Straatmuzikanten

Buskers earn more on Sundays

Published: 22nd November 2021 Last updated: 22nd November 2021

For hundreds of years, buskers (street musicians) have been earning money performing in busy public areas. Now, the first-ever large-scale study has explored which factors determine listeners’ giving behavior. A field study of 80,471 consumers and 72 buskers, conducted by the Tilburg researcher Samuel Stäbler and Kim Katharina Mierisch (a consultant at Simon-Kucher & Partners), yields surprising results. One of these is that buskers make considerably more money on Sundays than they do on other days of the week. And if they then play classical music rather than rock music, their earnings are even higher.

The research question was: which factors influence consumer response to buskers? For three months, Stäbler and Mierisch studied the behavior of 80,471 passers-by who in the city center of Cologne gave money to 72 buskers. In their study, they distinghuised the following factors:

  • busker-specific: quality of the music, age, size of the audience
  • consumer-specific: male/female, single consumer or with company
  • context-specific: weather conditions, outside temperature, day of the week

Findings

The study has yielded surprising results. Of these, the following ones stand out:

  • Earnings are higher on Sundays than they are on other days of the week.
  • Classical music pays better than rock music.
  • People give more money in cold weather than they do in warm weather.
  • Children receive significantly more donations than do adults.
  • Women give more money than men.
  • Consumers accompanied by their partners, friends, or colleagues are more inclined to give money.
  • Consumers aged 30 to 65 give more money than consumers aged 18 to 30.

Follow-up study: online video platforms

In a follow-up study the researchers examined whether consumer response in the street is a predictor of a busker’s success on online video platforms. To answer that question, the researchers mapped the willingness of consumers to watch online videos of buskers, and the findings suggest that consumers are indeed willing to do so. It transpired that the critical success factors for buskers performing in public areas closely correspond with those for musicians performing online.

Practical implications

The research results are relevant to marketeers who engage in fundraising in public areas as well as to nonprofit organizations that generate donations in public areas. The results also suggest ways for buskers to improve their market exposure. As buskers today make less money selling CDs and streaming services, generating revenue from live performances may well be critically important. The results from this study show that factors impacting on generating revenue from live performances do not align with the prevailing opinions of musicians themselves. To buskers, the success factors could also be relevant to making consumers listen to their music online more.

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