You learn a lot about people and crowd dynamics. Donations come in clusters; if a person sees someone else donate, he/she is more likely to. In an attempt to teach empathy, mothers often give cash to their three-year old kid to put in the violin case. The few who drop a $10 or $20 are often over 40 years old.
Twice I've had money stolen, both by dudes in their late teens or early twenties.
Sound definitely matters; you can't just "look good". Busking at the Ferry Building was a bad idea; no one can hear you. I'll never do that again.
High-density foot traffic is not always a good thing. In the evening rush hour, there are so many people obstructing view and making noise that I imagine it's difficult to appreciate the music by the time you've reached the fare gates. I believe that a medium traffic density works best where the sound can travel and there is always a direct line of sight between pedestrian and performer.
Sometimes the "great works" make poor busking choices. The Bach Chaconne is a great example.
Unsurprisingly, an ensemble with more performers earns more than a soloist. On August 20, 2014, we played the Mendelssohn Octet in Powell Station and collectively made $461.64 over 90 minutes, or $307.76 per hour. However, that's $38.47 per hour per person. I make $15-50 per hour solo. So I wonder where the diminishing returns begin, i.e. what ensemble size maximizes revenue per hour per person.
Is it scary? The scariest part was leaving the apartment that first day. Exiting the apartment door was the point of no return. "Okay, I have my jacket and shoes on and my violin, I might as well go on with it." That moment when, for the first time, alone, I plopped my music stand in the middle of Embarcadero Station was one of the most uncomfortable moments of my life. However, once you start playing, that's easy. The music is the easy part.
If you want to busk but are scared, I recommend going at a less busy time, e.g. Saturday morning at 10 am. Get used to the surroundings; embrace your anxiety. Once you're comfortable, try again next week at 2 pm.
I love seeing live performers although it depends on the situation. In Paris the hallways are too small and the buskers are basically blocking the already crowded hallways. In NYC the ones that actually come on the trains and then go around with a hat make me feel uncomfortable although any performer who's really good I appreciate.
I'd also be curious how those numbers change in countries with larger coins. I assume it's easier to give coins? No worries about bills being blown away. Coins "feel" more disposable? There are €2 coins in Europe. There are 500yen coins in Japan (about $5) where as there are only basically 25 cent coins in the USA (yea 50 cent and $1 coins exist but are not common)
Yeah, positioning is key. I do not disrupt traffic flow at all; for those who know Powell, I stand at the end of the long hallway on the 4th street side. That gets me a captive audience for about 30 yards. They have no choice but to listen to me on their way to the BART/Muni gates. Acoustics are good too.
Indoors, there is little chance of bills being blown away, but otherwise, I agree with you about coins. $1 coins are actually not that uncommon.
I never carry cash so whenever a beggar asks, I say as much. One guy I encountered recently, jokingly said "I take credit cards too!" If he actually did, he would probably clean up.
I believe it is more about cash being more physical and thereby more immediately noticeable to the perfomer who can give the donator acknowledgement that is the major issue, not the technical transfer aspect.
I guess next step is to have performers carry a small LCD screen and an Arduino to instantly acknowledge received transfers to make it more "physical". (Wooah..! YC, here I come! (jk)).
 https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swish_(mobilapplikation) (Swedish)
If you use ATMs with any frequency, you need to get a free checking account and debit card with a bank* that will refund your ATM fees each month. Once you have one, the higher the ATM fee, the better you feel.
(*I use Schwab, particularly because it refunds ATM fees internationally. In general, just about any online bank -- e.g., Ally -- will also refund fees at least domestically. Many credit unions probably do this as well.)
(source: several friends who busked a lot)
Also, there are a lot of places in NYC where they still take cash only, especially bodegas and dive bars.
He said the highest donation ever was 30000 jpy from a very drunken salaryman.
I guess most of these people have day jobs
1. The people who made the music sold the rights to the music to the people who own the music, who then licensed the music to Spotify for an agreed-upon amount. Everyone agreed, presumably because this deal was beneficial for every party involved, which it most likely is otherwise Spotify wouldn't have been able to obtain licenses to almost every artist's music.
2. There will never be a shortage of art in this world, whether it's compensated monetarily or not. This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I don't see a big need for artists to be compensated. If they stopped being compensated, we'd just be left with a few million artists of every medium producing art for free because that's what most artists do, whether it pays or not. If they weren't compensated, there would be less mass-market art, but since the quality of art is both subjective and relative, we'd probably all be just as satisfied with it.
If you stop compensating most professions, their output drops to zero. If you stop compensating artists, they just keep producing art. One could argue that we'd get even better art if we stopped compensating artists. We'd be left with nothing but the passionate ones.
Those art things require training just like any other profession.
Yes, making good art requires training, but so what? These people are willing to get training, create art, and give it to you for free. You might say that it's immoral to take stuff from them for free, but that's what already happens. The overwhelming majority of artists lose money, rather than make money. If you removed artist compensation completely, fewer people would go into art hoping for the pie-in-the-sky chance of success. The overall societal loss in terms of smashed hopes etc. would become smaller. And the quality of art you consume might become higher, because you'd lose the cookie cutter commercial crap. That's how the argument goes.
You get vastly more skilled working full time than at side projects on your spare time.
You also produce much more art at whatever your quality level is working full time.
Subjectively, I agree we'd still have favorite artist and enjoy their work if quality was cut 80% across the board.