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SJ Busking Blog – Basement Busking Advice

Special guest blog by StreetJelly performer: Rewind.
SJ Busking Blog – Basement Busking Advice.



Years ago I used to busk on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado. It was a great way to get my music in front of a wider audience as well as make some extra money. Some days I would earn just a few bucks, and others I would come home with a lot more. StreetJelly is the closest thing to an online version of busking I have found. Call it basement busking. I learned a lot of performance tips during my time busking, and many of those are relevant to online busking from the basement. We recently had the chance to take StreetJelly on the road and travel to Asheville, NC to talk with the Asheville Busker’s Collective. I thought it would be a good time to go ahead and publish a blog post on some of these basement busking tips I learned from my Pearl Street days.

•    Be prepared. I would never think of playing a song in front of a group of people while busking if I didn’t know the song well. Learn the lyrics if it’s a cover song and know which key you are going to play the song in. Bring a cheat sheet as a backup. If you know you are going to play a song that you need a cheat sheet for in advance, look it up online and keep a separate window open on your computer that you can quickly switch to. Have a set list planned out in advance. It’s not a problem to stray from your set list, but it can help you if you get stuck trying to remember what the heck you were going to play.

•    Minimize the time you spend in between each song. If you have a story to tell about the song, that’s fine, but it’s best to keep it brief. When you’re busking, most people are walking by, and you have a short stretch of time to catch their attention. This is true of basement busking, too. If someone pops into your show, and you are tuning for a long time or spending lots of time figuring out what song to do next, chances are good that person will leave your show and go check out something else.

Shop Light•    Don’t wait for requests. It’s human nature that people connect to songs they already know and like, so lots of musicians throw cover songs into their set to maintain crowd interest. You can ask your audience if they have any requests. But if they don’t answer quickly, don’t wait around until they do. Chances are good you won’t know it, and most of the time the viewers just want to hear whatever you want to play.

•    Location, location, location. For anyone who has ever busked outside, you know how crucial location can be. With online busking, your location is often wherever in your house you set up; basement, living room, garage, and so on. Before you broadcast, look at how your performance will look to your viewers. Is the lighting good? You’d be amazed at what a lamp or a shop light duct taped to a mic stand can do. Is there a bunch of junk in the background that distracts from your performance? Maybe change locations or put up a backdrop. I made a cheap frame out of PVC pipe and hung a blanket over it when I had to broadcast from a room that had a lot of other stuff going on.PVC Frame

If you have any other basement busking tips, share them in the comments section below.

Posted under: Guest Blogs, Support, Help, Tricks

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  • Paul of HeadinWest on December 27, 2015 at 11:28 pm said:

    I like the lighting advice. Webcams aren’t always the best, and every video camera likes a LOT of light. They may work with less, but they will give you a better product with more. Pay attention to light temperature, too, warmer or cooler depending on what you want your show to feel like.

  • Frank Edmiston on January 6, 2016 at 3:32 am said:

    I like the PVC frame for the blanket. If you’re playing in a room with hard floors or a lot of echos, it helps a lot to have something soft like a blanket behind you and underneath you. I play with in front of a quilt I have hung on the wall and I lay a blanket down underneath me when I play. This reduces some of the echos in the room and allows me to keep it simple and just use one microphone for the guitar and vocals.

  • Phillip Grohs on March 3, 2016 at 10:58 pm said:

    I am not a performer on StreetJelly, due to health reasons, but I am a ” professional viewer “, with 3+ years experience, under my belt…but I want to give an opinion, from a viewer’s perspective, about being prepared; especially set lists…Don’t play the same set list week after week…There is nothing worse than hearing the same songs over and over, again…Once, twice – OK – but week after week is a deadly gamble in both getting and holding viewers, and receiving tips…So, please, vary the songs, on your set list, and I guarantee a tip from me, unless it is something that is special, and most performers, that I watch, know my habits enough to provide that special song, especially for me…Thanks –