How Can You Make Money Busking?

Just imagine if you could make enough money on the road that you could travel forever! It is possible, check out ideas on how to travel for free and how to make money while traveling now I’m talking to people who are doing just that! Maybe they can inspire you to also make your dreams of a life of travel a reality?

How can you make money Busking? An Interview with a Busker

I recently caught up with Harry Vagrant to ask him about how he makes money busking! 

Harry is from Riga, a beautiful capital of a small northern European country – Latvia. Harry has a musical talent that he has used to earn money while traveling as well as this he works on various musical projects, does some writing as a freelance journalist and is also working on a book – “The Diary of a Busker.”  Right now, he is living in Riga, recuperating after his last 2 month journey, and planning to hit the road for a year.

So Harry, I’ve always wondered if buskers actually make any money! What made you decide to try to earn money by busking and how did you make it happen?

Well, initially a good friend of mine gifted to me a drum from India. Then, with another friend who also possessed a drum (a bit bigger than mine though) we decided to hit the streets with as we called it – african drumming. In only half an hour we earned about 30 EURO each. That’s when I realized that this could actually be a nice way to support myself while travelling (yeah I was thinking about travelling even before I started doing busking) and it (busking) brings a lot of fun too.

busking in europe
Busking and traveling around Europe

Please describe your life in 3 words.

Being. Accepting. Appreciating.

What do you like the best about life as a traveling busker?

The experience of total freedom, you know. The freedom of expression, it just seems truly meaningful to me – seeing the world and playing music. In these moments I feel like really LIVING! 

I believe that life is too short to sit in one place for years and think about vacation which will last for little tiny 2 weeks in a year. I rather go NOW, and take from life it’s very essence. Busking also appeals to me because it’s a great way to get acquainted with sooo many crazy people, including all kinds of street artists, jugglers, mimes, acrobats

And, believe me, when these folks get in touch with one another and start sharing their views on life and their stories – that’s where the real inspiration is born. For example, I have this friend from France, an amazingly talented contact- juggler – Van Kim Tran, and crazy fellow artist Sasha Laskowsky from South America who is currently residing in Israel. We have had some marvelous time together, roaming the world and setting up dazzling street performances, being entangled in adventures and what not.

Meeting amazing new friends is a highlight of traveling

There’s much more to it of course. For instance all the beautiful cities and cultures to see while performing in the streets. Some are truly gorgeous, inspiring and breathtaking. Every one city has it’s own character and personality traits. It’s a very intimate process to get to know new cities. Just like it’s with new people. Some are friendly, some – quiet, some – blatant.

Sounds amazing, I totally agree on making the most of your life. So what has been the greatest challenge?

Yep. Just you need to have an open mind. 🙂 The challenges are that sometimes the police threatens to take away my instrument (like in Budapest for instance). Nowadays sometimes you need permits to busk, but overall it’s all manageable and nice regarding the street performances.

OK, so that’s something to bear in mind. Do you have one standout highlight, achievement or a favourite destination?

The Balkan countries definitely. Maybe you cannot earn that much money there, but the music runs in those people’s blood. Also their view on musicians is full of respect and friendliness. Really, if you want to know real music, embark on a trip to Balkan countries. Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania.

busking in istanbul
Busking in Istanbul

Apart from the Balkans, Istanbul in my opinion is The Mecca for musicians and artists. Especially if you’re interested in World Music and all those grotesque instruments in addition like saz, kanun, santur, ney, kaval, and so on and so on and so on.

I love the Balkans too! Are there any destinations that are better for earning money by busking?

For sure there are. For me Istanbul and Prague, Plovdiv (Bulgaria) and Paphos (Cyprus) have been the best places so far. I also have to admit that I’m not usually only driven by the amount of presumable money that I’m willing to earn, rather it is an appeal of the country which I like which keeps me going. Germany is great too. Since I play a rare and divinely beautiful persian/turkish instrument – santur . But I haven’t been to any bad countries for busking so far.

playing the santur
Harry playing his santur

But nothings perfect right? Are there any downsides?

Yeah, sometimes you get really tired of constant moving and playing. All this flux of people, noises and neverending urban life all around you. That’s the point when you must move to the nature as soon as possible. Swim, read a book, eat lots of cheap street-food, get married, drink wine, write poetry, fall in love, attend a Rainbow Gathering or join some community for a while. Or just go home for a moment. It’s just normal. A human being’s inner world is evershifting. We, wanderers, are no different than other humans.

What do you wish you had known before you started busking?

At the beginning I felt a bit shy about what I’m doing. There was no need for it. It’s definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done in this life. And you can get invited to play events too!


So, what about the future? Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I probably want to gather a branch of musicians and travel the world with playing music. Then again I’m really interested in various kinds of therapies so I presume that at some point I could take a qualification/certification course and become a therapist. I have also an interest in writing, social work and many other things. So it’s hard to tell, but one thing unequivocally is true – what you think – you become. Your various futures are already here and now – in your mind. Just choose!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what tips would you give for people wanting to follow in your footsteps and make money busking?

You live only once. Live NOW! Fulfill your dreams NOW. And, for God’s sake, buy an interesting instrument. Guitars are good instruments but you also need to surprise your public 🙂

Thanks so much Harry for sharing your incredible lifestyle with us. It’s been a joy and really inspirational to hear from you and I hope to bump into you somewhere around the world!

If you are working abroad or getting paid to travel and want to be featured and inspire others contact me I’d be happy to interview you too!

Do you Live to Travel, or Travel to Live?

  the greatest risk of all quote 

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