Archive for the ‘Resources’ Category

Better Late Than Never: Busking Season Check List

April 19, 2011

photo by photonfreak

I know that everyone in Portland is tired of talking about the weather. Really, as a busker, I’m tired of thinking about it.

With the promise of rain-free days ahead of us, I predict and insurgence of fair-weather street musicians emerging to take their corners for what will hopefully be a long and prosperous summer. The majority of buskers in Portland do not perform on the streets all winter long. Some of us have forgotten what it feels like to play without having mittens on. Here’s a little check-list that will hopefully remind you of what you’re all about.


  • A tarp or rain covering “just in case” to protect your instrument (if needed)
  • Tip receptacle
  • Layered clothing
  • Warm socks (’cause it’s still too cold to stand around in sandals!)
  • Business cards or similar contact info for listeners
  • A copy of the Street Musician Agreement  (just to prove you know what you’re doing)
  • Essentials, like extra strings or a tuner (if you need that sort of thing)
  • Bottle of water and/or a snack

If you have any questions or concerns, and definitely if you get harassed in the coming months, please contact PDXBusk.ORG by phone or e-mail on this page!

We also love to hear success stories and happy, pretty things too. Send us that kind of stuff as well.


Street Musician Agreement Frequently Asked Questions

February 18, 2011

From the Office of Commissioner Amanda Fritz

What is the Street Musician Agreement?
The Street Musician Agreement (SMA) was created in 1994 by a coalition of street musicians, local businesses, government officials, and residents in an effort to maintain livability in Downtown Portland, while encouraging music on Downtown’s vibrant streets.

What parts of town does the SMA apply to?
The SMA only applies to Downtown Portland.  This includes the area encompassed by I-405, the Willamette River, and West Burnside Street.

What are the guidelines that musicians should follow as a part of the agreement?
According to the agreement, musicians should:

  • Attempt to space themselves a minimum of one block apart;
  • Rotate their location every 60 minutes (not including set up and take down time) to allow for everyone to enjoy prime locations;
  • Return to a location twice in one day after a 60 minute break, if desired; and
  • Comply with Portland’s Noise Control ordinance, which states that noise should not be audible more than 100 feet away in any direction (including vertical)

What are the guidelines that the Downtown retail, business, and residential community should follow as a part of the agreement?
According to the agreement, the retail, business, and residential community should:

  • Not interrupt a musician in the middle of a number;
  • Be professional and courteous when speaking to a musician and not resort to threats or intimidation; and
  • Abide by the Police or mediator in the event of a dispute with a street musician.

If someone violates a part of the SMA, is this is a violation?
No. The only enforceable law is the Noise Ordinance, which states that a noise source cannot be audible more than 100 feet away.  The remainder of the agreement is community guidelines.

Who can enforce the Noise Ordinance?
Only Portland Police officers and the City of Portland’s Noise Control officer may enforce the Noise Ordinance and issue violations.

Where can I get connected to the street musician and street performer community in Portland?
PDX Busk ( ) is a great resource for musicians and performers that live in Portland or are just traveling through Portland.  Their mission is, “to create community through music, musicians and other street performers.”  Additionally, The Big Busk, a music festival for Downtown Portland, will take place this year on July 16, 2011.  For more information on this event, visit their website at

Where can I find a copy of the agreement?
The full agreement can be found here:

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!

Open Mic Nights in Portland

April 29, 2010

This list will be constantly updated and changed for accuracy. Let us know if any information is incorrect or if you know of another venue. We have included some venues in Vancouver and other towns in the Portland metro area. Open mic nights are a great way to try out new music and perform in front of an audience.


  • Ash Street Saloon
    225 SW Ash Street, Portland OR (503) 226 – 0430 / 09:30 PM
    Generally only have a monthly open mic night. Bartender said “hit or miss.” Was instructed to call every Monday to see if there is an open mic night that night.
  • Irishtown Bar & Grill
    11600 SE Mill Plain Blvd #F, Vancouver WA (360) 253-1479 / 07:00 PM – Weekly
  • Jade Lounge
    2342 SE Ankeny, Portland OR (503) 236-4998 / 07:00 PM – (Weekly)
    If you are a musician and want to call to see if we have any openings you can email with a date and preferred time and someone will contact you. If you are doing things last minute you can call the lounge to see if we have any openings.
  • The Good Foot Lounge’s Sonic Forum
    2845 SE Stark, Portland OR (503) 239-9292 / 08:30 PM – Weekly
    Play alone or backed by our house musicians. Drum kit, all amps, Hammond organ and sound engineer provided! Click here to sign up. $1
  • Twin Paradox Coffee House
    8609 SE 17th Ave, Portland OR (503) 232-8202 / 07:00 PM – Weekly