I have spent a lot of time here in Amsterdam as a busker, that I know a lot more information on busking than I did with my previous survival guide. So here is some more stories and info on my time busking in this legendary city.
Lets start with Permits. If you are planning to stay in Amsterdam for a few months busking with an amp, then it is definitely worth looking to apply for a permit. The rules have changed a lot now, and they only give 10 out, give you a set time to play, and give you 3 chances to get a warning. There is only a window of a few weeks to get the permit, and that is the first 2 weeks of February. It will cost you 50 euroes and some photos, but is a good investment for the summer. As when Amsterdam is busy it is a gold mine for street musicians virtually wherever you play. They give you 4 sets of one hour each, for 3 days of the week. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The best places to play with an amp are Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein and Dam Square. These are the places where you can draw a crowd and fill a big hat. I reccomend having someone with a hat, as that triggers much more of a drop rate than waiting for people to put it in your case. Someone with a hat, selling CDś is a way to massively increase your takings for a set. But keep the volume down though, as the Handhaving and Politie can give you a warning if it is too loud. Amsterdam enjoys itś peacefulness, so respect that and you will be fine. If you are travelling with an amp and band, it is OK to risk a few sets here and there, and if you are stopped, just play the Travelling band card and they are usually fine with you.
Acoustic Busking can be just as rewarding as busking with an amp in Peak season, and if you are only on your own, you can make almost the same amount that is usually split between 4. I survived a whole winter here on 2 spots. Not overworking them, which is important. If you overplay a spot too much it will start to reject you. Itś strange, you will find aggression from passers by, Handhaving and neighbours stopping you. The best plan is to find a route, of 3 or 4 spots where you know you can make between 10 and 30 euroes an hour. 4 sets and you have a good days wage. But dont bank on the spots, sometimes you can make just pennies, when the previous day you had a full hat. Thatś the only certain thing about busking. The uncertainty. The good thing about Amsterdam though is that there are so many good acoustic spots, because of the quietness of the city. These are the spots I have found have been reliable drop spots.
After 10 years of being closed, the Rijks museum finally reopened this year and it is the most beautiful acoustic spot in the city. A whole chamber of reverb for you to fill. Tourists walking by, lots of people coming through. They like people playing there also, as long as it is nice. They will move you on if you go and try to play punk in there. Busking is about fitting your environment. I remember in Liverpool I would play all the gritty angry folky ones, cos that is the environment. When I tried to play them in La Louvre in Paris, it just didn fit. A good busker can pull out the perfect song to fit his environment and situation. Lovely day? Play some sunshine music. Rainy? Play some rainy day songs and so on. The Rijks museum naturally attracts the classical players, single instruments and bands. There is sometimes a waiting line in there, as it is sheltered, reverbed, and a tourist hot spot. So just go and book yourself on and give it half an hour. I find it is even the most perfect practise spot late at night. There are no neighbours, so I just go there late sometimes and practise some new songs.
Red Light District, the bridge by the church on the same line as the bull dogs is another good spot. Night time especuially, but prepare yourself for randy tourists and noisy drunks. This risk can bring big steady drops, but you have to put up with some pricks. 'Play Wonderwall!' They scream so gleefully. It is supposedly forbidden to play in the Red Light area, but they seem to let it happen, as long as you are not too noisy, and not there for too long!
Vondelpark is a good day spot, but only through the summer. Playing just by the entrance always served me well, or the tunnel a bit further on, but that has awkward walk ways. The thing about your busking spot, is funneling them into a narrow walkway, making eye contact and BOOM BABY, there is the drop. Vondelpark has a lovely quiet, and tourists and passers by. You can probably find an OK spot in a lot of places, but the drops were always unsteady with this place. Sometimes really great, and sometimes nothing!
The Hard Rock Cafe on Max Euweplein is a good night time spot. After the chess board has closed at 21.30 you can do a sneaky set and sometimes make a really good hat. It is supposedly forbidden to play there, but the street guards dont seem to mind. Just dont drink a beer on this set as its not allowed to drink there. If you are tempted by the tunnel just a few metres away, there is a guy who lives above that doesnt like buskers playing there. So just watch out for him. But somtimes you can catch him out and play a little set there. Nice acoustics and good passers by.
There are that many bridges in Amsterdam, so Iḿ sure you can find one that suits you. There is also another type of busking you can do, which has proved to me to dwarf any of the above. It is a way to make big money in Amsterdam. But since that is our project for the summer, I will keep it to myself for now. Enjoy your Amsterdam busking adventure. And if you want a little insider advice. Go to the Coffeeshop Degraal on Albert Cuypstraat. They have the best, cheapest weed, best music, best people, a recording studio in the back and weekly jam nights. This place has been like a second home to me, it is a creative atmosphere where you can smoke a joint, play chess, draw in the house book, and meet some very good interesting people. Do say hello if you catch me in there!
Albert Heijn is the best Bar and Restaurant in town. Good healthy salad for 3 euroes, bottle of good beer for 1. But only an outdoor seating area, haha. Hope this gives you a good heads up on enjoying Amsterdam as a busker. If you are reading this and want some adventure, then do it. Take a holiday, learn some busking classics and just head out into the unkown. I promise you it will make you truly experience life. Each day, each season, you will really feel the city by standing the streets playing music, seeing life come and go and fill your hat. What are you waiting for?
Buskers Guide To Berlin Here
Tips For Busking Here
Buskers Guide to Liverpool Here
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