This article will cover some of the aspects of busking and how a DJ can start doing this to not only hone their skills, but get in front of live audiences to learn how to perform in front of a crowd. Let’s start with, “WTF is Busking?”
WTF is Busking?
Are you ready to hit the streets and show off your talents? Busking is the perfect way to share your skills and make some cash in the process. Whether you’re a musician, comedian, magician, or acrobat, busking is a great way to get your act in front of a live audience. Just grab your hat (or your virtual tip jar) and hit the pavement! This can also be confusing because professional lighting engineers, refer to live performance improvisational lighting is also known as busking.
But before you grab your controller and portable speaker to hit the streets, it’s important to brush up on the legalities of busking in your area. Different cities have different rules, so check with local authorities or your city’s website to make sure you’re in the clear. In some cases, you may need to get a permit or stick to certain areas. Just remember to be respectful of your community and avoid disrupting local businesses or causing a disturbance. With a little planning and some serious talent, you’ll be well on your way to making a splash as a busker!
What are some examples of DJs busking?
We’re starting to see more and more people popping up who are doing this. One DJ who is known around the world, is SUAT. In his own words, this is the best way to describe him:
I am on a journey to change the electronic music and DJ spaces.
I want to become the worlds first extreme DJ athlete.
You may have seen me in a cave, a kayak, or getting arrested by police – all for the love of DJing, but now I am here to change the game forever.
He has been doing everything from being on a kayak to hangliding with his controller! He has a unique setup that uses a combination pioneer controller, mini rigs, and some onboard batteries with a make shift frame that helps counter balance the weight.
This feels unsafe… for the controller!
What do I need to do this myself?
The key to having a good DJ busking experience is to consider the following:
Equipment Weight – This is probably obvious but even if you’re just going to setup in one place, you still have to pack it in and out and some heavily trafficked places are not that accessible. So think about where you’re going to perform and how much you can carry
Power – Unless you’re setting up where there is already an outlet (which is unlikely), you’re going to need batteries or battery powered devices. Fortunately there are options for both which we’ll get into below
Volume – Keep in mind you’re playing in public and all public spaces have sound ordinances. It would be a good idea to know what that is, and get a cheap decibel monitor to make sure you’re in compliance
Time – How long are you planning to be there? How long will it take to arrive, setup, perform, breakdown, and get back? Whatever you’re thinking it will take? Double your estimate and you’re getting close LOL!
Friends and Family – Performing in front of a bunch of strangers can be tough. Having your people come by to cheer you on will go a long way to help calm nerves and freak out less when strangers aren’t into it
Get a tip jar – Seems like a mundane detail, but you need a way to collect that money and I wouldn’t use something that’s wide open. A jar like object is good because it’s a lot easier for money to go in than go out
Be safe – You’re likely about to take your very expensive equipment to a public place which can make you vulnerable to being robbed. This happens to photographers all the time. Know your surroundings, get people to help you go back and forth when loading and unloading.
Get a permit – These are typically very cheap and easy to get from the city hall of whichever city you’re performing in. If you don’t do this, you can get ticketed, fined, and even lose your equipment so don’t even mess around with this
Having the right equipment for busking is critical. Taking your CDJ system is probably not a great idea. But there are lots of alternatives that are also not that expensive. Here’s a list of equipment considerations:
Controller – You want something light that is more power efficient. At this time, the only known battery powered professional controller is the Denon Prime Go which has an onboard battery that can up to 4 hours. Much less expensive options are the mini controllers like the Hercules Starlight or the Numark DJ2GO2 and are both Serato compatible. Another good option is the Pioneer DJ DDJ-200 which you can actually run off your phone including power!
Speakers – There has been a strong trend in developing battery powered speakers. Bose, JBL, and others have all developed battery powered and bluetooth speakers, but the most popular is Soundboks. They have a large and a smaller speaker that are both battery powered, wireless, and built like tanks. They are pricey, but worth it if this is something you’re going to do regularly. Minirigs are also a great option. They are battery powered and actually have a bass, mid, and high range speaker that are very small, but can be connected in series to create a sound way bigger than you would have expected.
Power – In our experience, having everything be battery powered makes things so easy. If you have equipment that requires external power, consider getting laptop batteries. Many can provide all the power you need for a device for hours, and are relatively small and inexpensive.
Body Rig – Many of the rigs you see are DIY projects that were born from a Lowes department leveraging PVC plumbing fixtures, or electrical conduit that was put together using something like MakerPipe. There are a couple of people developing products you can purchase like, this one, but for now it’s best to Google to find out how to make one yourself. Just remember to consider the equipment you’re using, where you’re using it, are you going to be moving, and make sure it’s stable and not at risk of an easy tumble.
Connections – As DJs we all know the bain of our existence is cords. And we tend to have cords that are longer than what we need most of the time, because of the one time you do. We are big fans of wireless and there’s a couple of options. One is using wireless microphone receivers / transmitters which have super low latency. Another tech known as Skaa is also popular, has low latency, and is built in to the Soundboks speakers. Just remember that you want battery powered systems that will last as long as you intended on performing.
If you are going with good old reliable cords, think about how they will route through your rig so it’s still easy to get on and off and make sure you get exact lengths. The last think you need is coiled up or dangling cables to trip on.
Remember that going and setting up and playing music is actually illegal without a permit. Make sure you check your local city laws, and also that the location you’re planning on playing actually permits it. Places like train stations, etc. are not exactly public property so you will most likely need to get permission from the property owners as well. That’s why picking public owned spaces makes this a lot easier.
If you are interested in getting started with busking or DJing, there are a few steps you should follow:
Research the laws and regulations in your area: Make sure you understand any laws or regulations that apply to busking or DJing in your city or town. These may include rules about noise levels, permits, and other requirements.
Obtain the necessary licenses and permissions: If you are planning to perform covers of existing songs, make sure you obtain the necessary licenses and permissions from the copyright holders. This may involve paying fees or obtaining specific licenses from organizations like ASCAP or BMI.
Choose a suitable location: Look for a busy location with a lot of foot traffic, such as a street corner or park. Keep in mind that you may need to obtain a permit to perform in certain areas.
Equipment Check: Make sure your equipment is suitable, portable, and meets the power requirements of where you’re going
Promote your performance: Consider using social media or other online platforms to promote your busking or DJing events. This can help you build an audience and attract new fans.
SAKRD is an event company based in Scottsdale, AZ that creates unique and elevated music based experiences. Our events range from live DJ performances, to wellness events, and other fun outdoor events that are in development.
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