Playing pop hits not linked to increased profit for London buskers [study]

Does the choice of music which a busker plays affect how much money is donated? Perhaps not as so much as you might think.

Over the course of 24 days in 2019, a field experiment was carried out by a research team from Goldsmiths [1] University of London. It featured a professional busker [2] performing at Waterloo station on the London Underground network.

Its aim was to investigate the extent to which performative aspects influence behavioural responses to music street performances. Two aspects of the performance were manipulated: familiarity of the music (familiar vs. unfamiliar) and body movements (expressive vs.restricted).”

278 bypassers donated, but whether the busker played well known hit songs, or lesser known ones in a similar style, appeared to make no significant difference to the cash received. Neither did body movements.

See: Anglada-Tort, Manuel; Thueringer, Heather and Omigie, Diana. 2019. The Busking Experiment: A Field Study Measuring Behavioural Responses to Street Music Performances. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 29(1), pp. 46-55


[1] Goldsmiths, officially, nowadays, has no trailing apostrophe. Though it may have done in the past, when it was Goldsmiths’ College.

[2] The photo is from the study – the identity of the professional busker is unclear.

Research research by Martin Gardiner