Safer busking, social distancing and the future.

Safer busking, social distancing and the future.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the concepts of busking and social distancing are not obvious bedfellows.

However, in these uncertain times, it looks like us buskers are going to have to find ways of reconciling the two if we are to survive the foreseeable future. So to that end we’re making a few suggestions about how to operate as the streets slowly open up again.


The Covid crisis has undoubtedly speeded up the move towards a cashless society. Not only is it likely that punters will be carrying less cash in the first place, but processing contactless donations reduces the risk of transmission. A card reader such as iZettle (preferably with a repeat function) will be a very handy addition to your arsenal. We’d also recommend looking into an app such as The Hat app, and/or setting up a profile at The Busking Project. If you have a PayPal account you can set up a link in a few seconds.


As the Coronavirus can be passed on through use of both coins and notes you’ll probably want to disinfect your daily takings. The best way to do this is to collect them in a sealable plastic container and not touch them until you get home. Then you can open the container and spray them liberally with disinfectant. Make sure they are well covered and wipe any notes clean with a tissue, then leave them for an hour or so. Then you can pour/wipe away the excess disinfectant and dry the money with some kitchen roll. Leave it again to stand until it is fully dry before bagging it up, rolling it or whatever you’d normally do. Make sure you also give the container (and your work surface) a good wipe down before reusing it. If you normally use a hat you should probably line it with a plastic bag so you can easily collect the contents without touching them.


Wash your hands thoroughly after handling your equipment, your money, before eating, after driving etc. As regularly and frequently as possible. As access to hand washing facilities may be limited when you’re out and about, carrying and hand sanitiser may be a good idea.


Social distancing can make choosing your pitch more complicated than usual. Firstly you will need to leave a good distance between yourself and your case/hat/container etc. We’d suggest at least 2 metres to make people feel extra comfortable AND also to make it very obvious that you are acting responsibly and social distancing. Then there needs to be enough space beyond that to allow people to pass safely without donating. Be aware of whether people might need to get behind you or to the sides and leave a couple of metres in each case if they do. Another very important consideration is to anticipate where people may need to queue to enter businesses, as this could make customers nervous, cause complaints and lead to you being asked to move on. It is worth checking out our general tips on pitch selection as well.


Learn the law, regulations and guidelines regarding working, travelling, gathering and social distancing wherever you are. Print relevant documents or store them on your mobile devices so you can refer to them if challenged. You can find some useful links on our Coronavirus help post. It is also worth considering how other (non-Corona) legislation might be used to prevent you performing.


You may find that you feel less comfortable than usual in ‘digging in’ when asked to move during the crisis, or also that pedestrian flows change in unanticipated ways or queues develop. For this reason it may be beneficial to reduce your equipment to a minimum so that your set up and take down times are as short as possible.


This is particularly important if there are restrictions on gatherings. It is your responsibility to manage your crowd. For walk by acts it is relatively easy to ask people between songs to disperse or be aware of social distancing. Circle acts may want to look at adapting their shows into a number of short ‘segments’ where you can bottle and ask punters to move on rather than trying to build a large crowd for a big finale.

This post was written by
Singer-Songwriter/Professional Street Performer/Campaigner/Wandering Minstrel

12 Comments on "Safer busking, social distancing and the future."

  • Leaving collection tubs so far away is likely to create a greater security risk, any suggestions for dealing with such issues.
    In New Orleans I have seen that tubs are raised up off the floor. Might this be an option to both reduce the security risk as you could fasten the tub to a plastic table or something, but also would it be a consideration for health and safety as people are used to buskers having cases close to them so may not notice the case further away and trip on it.

    • Chester Bingley says

      Thanks Eryl. Good points!

      At the moment footfall is much lower than usual so the case is much more obvious than it would usually be, and it is very easy to make people aware of its existence if they don’t seem to have spotted it. If you’re playing with your back to a wall there is always the option of placing it more to the side than in front of you if that works.

      The key really with all of these tips is just to really put extra thought into every aspect of your performance and be doubly-prepared to make adjustments as you go.

      Regarding theft yes I’d certainly not usually leave the money so unprotected, but at the moment I’m working on the basis that most people won’t want to grab a load of potentially-infected coins!!

    • Geoff V says

      When I eventually get back out there, I’m going to be taking a load of plastic bags to line the collecting vessel with. You can buy cheap bags in Poundland etc.
      Once I’ve got a few quid I’ll take the bag out without touching the coins, dump it in may case and replace it with another. That way if anyone does grab it they’ll only have got a small amount of the takings.
      When I get home I’ll wash the coins and put the bags in the recycling bin.

