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Brass band, Jackson Square, French Quarter
Brass band, Jackson Square, French Quarter Kylie McLaughlin—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image

How Much Do Street Musicians Make? More Than You Think

Mar 23, 2015

Ever wonder how much people playing music on the street pull in? Speculate no longer.

Over at Priceonomics, Mark Sandusky, one half of the music duo The Dirty Little Blondes, has made his financials public. During 12.5 hours of performing, the pair made a total of $532, which works out to $21.22 per hour each.

Assuming a 40-hour work week, that's an annual salary of $44,137. But before you quit your day job, know that even the pros can't hit the streets and pull in that much cash every day. (And as the Sandusky notes, you're not going to make any money if your music isn't good.)

Sandusky has learned to pick his spots, performing on the streets of San Francisco, where the band is based, almost exclusively on Friday through Sunday and generally in the evening. The above revenue came over the course of an entire month, meaning any aspiring 9-to-5ers hoping for similar results are probably out of luck.

"It’s also not as if I can walk out on the street and make $21.22 an hour whenever I want," the guitarist writes. "The big numbers all came between the hours of 5pm and 10pm on days before weekends or holidays. Even out of those 10 prime hours, we could only comfortably play 6 of them (3 a day) before our voices, fingers, and general energy level started to break down."

How important is good timing? On their least lucrative Friday night, the Blondes made $98 in two hours. On their worst Monday afternoon, the group made just $3 in the same time period.

Sandusky recommends picking areas where your type of music is going to get the best reception, and cycling through multiple spots to make sure you don't overstay your welcome. He's not the only performer to discover the importance of location. Joshua Bell, the renowned violin soloist and conductor, tried busking in a busy Washington Metro station and was rewarded with only $32.

The Blondes' preferred venue? Next to a crosswalk, which grants at least 20 seconds of a captive audience.

Check out Sandusky's entire post here.

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