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How to Get Rich as a Street Musician

You walk into the subway station and hear loud music. Somebody in here is playing the guitar and singing Ed Sheeran's latest hit song. Normally you don't listen to pop music but the crowd of people standing in a circle is raising your interest. You cannot see where the music comes from so you venture closer. Squeezing through the tight gaps between the moving listeners you notice something. Your head is also bouncing back and forth. You enjoy this so you keep going. Then suddenly you breach through the circle and see the reason for all these happy faces. A young woman hugging a dark brown guitar, standing in front of a microphone. Next to her you see a big loudspeaker and a sign that says “Audrey Mika”. The sound is clear and crisp. And before you know it you join in and sing along.

Keep reading to find out what the busker in the short story above is doing right and why she is making a couple thousand dollars every month in “How to get rich as a street musician”

The 3 Laws of Street Music Cash

Yes, street music is art. But consistently making money with it, is not. After playing and documenting more than 2000 hours of street music in excel sheets I uncovered three secret truths every successful busker uses. Here they are ranked in order of importance:

  1. More people, more money
  2. Go loud or go home
  3. If I know it I throw it

More People, More Money

Remember what Ceasar once said? “If more visitors come to the colosseum there are more happy visitors overall.” Just kidding. I made that up. But he might as well have. Because he understood that every person has a probability. The probability of liking the roman empire or not.

In the eyes of a busker each person has the probability to give money or not.

Imagine throwing a coin every time a person walks by a street musician. If the coin shows heads when it lands, the person stops and throws some cash in the guitar case. If the coin shows tales, the person keeps walking.

If the busker cannot manipulate the coin toss. How can she maximize her earnings?


If I gave you a coin and said: “You get 1 dollar every time this coin lands and shows heads” what would you do? Probably throw it as many times as you can.

That's why the busker (Her name is Audrey Mika remember?) in the introduction chose to play in a subway station. Audrey Mika knew, this is a place where many people pass by and wait for a moment.

She also knew: All those people throw a mental coin to decide if they want to give money or not.

Go Loud or Go Home

Pop music producers in the 2000´s started it. Spotify ended it - The loudness war.

It is scientifically proven that people like loud music more than quiet music. So Maroon 5, the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears used it as a weapon for our attention.

But when Spotify launched in 2008 things started to change. In the streaming app loud songs are automatically turned down. And quiet music is turned up. The result is a more uniform listening experience. (Btw: You can turn this feature off in the settings)

But Spotify has no power on the streets. So successful buskers around the world still use science to their advantage. By being loud they can draw more attention and keep people listening longer.

Now we know why Audrey Mika is using a big loudspeaker in the subway station.

If I know It, I Throw It

Everybody likes to be understood and nobody likes to feel stupid. This is also true for music.

Imagine this: A song you love starts playing on the radio. You really want to sing along, but you can't. Because you don't know the lyrics yet. How do you feel at that moment? Unsatisfied? How about: Like lighting a big firework but only half explodes.  

Or imagine this: You listen to a song for the very first time. How do you feel? Do you dance to it like it's your favorite jam? Probably not. Because this new song needs to pass some tests first. Like, does the melody flow? Or, do the lyrics make sense?

People feel most comfortable listening to songs they already know. Songs they can relate to musically or lyrically. That's why a bad street musician will make money playing Let It Be by The Beatles.

Audrey Mika did everything right. She played Ed Sheeran's latest hit song. A song that most people have heard before.

The Next Time You See a Busker

Stop for a moment and ask yourself: Does she (or he) know about the three laws of street music cash?

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