      I suppose the flip side of social distancing is that it gives you a good excuse to nicely point out to the nuisance punters, that always seem to want to hang around buskers, that they’ve got to keep their distance and let you get on with working.

  • From what I gather, the chances of COVID19 (or any bacterial or viral infection) being transmitted by money is low. But I’m not busking at the moment anyway, especially since a good bit of my audience/hat drop seems to be families, who aren’t going out at the moment, and my busking isn’t my only income. I think the idea of being against a shopfront or wall and having your hat/receptacle to one side is probably more secure than the same distance in front, but I have never (even on a Saturday evening in town) had a real security issue myself. Since people sometimes throw the money, the distance may be a bit greater anyway. I am more concerned with how much my (previously 100% cash) audience will have moved to the habit of cashless in a few months, since my account never got any donations despite prominent display. I couldn’t, on my hat, consider any paid form of payment acceptance, like a card-reader. We’ll have to see.

    • Chester Bingley says

      The Coronavirus can live for several days on metal and plastic surfaces, and although it would likely be in small amounts on individual units the viral load may become significant when handling cash.Medical advice is to err on the side of caution with this and obviously wash hands regularly.

      • Philip says

        That is very debatable. Seems to be a cynical route to welcome in a cashless society.

  • Allan says

    As Private Fraser was oft prone to lament to the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard..
    …’We’re doomed. Doomed!’
    Punters are being whipped into a state of hysteria by the State/Big Brother to avoid any contact with any other MOP’s -never mind any percieved Street Scroats warbling away.
    Avoid! Unclean!
    Punters have already had six weeks being trained up to not pay anything with cash in the few shops that are still open.
    Don’t expect to have ’em all desperate to drop a busker- even if they’re pleased to see you many will of already been programmed to join the ever growing throngs of punters who don’t carry cash.
    However as I’ve also previously stated on another social media forum – its not all bad news.
    When the Lockdown’s eased up & non essential business’s are allowed to reopen don’t expect buskers to welcomed back just as early.
    With the advanced paranoia propaganda being pumped out to punters to avoid gatherings and enfotrced by zealous Jobsworth certain buskers will have a very hard time of it.
    Specifically those that need to have a darling, precious ‘balanced’ sound level that blasts out the whole street. The Hi-Viz jacket drones will be straight on them enforcing the New Normal of zero crowd gatherings. Not that most buskers with superduper loud amps ever did gather crowds but still there you go.
    Loud amplifiers will be like Kryptonite to Officialdom enforcing the New Normal. This, together with Mr AER buskers probable inability to stand his ground to a High-Viz jacket should see off scores of
    the opposition – thus freeing up pitches for other buskers with a backbone – and capable of performing without the ‘balanced’ sound oh so necessary for the cranked amp brigade.
    Who say’s Covid-19’s all bad?
    Me and Danny McEvoy are ganna have a party to celebrate.
    Who wants to join us?

    • theAndyBengallXperience says

      I’m not bothered about the money, I don’t busk primarily for the cash anyway! I do it for the love of performing, and the passion I have for my craft! I just want to know if I can go out there without getting moved on? If I have a sign in front of me, that determines what I’m doing, to keep distance, and to NOT give donations?

  • I feel that this is not the death knell of busking and think those that can, will change accordingly.

    ‘Online’ busking is quite predominant (WorldBuskersUnited) for one, which although a great idea with much support, has yet to overcome the vagaries of a streaming platform and same connection with an audience. That’s not to say it’s not good, because it is… just that performing in front of a camera loses something of the form of busking.

    I had a thought whilst walking listening to music and was inspired to change tack and do something other than my ‘show’.

    To change and utilise other skills I’ve gleaned over the years.

    Having said that, I am positive that a new normal will emerge. One which still includes getting out there. I’ve seen change other buskers have made in moving forward to other realms outwith where we are now.

    Income need not dry up but will force one to look at new ways to perform, other types of performance grown into and different ways to get paid for doing so.

    Great and helpful article by the way. Very helpful. Thankyou

    James James

    • Zoe Kolinsky says

      Hey I have an idea to change the busking scene in a positive way that still obides with the current rules, it would good to know which city you are from and see if we can possibly work together to tackle this issue ie. talking to the council!

      • Chester Bingley says

        We work all over the UK (and also further afield). Perhaps you could outline your ideas here or send them to

  • Klaus Geltl says

    Putting my guitar case down too far from me, people won’t see it, and in the worst case can stumble and fall over it. It’s not true that they don’t carry cash. Summer 2020, I made as much money in three months as the year before in six.

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