Ever wished you could break out of the rat race and showcase your passion for singing and dancing?
The streets of Europe, Japan and Taiwan are often entertained by music echoing on to the cool breezy night. Street performers, or buskers, will often appear when it is dusk and set up in empty spots, oblivious to the bustling commuters heading home after work.
If you want to be the next Ed Sheeren, or dream of having a side hustle that can showcase your talents, here are some steps in our guide to busking in Singapore.
Introduction To Busking In Singapore
The Busking Scheme in Singapore was introduced in 1997, with the aim of enlivening city life and energise urban spaces.
It is a scheme to provide opportunities for individuals to share their creative expressions and interact with audiences in the public space. It is also part of the National Arts Council’s (NAC) efforts to bring arts and culture offerings to Singaporeans and visitors.
Busking falls into three art form categories:
- Street Theatre
- Visual Arts
There is no registration fee when applying for the Busking Scheme.
Where Can You Busk In Singapore
Alas, you cannot busk wherever you wish to, unlike the musicians in France who can even hijack train cabins and perform.
There are about 80 designated busking locations in Singapore.
Generally, the spaces that permit busking include public parks, heartland spaces, and selected areas along Orchard Road.
10 new busking locations will be available from Dec 2023 onwards. The places include Cineleisure and The Plaza at the National Library Building.
After a temporary hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, busking was resumed and a busking e-service portal was launched on Mar 29, 2022 for buskers to check locations and slots. Prior to this, every busker could only busk in five assigned and fixed locations.
The portal was designed to input feedback from buskers for more flexibility in locations and to plan their schedules. Buskers can book up to six one-hour slots per day. This is to ensure a mix of different buskers at each location.
|Busking e-service portal
|Gain access to all busking locations across the island
|Allow for venue partners to manage busking locations better
|The general public can find out the busking activities and support their favourite buskers
These are examples of the booking and balloting of busking slots:
Applying For The Permission To Busk (Busking Card)
A uniquely Singaporean feature for buskers here – you must attend an audition to be given the green light to perform on the streets of Singapore.
The measure is to ensure consistency in the quality of busking activities in the country. Performers who pass the audition will receive a Busking Card (Letter of Endorsement) that will allow them to book busking slots on the e-service portal. The letter has an expiration date.
You can click here to find out in greater detail about the application process and assessment criteria.
The auditions are held four times a year, in January, April, July, and October. Application for the audition slots is on a first-come-first-served basis. You can apply as early as two months before the audition.
You will have to submit an online application form as hard-copy submissions have been phased out since May 2, 2023. There is no application fee.
You will be notified of the audition results by the appointed agency within four to five weeks from the date of the Busking Audition.
Successful applicants will be sent details on how to collect the Busking Card (Letter of Endorsement).
Is There An Age Limit To Busk, And Can I Busk If I Am A Foreigner
Applicants who are 17 years old and below will need a completed parent or legal guardian Consent Form together with their online submission.
Only foreign residents on Employment Pass or Student Pass are eligible to apply under the NAC Busking Scheme. Their Employment/Student Pass must be valid for the duration of the Letter of Endorsement (Busking Card).
What Talents Can I Showcase, And Audition Tips
Buskers-to-be will need to attend a pre-audition briefing. Auditions have to be conducted live in person for the panel to access your performance and ability to engage the audience in real-time.
Here are some audition tips for candidates according to the categories of music, movement and street theatre and visual arts.
Preparing For The Actual Busking Performance
Congrats you have made it to this step, now the stage is yours. But before you dive right into it, here are some tips for you as you prepare for your actual live performance.
Busking tips and etiquette:
- Maintain a positive and professional image as first impressions count. Interact with and engage your audience as this enhances the quality of your busking acts and creates meaningful connections with the audience.
- Refresh your busking repertoire periodically as busking acts with varied content will showcase your versatility and attract more attention.
- Vary your busking schedule and limit your time at each allocated busking location so you can reach a wider and more diverse audience. Remember to also cancel and release busking slots within the Busking E-service should you be unable to proceed as planned.
- Pack light. It’s easier to change locations or find shelter from sudden downpours.
- Be self-sufficient for your own power supply; only battery-operated amplifiers and equipment are allowed.
- Befriend fellow buskers and look out for one another. Every busker has a part to play in developing the busking scene.
- Display your busking card prominently so that the public is aware that you are endorsed under the Busking Scheme.
- Buskers can accept voluntary tips but the public must not feel obliged to give anything.
- Be considerate. Noise is often a source of public complaints. Do not set your amplifier at a high volume level. Many busking locations are surrounded by flats, shops, offices or hotels and you should be mindful that people may be busy at work or trying to rest.
- Pay attention to safety as public spaces can be crowded and busy with human and vehicular traffic. Help manage the constant flow of pedestrian traffic and ensure public safety through verbal reminders and where necessary, stopping or pausing your performance.
Can You Perform At Private Events And Other Things To Note
Clients who are interested in requesting buskers to perform for them can engage the buskers directly and offer them reasonable fees for their efforts.
The list of buskers is on the Busking E-service (switch to “Busker View”) and clients can contact them directly via their social media or contact details.
For performances that are spaces that are accessible to the public, buskers will need to ensure they have obtained the necessary licences (e.g. Public Entertainment Licence and/or Arts Entertainment Licence).
Also note that buskers cannot price their works (e.g. balloon sculptures, music CDs, caricatures). Putting a price tag on your works is considered hawking and is not permitted under the Busking Scheme.
It is better to go through the proper channels to busk in Singapore as persons found guilty of busking without a licence can be fined up to $10,000 under section 19 of the Public Entertainments Act.
For Busking Groups, Take Note On This
Busking groups do note that you will have to stick with each other and there cannot be replacements or stand-ins for every performance. Only group members who are present during the audition will be endorsed to busk.
The same members who auditioned together will all need to be present when busking to ensure that the quality of the act is not compromised.
Finally, How Much Can You Earn?
According to articles and news reports on the internet, you will usually be able to earn $50 to $100 if you perform for three hours. Buskers who perform for a few hours will usually bring home $50 to $100 on weekdays and up to a whopping $500 for festive nights like Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Really good performers can bring home a few hundred dollars a day, but you will also have to book a prime location at a good time (e.g. lunch or dinner crowd).
But don’t forget your upfront costs. For example, musicians will need these essentials for a good quality performance – singing equipment (around $200), an amplifier which costs about $600, cables around $40, a suitcase ($50), and microphone and music stands ($40).
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