Busking permits

Currently I’m researching where I’m going to need a busking permit this summer.  North Carolina is surprisingly lenient as far as busking goes, just for the information of anyone who wants to come down here and play.  I will not be playing in Wilmington, but a law suit in, I want to say 2008, deemed issuing permits unconstitutional.  So you don’t need a permit in Wilmington.  You also don’t need one in Chapel Hill, Charlotte, or Asheville, all places I will be playing between now and the summer.  I’m not sure about the other cities in North Carolina but it’s likely that Durham and Raleigh also don’t require permits.

So after Charlotte and Asheville I will be headed on to Bonnaroo (assuming I find people to freaking go with!) and after that I think I will fly out to Richmond because that would be a long-ass train/bus ride.  It appears as though you do not need a permit to busk in Richmond.  I have been told that the best place to go in Richmond is Carytown, which is right near my mom’s new house!

After Richmond, though this is not confirmed, I will probably be going up to Washington, DC, where I hear there is a lot of appreciation for classier music.  I’ll do more research on DC but I know that you do not need a permit to busk in Washington, DC.  

After DC I was thinking about going to Baltimore, where my sister is going to be this summer, but it appears as though Baltimore may be dry as far as busking goes.  I may try it anyway for shits and giggles, because it is so close to DC, but perhaps not. You need a permit to busk in Baltimore.  They require auditions and it is $25, but it appears that many people have played without being hassled by the police.

Whether or not I go to Baltimore, I will probably head up to New York City after that.  New York will probably require a post all on its own because it’s the biggest city in the United States and has many websites dedicated to it.  What I have gathered is that you do not need a permit to busk in New York City, but cops will try to give you tickets and claim that you do.  The writing on this is hazy and I might have to get back to you on whether or not that is accurate.  I’ve heard Washington Square Park is a great place to play, and Piano Across America lives in NYC and plays there.  It seems as though that’s the best place to play without being told to go away.

After New York, I’m heading to Boston.  Actually, Cambridge.  You need a permit to busk in Cambridge, and it’s $40, but it seems like they will give them to pretty much anyone.  I’m not too worried about it.  I’ve heard that Harvard Square is the place to be for buskers.  I think I’ll be in Boston for awhile because one of my best friends is also gonna be there at the same time!  I’m really looking forward to it.

If anyone reads this and lives in a great place for busking anywhere along that trail, I’d love to come there and stay with you!  If you’re not a rapist!

Anyway, I’m flying out to Los Angeles after that.  I know you need a permit in Los Angeles and they’re pretty strict about it in Santa Monica, plus amplification is an absolute must there since it’s so loud.  However, I’ve heard it’s less strict in Venice Beach and that’s where I’d be going because it’s a little less kitschy.  If I played in Santa Monica I’d probably be better off playing pop music and I don’t really want to do that.

I’ll update this more as I learn more about each place I’m headed.  It’s going to be over a month before I go anywhere that needs a permit so I have time to think about it.

This has been a post.  Here’s a completely irrelevant GIF, and by completely irrelevant I mean Arrested Development is always relevant.


Rippin it up! So proud boyzz! #setsail #busk #music (Taken with instagram)


Rippin it up! So proud boyzz! #setsail #busk #music (Taken with instagram)

(Source: forlegiteyesonly)

This isn’t the first time I’ve done that.

My name is Leah, and I am a street performer.

I also just quoted Marcel the shell, sue me.

Last summer, I started busking in Seattle, Washington, just outside of Pike Place Market.  I was staying with my then-boyfriend in the very center of Seattle, and I got bored one day and decided to try it.  I wandered down to the market and talked to some of the street performers.  Here’s one:

He told me that you have to have a permit to play in Pike’s Place, so the best place to play if you’re not a native is right outside of the market in front of Starbucks.  So there I went.  

I’ve been playing guitar about four or five years, and I’ve been taking voice lessons for a few years now, so I can play by ear.  My problem is lyrics, so at that time when I was quite unexperienced with street performing, I was only able to play about ten songs (and not particularly well).  I would recommend against going out and playing without some thought put into it: know at least ten songs (by now I know forty or fifty), and put a sticky note with the songs, their keys and the fret on which you put the capo.

However, I am quite unique in the busking world because I am both very experienced musically (for my age, anyhow), and a young woman.  The latter is the important part.  In my travels to Seattle, San Diego, Los Angeles, and in my return to my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, I only saw or met one other female street performer, and she was not playing an instrument while she sang.  Here’s another street performer my age playing in Santa Monica:

His name is Segun. He was definitely the youngest one I saw. So I’m young, and I’m a woman.  I have the advantage of being unique and having a niche of my own, but I have the disadvantage of danger and the fear of having no one else out there like me.

Anyhow, in Seattle I was marginally successful, but it was so much fun.  Part of the reason I didn’t make a ton of money is because I spent a large amount of time just talking to passersby.  One young photographer, Vince, spent a while watching me, and then took some photographs of me.  Here’s one:

I have many stories from Seattle but I am going to keep them to myself, because this blog is for new stories.

When I got back to Charlotte I was less optimistic about busking.  Charlotte is a banking city.  But I decided to give it a try.  On my first day I made friends with a food vendor on the corner of Trade and Tryon (facing the Bank of America building) and he informed me that the best times to come were during lunch hour, 11:30 to 1:30.  So I began.  On Mondays there’s a preacher with a sound permit who takes up that corner, but all the rest of the days of week are fair game.  There’s a fruit market on Tuesdays and Fridays (they don’t like me because my hour-long set is too repetitive for them…as in, they hear each song twice.  Most buskers only know 10 or 15 songs) so those are the days I get paid the most, especially Fridays.

Everyone, let me introduce to you: Fridays.  Friday is pay day!  Friday is the last day of the week!  Everyone wants to give you money on a Friday!

Anyway, Saturdays are okay too because there are people walking around leisurely and will stop to give you a listen; whereas on the weekdays, everyone just wants to get to lunch.

Anyhow, here is me on Trade and Tryon.  Must’ve been a tiresome day because I’m leaning.  Could be the colonoscopy I had a few days earlier…notice the hospital band.

Here’s one with a friend:

in front of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.  Not as successful there, but someone took my usual spot that day.  I am also being featured in Busk, a documentary about buskers in Charlotte.

When I finally returned to Chapel Hill for school, I was not prepared to stop busking.  I am a vocal performance major and most of the time I have to devote to music is devoted to classical music.  Chapel Hill is also not the best place for street performing.  I met one busker, Blake, who plays the hang drum quite well.  Otherwise, there are a few pretty good bands that come out and play.  The solo street performing is lackluster.

Anyway, so I’ve done this a number of times.  But this time around, I’m gonna do it big.  This is going to be my job.  I’m going to turn into a street rat, and that’s fine with me.