September 4, 2020

A Guide to Busking in COVID Times

by joeyphoenix

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Cover image by the Good Witch of Salem

Salem of Octobers past has been an unrestrained wonderland of street performers, haunted houses, and costumed spectacle. But this Halloween season things are going to look a bit different, leaving street performers and event managers to figure out how to do what they do and still meet health and safety standards. 

“There aren’t going to be any more selfies,” says Salem street performer and public figure Borah Brewington Snaggletooth XIII of Salem’s Black Hat Society. “Not unless they have a really long selfie stick.” 

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign 

New restrictions for buskers this year include a mandatory 6 ft of distance between the street performers and their audience and 25 feet between them and other performers. There’s also a mandatory 25 ft. radius around any street performer with a wind instrument.
There won’t be any hugs from Satan this year 🙁

“If you have a crowd of people in front of you, even if they’re six feet away or 25 feet away, they aren’t really socially distancing,” Borah said. “That’s the issue. I will be causing that problem. The buskers will be causing that problem.” 

One of the ways to solve this problem is by having sufficient signage. Let people know that they need to keep their distance by holding a sign that says something along the lines of “thank you for social distancing or putting up a sign that requests people to not gather for too long. 

It’s also important to make a sign so that people know how to tip you digitally, but we’ll get to that in a bit. 

No Offense, Use a Fence 

Another street performing fixture in Salem, The Addams Family, introduced the idea of having small fences around the performers that will help keep the performers safe. Many other performers are working out how to do this well also.

Gomez and Morticia of The Addams Family of Salem renew their vows with the help of Borah

“I might have to stand on a box,” Borah added. “Everything I do is so hands on. People want to touch me and take photos. And I often have toys for the kids. Not this year.” 

But with a fence, the performers will be able to get the audience interaction they crave while still being able to social distance. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s definitely better than not busking at all. 

Cash is Out, Venmo is In

Street performing is a high contact experience, but with health and safety concerns, tipping in cash just isn’t a safe way to go about things right now. As a performer, it will be important to let people know that they can tip you digitally. 

Here are some tips about the best apps for digital tipping.

Just hanging out
Image by Creative Collective

On your “Tip Me” sign, you can either give people the best way to tip you digitally or you can google a quick QR code generator that you can use to make it a bit easier. 

Develop a Social Media Presence 

Because there is so much less foot traffic in downtown Salem than there would be during any other Halloween season, street performers just won’t be able to have the audience they need to get by. Fortunately, the world wide internet is making it easier for everyone to be a star! It’s also making it easier for them to get hired for jobs and events that they might not have been able to do otherwise.

“I officiate weddings, do vow renewal ceremonies, gender reveals,” said Borah. “If it’s a party, I can do it. It’s a lot of fun.” 

You Still Need a Permit

Although offices are closed and everything seems to still be moving slowly, you will still need to apply for a busker’s license from the city of Salem if you’d like to perform on the street. You can do that by filling out this form.   

Busking in Salem during COVID times is a complicated endeavor, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Good luck in your efforts to safely capture the attention of passerby, and if you want to be featured on our site, make sure to tag us on FB or Instagram @creativecollective or by using the hashtag #salembuskers