Street Guitar Experiment – Will a Dog Increase Your Busking Earnings?

Photograph of a man wearing a hat and playing a guitar whilst singing. In the foreground there is a small dog also wearing a hat as well as yellow-tinted sunglasses
Photo by pmkelly

I’ve been busking with my guitar on and off for about 10 years now. I mainly do it for fun and for the opportunities it provides to get out there and meet people – you’d be surprised how many people take the trouble to talk with you in between songs.

Despite money not being the main objective for me, I decided to try a little experiment to see whether I could increase my earnings with a simple technique.

The Theory

You see, I had heard from a friend who was also into busking that if you have a dog with you it somehow increases the amount of money that people are willing to drop into your guitar case. I’d heard studies had shown that people believed strangers they met were more trustworthy if they had a dog in tow, so it seemed a relatively small leap to me that they’d also be willing to part with more cash when I was busking with a dog.

Maybe people think that the dog is an extra mouth to feed so they give more generously, or perhaps it just serves as an extra point of interest that draws in folk because I stand out from the crowd that bit more. Who knows? Whatever the reasons might be, I took it upon myself to run my little experiment to see whether there was any truth in it.

The Experiment

Usually I leave my dog, Dylan, at home with my wife. But on the day of the experiment I took him along with me with his smartest collar and lead; I’d even spent a good half hour on dog grooming duties (following the tips at this website before leaving the house). Boy, did he look smart – actually he looked smarter than me because I’d found over the years that it doesn’t pay to be too smartly dressed when busking.

I set up in my usual spot on the High Street and began strumming and crooning, working through my tried and tested repertoire. In the interests of making my completely unscientific experiment as valid as possible, I made a point of staying in my normal location, playing my usual busking guitar and working my way through the exact same set of songs that I’d used the previous weekend.

The previous weekend, I pulled in $124.87. Would the addition of Dylan, my trusty four-legged friend boost my earnings?

The Results

After 4 hours of busking, I stopped playing and packed up my things. I could wait to get home with my guitar case full of money to count up my earnings and discover whether Dylan had brought me luck.

Once back at home, I tipped my earnings out onto the kitchen table and began counting. I thought that I’d earned more just from keeping an eye on how much people were giving as I played, but I would soon have the answer for sure.

The results blew me away! For the same amount of busking, with an identical guitar, in the same part of town, only with my pet dog sitting alongside me, I’d earned $157.63. That’s $32.76 more, or to put it another way, Dylan’s presence increased my earnings by over 26%.

That’s a pretty remarkable result by anyone’s standards.

Needless to say, Dylan has accompanied me on my all of my subsequent busking trips…