A Guide to Busking on the Tube
Busking is serious business in London. The city is so rich in culture that it spills from the West End into the streets, and from the streets into the tube. It’s been over 10 years since Transport for London (TfL) launched their London busking scheme, making it legal to busk on the underground. 2003 was a transformative year for London, and we’ve enjoyed the sound of the underground ever since, with daily commutes no longer being anywhere near as drab or dreary. If you’re looking to get busking on the London Underground there’s a few things you need to bear in mind though…
Do you have a permit for that?
Every now and again you see professional musicians on the likes of X factor who are entirely un-phased by the tired eyes of the bored judges. That’s because if they’ve ever busked in London they’ve done this line dance before. In order to get a free permit to busk on the tube you need to audition in front of a panel of judges. If you pass the audition you can earn a spot at one of 37 busking pitches at 25 different stations across the city. Don’t worry if you don’t pass though – even The Pogues failed their audition to busk at Covent Garden. While most places in London require a permit, there are places like Camden that simply don’t. Just make sure you check before you set up.
Timing is everything
Unlike busking in your home town or a smaller city, busking on the tube gives you mere seconds to engage with your audience. If they like your music, your audience may simply slow down as they pass you. There are ways to engage with your audience in short spaces of time though, and the best London buskers are no stranger to this. Thanking people as they drop change in your gig bag will help.
Don’t encourage people to buy CDs if you don’t have a permit to sell them. Instead, one great thing to try is an easily visible sign with your name and a URL where you can get a free sample of your work. Put a picture of a camera on this this sign to encourage people to take a photo as they walk past. This can really help improve your outreach – play at Webley Arena and you’ll play to 12,500 people. Play at London Liverpool Street Station and you’ll play to 4 million people in a single day.
Not everyone likes all kinds of music. Some people like rock covers of Uptown Funk. Some people abhor the idea. Keeping track of how much you make busking at different spots can help you keep track of which parts of London hold your audience. Cater to the right spots if you want to maximise your time spent busking on the tube.
Keep it compact
Remember that you will have a limited amount of space here. Once you’re done at one pitch you’ll want to pack up quickly, keeping all of your stuff together and manageable – this isn’t as easy as it is on a bridge in a small city where your car is 400m up the road. A high quality professional gig bag from Fusion Bags will allow you to keep your instrument safe, your tips away from your instrument. Bags from our impressive Fuse-On range will even help you get from A to B quicker while keeping your instrument safer.
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