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Street Performing, or busking, is the practice of performing in public places for money and edibles. It is one of the world's oldest professions, and happens in almost every major culture in the world. Street Performers are also called street musicians, minstrels, or troubadours. Busking was the most common means of employment for musicians and entertainers before the advent of recording and personal electronics.
In Nashville, street performers are seen every day. If you are planning on coming downtown to give it a try, then there are a few things you might want to know, and a little advice.
You do not need a permit to busk in downtown Nashville. If you are approached by the Nashville Alliance, chances are it is because they have received a complaint on your placement or volume. The Nashville Alliance is trying to work with the local street performers, and would not ask you to move unless they had to. Please, the Nashville Alliance is attempting to work with us, so help us work with them.
Amplification for street performers IS FROWNED UPON. If you plan on bringing out an amplifier anyway, then please keep it a a decent volume level so that other performers and businesses around you may prosper. You should only be playing to your area, not across the street or down the block.

When you come downtown to perform you will find that your audience will consist of all walks of life. There will be locals, tourists, children, punks, hippies, business men, grandparents and more. With this in mind, please watch your subject matter. Performing songs with foul language and references to drugs or sex is not appropriate for noon on Sunday. Use common sense.

When you perform, you give a face to the city of Nashville, so present yourself well. You will find that if you stand, rather than sit on the concrete, your tips will go up. This is because you are putting yourself on your audience's level. If you look clean and sober, same result. The more that everyone watches their manners and takes themselves seriously, the more tips everyone makes.

This also applies to aggressively soliciting for tips, distasteful cardboard signs, and panhandling. All of these things perpetuate the image that street performers are nothing but glorified form of beggar. This limited way of thinking keep creative folks from sharing on the street.

Many famous people have busked, including Benjamin Franklin who composed songs and poetry about the political situation of his era and performed them in public. He would also sell printed copies of his work. His father discouraged busking by convincing him that the stigmas some people attach to busking were not worth it. This experience helped Benjamin Franklin form his belief in free speech and is documented in his journals.


  1. Street musicians not using battery powered ampfkication can't be heard over traffic , tourist , street traffic; to perform with no ampflication is pointless.

  2. I play the Chapman Stick, which is an inherently electric instrument - without an amp, the instrument is silent.
    On that note, I always use an amp and attempt to keep the volume reasonable and appropriate.

  3. The bars have all their windows and doors open and basically are trying to blast each other out of competition. Some of these bars are so loud and annoying and so beyond the borders of their establishments I don't see how THEY are not the ones to be told to shut up. Its just getting ridiculous downtown, its more like noise pollution city. The nashville alliance (which really means the downtown partners allying with themselves against street musicians) is a joke and just a gimick for metro to pick and choose who can be on the street playing and who can't. Nashville needs to be a hit with one gigantic law suit.

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  5. Any input on Magicians working the street out there?

  6. Just wondering what location would be a good place to give it a try as a newbie? Not a musician, but a juggling/skill toy type of performance. Any hints available?

  7. I am out here and have been doing really well performing (Magic) out in front of the candy shop, but more toward the side of The Valentine Bar. I've been going strong every night since Monday. Today, Friday, I was 5 shows into the evening and at about 9:45 pm the police came and shut me down. They said someone called and complained my audiences were too big. I don't fight with the police. So, I packed up and headed back to my RV site. Either way, I'll be back out all day tomorrow at a different location on Broadway. We'll see how it goes. BTW, if you are working lower Broadway, you need to have a really loud amplifier to be heard. I have one and the loud music they blast onto the streets is no competition for my shows. The noise emitted from the bars on Lower Broadway is nothing short of noise pollution, Period!

  8. I'm looking forward to hitting the streets of Nashville and Asheville in July. Thanks to the folks who have posted info for buskers in both cities. It's highly valuable and very much appreciated!!!

  9. I am new on the guitar but I want to play in downtown for practice and experience. Are people pretty understanding? I don't want to be heckled. I know I'm not a star.