weeks of writing. I blew through 50 pages in no time, and hadn’t even begun to cover the important stuff. It was going to take hundreds of thousands of words to cover everything.

I needed a little advice, so I reached out to my cousin John, who has published a few books. After a long conversation with him, he convinced me to go further. To actually switch from writing a book to writing a more complete masterclass on the subject, and a package of video tutorials.

He told me it would take a lot more work to make it happen, but it would be a much more rewarding experience. I had nothing but time, so I agreed that I’d try and take it further. We were getting by on unemployment, so why not use the time I’ve been given to make something more complete.

I was delving so deep into my knowledge on street performing, and I just wanted to tell people about some of the stuff I was discovering that was lodged within my brain. But there was no one to tell. Just my wife and I in the house and she isn’t a street performer, it’s hard for her to get excited about this kind of stuff.

So I turned to facebook, and started the “Tips for Street Performers” group and started posting little tid-bits of information. Whatever subject that I was writing about that day, I’d make a short video about it and post it.

The group got large pretty quick and the feedback was heartwarming. I began to realize that I was helping the situation in some way. Contributing something to the busking community, and this inspired me even more to keep going with my project.

The facebook videos made great practice for speaking to a camera, and even though I still wasn’t done writing everything, I started making tutorial videos for the full masterclass.

It was well into the summer and I heard about a pitch that had opened up close by. Was it possible that I could go out and perform again? If I’m creating a course on street performing, it would make sense to be actively street performing while creating it, rather than relying solely on my memory of the techniques.

All of the regular pitches had been shut down and there weren’t any people there anyway. The people were all at the beaches, as it was the only place they were allowed to be!

I made a few adjustments to my act to make it pandemic friendly, and went to the beach to try it. No volunteers, no edge pull, hand sanitizer, mask on, buckets and cashless signs for tips. Obviously it wasn’t the same as pre 2020, people didn’t want to gather together, but they were craving human to human connection, and they did stand and watch at a distance.

But more important than that, I felt normal again, sitting on a pitch, watching foot traffic, talking shop with other performers, getting sweaty doing shows, tweaking my show daily and going home having felt like I did something, and it was keeping the depression at bay.

I got into a rhythm where I would make a video tutorial in the morning, go to the pitch in the afternoon and do a few shows and return home in time for dinner. It was a welcome return to normalcy even though it was brief. Once the weather turned to autumn, no one was going to the beach anymore.

So it was all head down, full steam ahead with making tutorial videos. Unfortunately, I was not mentally present in my own home, and my wife had to call me out on it a few times. I was home, but I was buried in my work. When I don’t have something to do, something to occupy my mind, I get sad. I may have wasted a precious summer that I could have been spending with my wife, working on this project just to keep my mind busy.

But I could see an end in sight, I was almost done, so I kept going. I launched the course “Ultimate Street Performer” in November of 2020 after 7 months of work. It had been a welcome distraction from reality, and even though there wasn’t a lot of street performing going on in the world, I knew that doing this work would help performers in the future.

I breathed a sigh of relief and my wife and I took a road trip down to Florida. Her father has a house there where we could stay for free, and there was another beach pitch down there that I could street perform at.

I spent the holiday season performing and enjoying the warm weather in Florida. Once again I had something to do, I fell back into my rhythm of waking up, doing yoga, preparing for a day of shows and then going to the pitch and performing all day, it felt normal. There was so much excitement surrounding 2021. “Can we just be done with 2020?”

But January 1st came and nothing changed of course. We were all still in this thing and it’s just another date on the calendar. The holiday season was over in Florida and it was time to drive back to Boston. But once I arrived home, that feeling started to come back. I have nothing to do now.

My online course is complete, shows are done with, it’s the middle of winter, it’s freezing cold, and I have no plans for the future whatsoever.

I fell into a depression once again and wondered who I am if I’m not involved in street performing in some way. I don’t ever see myself being able to work for someone after so many years working for myself and having ultimate freedom.

I sought out counselling to try and make sense of why I can’t just enjoy free time. Why do I always have to have something to do? Talking about it has helped immensely and I recommend it to anyone who is struggling right now.

Overseas travel is likely off the table this year, I doubt that any festival or even will want to book a performer traveling in from the USA. So I plan to stay within the US for 2021 and do shows where I am able. There are events happening in different places and I have developed a safe way to perform during the pandemic along with a lot of new material.

My wife and I decided to buy a small travel trailer so that we can drive around the country and camp to make new memories. 2020 was a “groundhog day” like life, each day pretty much the same with hardly any way to discern when you did something. You remember doing it, but have no idea when.

So this year I am going to focus on being more present, enjoying the day I am living and not thinking too hard about what is coming next. Just enjoy the time I have been given and be grateful for any work that pops up.

Over the last couple of months I have been developing a new show for the post pandemic world. So at least I can say that I grew through all of the heartache of the year and have something new and fresh to show for it.

All in all 2020 wasn’t so bad. I spent more time with my wife than ever before, I made a street performing masterclass, I created a new act, I got to do a little street performing, and I now have the tools I need to work through my depression. You can’t have the ups without the downs, and now that I recognize that, I am more equipped to deal with the hard days as they come and go.

Boston is still under pretty heavy restrictions, there is no date in sight for the pitch reopening, many local performers have left town temporarily or moved to a different place completely. Our little local family has gotten pretty small to the point when the pitch does open up again there may only be a few performers left to work it.

Once the pitch does open up again and the tourists come back, I won’t take it for granted as much as I used to. It had always been available to me, and that made it less valuable.

Now that I have been without a local pitch for over a year, I will be more grateful for the time I get to perform there in the future, close to home and close to my wife.

AL Millar

Boston, MA

Circle show