Here are some of the most popular questions we get asked about street performance in London. If you still have questions, then you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is Busk in London?
Busk in London was launched in 2015 by the Mayor of London to make busking bigger, better and easier in the capital. Busking on public land is legal and we want London to be the world’s most busker friendly city by encouraging public and private landowners to open up spaces where street performance can take place. We want to raise the profile of street performance and keep this important part of our cultural heritage alive.
What is the Buskers' Code?
The Buskers' Code has been developed by the Busking Taskforce, that includes street performers, residents, businesses, councils, the police, Transport for London and Network Rail. The code promotes good relations and a vibrant street culture. It gives common sense guidance on street performance in London, including information about choosing a location, sound levels and audience size. The code is voluntary but we highly recommend taht all performers follow it in order to keep the streets alive in a harmonious way. If you’re busking in Greater London and following the code, you shouldn't experience any problems. The Code is for everyone - performers, residents, businesses and officials alike. Read the code here.
What does the Street Team do?
Busk in London is building a team of buskers and events professionals who will help build a strong busking community and resolve any problems before they get serious. The Street Team provide information and advice. They also collect feedback and hold regular performer meetings where issues can be raised and questions answered.
As well as working with buskers, the team works with residents, businesses, councils and the police, helping to ensure good relations between all of the people who want to make London's public spaces safe, friendly and a pleasure to be in. They can be easily recognised as they wear a red uniform with Street Team written on it. Feel free to talk to them on the street!
How old do you need to be to busk?
The legal age for busking is 14 years old. Some private schemes may have different rules. For example, the London Underground busking scheme requires performers to be at least 16 years old.
Do I need a busking licence?
In short, busking is legal on public land and you don't need a licence. Exceptions to this rule in London are:
- You need a licence to busk in the London Borough of Camden if you are using music in your act
- You cannot collect money in the City of London (the financial district known as the 'Square Mile')
- Any type of act needs a licence to perform in Uxbridge Town Centre
Private landowners can impose their own rules. Here are some notable ones:
- The London Underground busking scheme requires all performers to have a licence
- The Southbank Centre Busking Scheme (between the London Eye and Hungerford Bridge) requires a permits
- Covent Garden is a mixture of public and private land
Check out our map for more info.
How do I know if I'm on public or private land?
This can be tricky to work out. There are some ways of telling, such as changes in paving / branding. Generally, performers should ask around if they are unsure if they are on private or public land. Local wardens / shopkeepers / other performers are likely to know. The pins on our map provide some guidance on this.
Do I need a licence to busk on London Underground?
Yes. London Underground is private land and they run their own busking scheme. Anyone wishing to obtain a licence must apply for an audition. The next auditions are due to be held in 2017.
Do I need a licence to busk at Network Rail stations?
Anyone wishing to perform at Network Rail stations must apply to be part of the scheme. All the details can be found on our Network Rail webpage.
Are the pins on the map the only spots available, or by following the rules can I play in other places as well?
The pitches that have been identified are in areas of high demand, such as tourist spots, to help manage the cumulative impact on the area. There are many other great places to perform throughout London and providing you follow the Buskers' Code and are on public land, you shouldn't have any problems.
The rule of thumb is that if pitches have been identified in an area, refer to the pitch guidance and use the pitch if appropriate. If no pitches have been identified, use the Buskers' Code to guide you.
What do pitch impact ratings mean?
On the map you will see coloured pins that mark busking pitches across London. The red, yellow and green pins mark recommended locations where busking is encouraged and supported by the local community. If you click on a pin, more information will appear for that pitch. Pitches are rated by impact an act will have:
High impact (red pin) - suitable for shows with large audiences and high sound levels
Medium (yellow pin) - suitable for shows with small to medium audiences and low to medium sound levels
Low (green pin) - suitable for acts with small audience and low or no sound
Is there power at any of the recommended pitches?
There is no power or equipment at any of the locations on our map. Acts should use battery powered amps/equipment where needed.
How do you go about sharing a pitch between acts with different numbers of performers?
