Glossary
Busker Central

Busker Central presents a glossary of terms used in busking and street performing. They can date back centuries and originate from carnival and circus slang, traveling minstrel and medicine shows, as well as old Vaudeville acts.

Since sayings come and go, there are bound to be more in the realm of busking and street-performing.

Some terms listed below are obsolete but historically significant.

Read, learn, and understand the basic terms used by buskers.





Bally - To draw a crowd (sideshow)


Barnstorm - Perform without regard to busking laws


Blockhead - Pounding a large nail into the nostril


Bottle - One who actively collects money for your performance


Build - The initial crowd-gathering techinque(s)


Cafe Busker - One who plays cafes and terraces, indoor and out


Chalk circle - Circle drawn in chalk around busker to define stage


Chopping heads - Stealing another busker's audience


Circle Show - Larger show gathering an audience around performer


Closer - Grand finale


Cold - Audience is in a bad mood or not responding


Compact - Pulling the crowd in so more can join in the back


Confederate - Participant who is secretly part of your show


Crash - Perform without regard to festival rules


Crate slug - Derogatory term for performer on milk crate (statue)


Cyber Busker - Busker performs virtual show online collecting tips


Died - Performed to little or no applause (also bombed, flopped)


Dogs - Derogatory term for disliked busker(s)


Edge - Front of the audience


Fat Hats! - Wishing you hats full of money


Flash - A large impressive act with several performers


Flush - Actively passing the hat after grand finale


Gate Crasher - Perform without being invited (busker festivals, fairs)


Giraffe - Tall unicycle using a chain to the peddles


Hat - Money in appreciation of your performance from your audience


Hat Line - Informing the audience you'll be passing the hat for money


Heckler - Crowd member who taunts the performer


Keister - Suitcases and luggage holding the busker's show


Kill - The best success possible with the audience


Lost focus - Someone or something interrupts your show


Medicine Show - Selling of elixirs and potions for health


One Man Band - Busker with drums, whistles, strings, and horns


Pass the hat - Collecting money in appreciation for your performance


Patter - Spoken scripted routine


Permit - Some pitches require a fee from City Hall


Pitch - Place or stage for performances


Pinched - Taken from, stolen


Projecting - Speaking loudly with your voice (but not yelling)


Punters - Audience or lay people


Routine - Arrangement of parts of your performance


Show - Main body of your performance (build, show, hat)


Shill - A confederate planted in the crowd


Silent - Performance that does not involve speaking (mime)


Staged - Planting the audience with one or more confederates


Star - Derogatory term for conceited busker


Stealing lines - Using lines from other buskers - also possibly stolen


Stipend - Fixed salary usually per day (busker festivals)


Stooge - Confederate planted in the crowd


Strolling - Moving about performing up and down the way


Tip - Crowd


Trickle - Hat is always out passively collecting tips


Turn the Tip - Instruct crowd to donate or buy tickets (sideshow)


Walk-by - Audience walks by performer (musician)


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Street performing at Busker Central