Archive for the ‘Reader Questions’ Category

Busking in Winter – Tips

January 31, 2011

Halley the Harper bundled up Nov 2009

I went busking yesterday, and let me tell you – it was cold! The weather forecast was for 50 degrees, but with little sun and a slight breeze the chill was quite noticeable. I have busked in degrees reaching down to the high 30s, but it’s been a while, and I’m a wuss.

Here are some tips that I have found useful when busking in adverse weather conditions.

Bring a Plastic Bag or Tarp – You never know when the sky is going to open up and pour. If you’re a musician with a soft case, it’s really nice to be able to wrap your instrument in plastic before stowing it away.

Bring Gloves – I’ve practiced with those little knit gloves and can play “OK” in them as long as I’m not playing any faster music. However, for days when I want the warmth as well as the dexterity, a pair of fingerless gloves are great. (Plus, they give you that Charles Dickens street urchin look.)

Wear Layers – This may seem like a no-brainer, but I have run into occasions all the time where I am bundled up and then the sun comes up, I roast, take off the jacket, freezer, etc. Wearing lots of layers lets you shed or add as the weather fluctuates.

Make an Escape Plan – I have gone out when the morning was absolutely beautiful, only to have the sky open up and just dump. After packing up my things (quickly), I ran to the nearest coffee shop and tried to wait it out. Then, I ended up having to call a friend to come pick me up as I couldn’t even make it to a bus stop.

Check the Forecast and Realize It’s Usually Wrong – Winter in Portland is unpredictable enough. It’s always frustrating to read about a “partially cloudy” day and then get out for half an hour just to get rained on.

Find Covered Areas – This is difficult in downtown area, but if you can find a place that’s not private property and covered, kudos to you.

Do you have any adverse weather tips? Leave a comment or e-mail us!

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Tricks for tips! A guide for keeping your tips where they belong

September 14, 2010

Fairly often the question of tips comes up in conversation among buskers or even when I mention to people that I am one. The question of theft is a frequent one as well as musing about encouraging those walking by to keep the love flowing. After sitting down and compiling research from conversations with other buskers and my own experience, I have come up with this handy little guide to help out the newly ordained to the street arts as well as a pick-me-up for the veterans.

1) KEEP IT CLOSE! Whether you are a guitarist getting coins dumped in your case or an acrobatic troupe passing a hat at the end of your bit, keep your tips close to you. Within reaching distance close. A lot of cities (including Portland) have a 2′ ordinance for leashed dogs – let’s think of your tip like a dog, and keep it within 2′ of your body at all times.

2) PRUNE THE SHRUBS! The idea of a tip hat, vase, jar, bowl, case or what-have-you is for people to put money into it – it’s not to

Katherine, a living statue, uses a vase right near her feet so she can always keep an eye on it.

showcase the money that you have made throughout the day. So, have $35 in $1 bills is a little excessive, and making you a target for someone to grab a big wad of your money and run away. The solution? I like to wait until there is a lull of traffic, then I transport 90% of the bills into a little zippered pouch or drawstring bag for counting later.

3) KEEP IT SEPARATE, KEEP IT SAFE! Wherever you’re keeping your little secret pouch of tip money, keep it separate from your other stuff. Sit on it. Tuck it into your backpack behind you, etc. I would advise against, for instance, just putting it in a side pocket of the guitar case that you’re also receiving tips inside.

4) THE SIGN DEBATE. Some buskers like to put up signs advertising that they need money and give various reasons; rent, pot, food, doctor bills, etc. The reason some buskers like to put out signs is that they want the audience to know where the money is going. There is another school of thought that putting up a sign is like asking for a handout, blurring the line between buskers and “spangers.” Personally, I feel that putting a dollar bill in the hat to “seed” it or even tape a permanent dollar to the side of my chosen tip receptacle is all that’s necessary to give people the idea that they should be giving me money. Experiment. If you want to use a sign, try it a few times and then go without for a few. See what works for you.

5) KEEP TRACK OF YOUR TIPS! After you’re done playing for the day, count up all your tips (in private of course! Don’t get mugged of your rent money!), and write it down in a log. I like to track where I played how much I made total and avg per hour. When I am looking for places to busk for the day, I can check my log and see where I did pretty good and where I have been consistently doing bad. Keeping track like this helps you in several ways. You get to see how much money you’re making, laid out all in front of you – you get to see where are the good spots and the bad, and you get to see how often you’re hitting particular corners. Hitting the same corner too often, you might filter through the regular passers and then run out of audience. It happens. Log it and you can avoid it!

I hope that these five hints can keep you safe on the streets and help you make a little extra pocket change at the same time! See you on the streets!

Reader Question: Busking at the Saturday Market

May 4, 2010

If you have any questions about your rights as a street musician, run into problems while busking or anything related to the city of Portland and music, please contact us! We’d love to hear from you and post your comments and questions online!


Matt writes: “I am curious about the Saturday market. What are the busking rules for there? Is there a permit system or something similar?  I would like to busk there with my guitar and  harmonica, but am not sure of the situation.”

We have all been to the Saturday Market at one time or the other, even if it is just to shake our head and hurry by to avoid the throngs of people, and the smell of elephant ears and hot dogs invading our nostrils. We have seen the regular buskers there. The ones that have been there for veritable years. This morning, I did a little research into the inner workings of the Saturday Market, contacting the administrative office directly.

The staff member I spoke with said simply; “The street musicians are under the City’s jurisdiction.” Saturday Market does not regulate any busking. However, this is where the loophole of the Street Musician Partnership Agreement kicks in again. The Saturday Market recently moved to their new location, which puts them on Tom McCall Waterfront Park, thereby putting them under the jurisdiction of Portland Parks & Rec. There is currently no busking allowed on Tom McCall Waterfront Park because the Portland Downtown Business Alliance refuses to issue the permits that the Partnership Agreement holds them to.

It is unclear if the Portland Police Bureau and the PPR Security will ask you to leave if you are within in the confines of the market, but the official word is that if you are on the park property, you can play, but can not be soliciting funds.

If you are going to busk down at the Saturday Market, please remember that they do have amplified stage music there, and that it can be quite noisy. Suggestions include being close enough to foot traffic, but far enough so that you can still be heard, with considerations of the Parks & Rec Department’s solicitation restrictions on Waterfront Park.