The Buskers' Code was designed as a common sense approach that takes into consideration the needs of performers, audiences and people who live or work around places where performance takes place. The Code recommends swapping pitches every two hours, or every hour if it’s very busy and other performers are waiting for your pitch. Or if you are in an area with residents or businesses nearby. This recommendation is designed to encourage fairness for performers as well as taking into consideration local workers and residents by ensuring that a variety of music being performed.
We would recommend that if you want to stay on a pitch for longer, you should talk to other performers who are queueing, as well as local workers / residents if possible, and ask them if they mind you performing for longer. And let them know that they can approach you at any time if there’s a problem.
If an act is causing a genuine nuisance, they are usually not sticking to the Buskers' Code - regardless of their level of quality or experience. Therefore, the Code applies equally to highly trained performers and amateurs. For example, musicians that only know two songs, we would expect them to stop performing or move location after they have played their two songs, and not repeat them. For those acts with a much greater repertoire, they are free to perform for longer – however we would encourage them to alternate with any acts that are waiting to perform and to try and ensure that local shops / offices / residents etc are happy with them performing for an extended period.
What are the rules for pitches that operate a queueing system?
Guidance about queueing for individual pitches can be found on our map. If the pitch is busy, just let the performer know you are waiting. We recommend that acts rotate regularly at popular pitches.
Can I use fire in my act?
Read our page on the use of dangerous items in your act.
Can I collect money for charity while I'm busking?
Read our page on collecting for charity.
As a performer, I'm keen to get public liability insurance set up. Are there minimum levels of cover required in London?
We highly recommended that you are covered by Public Liability Insurance (PLI). It is not a legal requirement for performing on public land, but it is a very good idea to have this cover whether you are a singer or a knife juggler. Organisations such as the Musicians' Union and Equity offer it as part of their membership. No borough will tell you how much insurance you need to have as it is not up to them, it is up to you. Most performers will have a minimum of £1million and many have £5million, but use common sense to gage the level most suited to you and your act.
Do I need to pay tax on my busking earnings?
Yes. Busking is considered a form of self employment. Income from busking is treated in the same way as any income earned by someone who is self employed.
Can I busk if I am from outside the EU?
This will depend on the conditions of your visa.
According to the Home Office, busking (i.e. outside of a booked engagement) is considered to be working. If someone is a non EU/EAA citizen and they enter the UK on a tourist visa, they are not permitted to work. If you want to busk and are not an EU citizen, you should check first that your visa permits you to work in the UK otherwise you could be removed.
When is the Busk in London Festival and how can I involved?
The Busk in London Festival takes place in the summer. Head to the festival webpage to find out all the latest information about the festival and ways to get involved.
What is International Busking Day and how can I get involved?
International Busking Day is simply a day to get together and celebrate street performance globally. Our streets are alive and kicking throughout the year, so we created a day to really shout about this. In 2015, the launch of National Busking Day highlighted and celebrated street entertainment in its many forms. It also encouraged new folks to get up and have a go at honing their talent. With music and comedy venues closing on a weekly basis, the streets have never been a more crucial platform for getting out there and performing. You never know who's watching after all.
To find out which cities are already signed up, head to the webpage. If you want to get involved in your local town or city, drop Rachel an email on email@example.com and we will put you on the map and send you our International Busking Day pack.
What is Gigs and how can I get involved?
Gigs is London's annual busking competition for young musicians aged 11 - 25. Launched in 2009, it has seen well over 1,000 talented artists take to the streets to showcase their talent and develop their performance skills. Acts chosen to take part in the competition will get the chance to perform in the summer on our exclusive circuit of Gigs busking pitches. There are many benefits to entering. Here are a few:
- Perform at iconic London locations
- Play to audiences of thousands
- Win amazing prizes, including a London Underground busking licence, a busking trip to Paris, the chance to play at Glastonbury, training packages and equipment
For the full lowdown and entry info, head to the Gigs page.
I've just tried to create an account but am having problems. What am I doing wrong?
If you are having problems on the website, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with as much details about the issue you're having and we'll try and help you resolve it.
Are you on social media?
Yes we are! We have accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Our handle is @buskinlondon.
Follow the links at the bottom of the page to find us.