London Underground Invites Busking Auditions

It could be you - buskers required on the underground

Ever seen a busker on the tube and thought you could do better? Talented performers may just have a chance to prove it as London Underground is now inviting auditions from musicians and singers who would like to perform to the 4 million people who use the tube each day.

London Underground operates a busking licence scheme and, with spare pitches being as rare as hen’s teeth, when they come up, competition is stiff. There are around 200 active licensed buskers currently on the scheme, plying their trade on 37 pitches in 25 different stations. Over 150 licences will be available to successful applicants following the auditions.

The judges – made up of music industry professionals, and people from both the capital’s music scene and London Underground – will be marking applicants on presentation, musical ability, repertoire and originality – so just like Britain’s Got Talent but without the gymnasts and dancing dogs.

Applicants need to be over 16, and should email by 1 February 2013. The licence is free.

As we showed in our gallery in September last year, buskers in London are a diverse bunch, coming in all sorts of shapes, sizes and sounds. Perhaps we might see acts such as this chap in Newcastle, singing the theme to Doctor Who in a station near you soon.

Image by Sinister Pictures from the Londonist Flickr Pool

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Article by Andy Thornley | 89 Articles | View Profile

  • bonsai

    Got this reply back:

    ” Unfortunately at this time the scheme is closed to new applicants. I can advise that we are looking for an opportunity to consider applications in early 2013, however at this stage we have not set a date for this opportunity.”

    Maybe somebody should tell Rob Varney from LU Busking?

  • Andy Thornley

    Thanks for letting us know – I’ve got in touch with TfL’s press office and they’re looking in to the auto response from the email address.

  • Warren Cahill

    i first emailed TFL in november 2011 regarding busking in the underground, this is the reply i got

    On Tue, Nov 22, 2011 at 7:28 PM, Varney Robert wrote:

    Dear Warren Cahill,

    you for your interest in joining the London Underground busking scheme,
    please accept my apologies for the delay in our reply.

    At this time, the scheme has an optimum number of licensees.
    Therefore, the we are not accepting new applicants and your name has
    been put on a waiting list pending the reopening of the scheme.

    we have recently concluded an Audition period in 2010, we believe that
    the application process will not be opened to applicants again until
    after next year (2013) although no decision on this has been made at
    this stage.

    I understand that this delay may be frustrating as you look to join
    the current group of licensed buskers. We appreciate your continued
    patience in this matter and assure you that you will be notified once
    the scheme is reopened. In the meantime, I must remind you that it is
    illegal to busk on the Tube or within LU premises without a valid
    licence. Performers/Applicants found to be busking without licence will
    not be permitted to participate in the scheme in future and will be
    removed from the waiting list.

    I can confirm that we have now recorded your email details and hope
    to be in touch with further clarification in the future. If you would
    like any additional information about the scheme then please do not
    hesitate to contact us directly by email (

    Best Wishes, Rob Varney | LU Busking
    London Underground Customer Services
    55 Broadway
    London SW1H 0BD
    Telephone 0845 330 9878

    anyway ive been waiting for 14 months and ive had nothing since the above, i emailed them another 2 times as were getting closer BUT NO REPLY. How kind of them to let me know about the auditions, thanks TFL :)

  • bonsai

    Bit of a mess with the application forms, it appears.

    Following the instructions to the letter I mailed in my form on Tuesday, today I received an email informing me that my application was so far not successful as I hadn’t send in the form in ‘xml’ format. Which suprised me as no such request was made on any of the documents that were sent to me originally.

    I was advised that I should have processed my application on a “Microsoft Windows based operating system” which is great as most buskers surely have a range of operating systems available in their plush offices to choose from when they apply for pitches.

    Determined to keep my new career as a busker on track, I phoned the helpline number to enquire whether there was any way people without LU’s preferred operating system might still be able to submit their 10 lines of required information in a satifactory manner.

    My first call got an immediate response. A recorded voice politely let me know that I was “Nr 14 in the queue” and I would be dealt with as soon as possible. I waited 4 minutes and then advanced to number 13. I realised at this rate I would be waiting nearly an hour and hung up. Tried later and this time I joined as number 4. After just 15 minutes I spoke to a nice young man who was anxious to find out what the problem was. “You have nothing to worry about” he assured me, as my application was sent in within the deadline all was well. He blamed technical problems for the email I received but had no idea how I was to submit my form in a way that would get me the audition.

    Later the today I received an email apologising for the technical difficulties and saying the deadline has been extended to Monday, 9am.

    Now, if I can get my hands on a Windows machine in time, I may still be in with a shout…

    • warren cahill

      I had the exact same problem, i eventually got the application to them but then ive heard nothing, have you heard anything since

  • Jnet08

    I applied twice to the LU Busking, I’ve been waiting over a 2 years to get the application form. When I did recieve email notiification from LU, the actual deadline date for new applications had expired 4 days prior to receipt of the email with only 2 days left to complete the application form and send it in!!

    I informed LUB of my bewilderment at the date deadlines and they apologised and extended to final applications from the 8th to the 11th Feb 2013. With audition notices due on the 18th Feb. With such a high influx of applications which they stress they receive, I am somewhat suprised that they can process them all in such short space of time, and give each application any due consideration.

    There must be some form of rigid criteria to which the applications must adhere to for one to be an acceptable candidate for the busking scheme and I’d quite like to know what that is. Or maybe it’s a first come, first service basis and if so, where does the first in line start.

    My application was unsuccessful and yes I am disappointed. Especially when for the last 2 years I have watch Boris ‘the London night-Mayor’ give out busking licenses like little sweeties on his campaigns and at ‘under the age of 26 only’ music competitions.

    Not that I’m agest, I just think that everyone should have the chance. I’ve been thinking for a while that the LU Busking scheme organisers may be only playing lip service and really have no intention to let the scheme continue, especially judging by this recent application fiasco.

    • warren cahill

      Ive also had a nightmare as i applied in 2011 and they sent me a message with ref number etc saying they are having auditions in 2013 so i emailed them with the reference number in January and got nothing back, so then i sent anoher email and nothing again, then a friend told me about this page and i couldnt belive it as they didnt even let me know the auditions were going on even though i had ref number from 2011 and 2 emails this year JOKE!!!!! i also had the same problem applying as you both and was alos sent emails saying probs with systems, I also would love to know also how they choose the people for the auditions as they didnt even want a demo of music on the application, i think the whole thing is a fix and im disgusted at it all to be honest, i have a name ROB VARNY who replied to me in 2011 and i understand he is still working there as ive spoke to current buskers on the underground, im gonnna go in there and speak to them face to face as i would also love to know how they choose.

      PEACE. V

  • warren cahill

    Would love to know if anyone actually got and AUDITION for this as i think the whole system has been fixed, what a load of horse manure

  • KittyTipple

    I had an audition for this 3 weeks ago and was advised that I would be given the results of the audition around now. Had no problems in submitting the form (thought the directions were pretty clear) and had regular updates. I’d forgotten I’d put my name down for a licence, so nice surprise. They had over 5000 applications, were auditioning around 250 people and had 100 licences I believe, so it’s hugely oversubscribed. It did have a quick turnaround but I’d rather have that than a long wait personally.

  • Mark Hudson Jones

    I wonder how often the licence holders manage to get a pitch if there are only 37???
    Do they book them or something?

  • oscar acebras

    estimated mr.Rob.
    I was have mi license for busking but for problems in my whealt .I m over sixty years.. I m argentinian…is posible other oportunity for my ?

    Oscar Acebras …thank…

  • daniel nan

    some one can help me i vant too go for auditions busking when and wherer?