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The Essential Guide to Busking in Nashville

Abby the Spoon Lady, second from left, with other street performers in Nashville. (Image via Nashville Street Performers)

There's no shortage of incredible musicians in Nashville, so it makes sense that its street performers are exceptional – and that there's plenty of 'em, too. So if you're planning to busk in Music City, expect stiff competition for audience attention.

Still, Nashville's a really great place for free, open-air sets. The city and its residents actually welcome musicians, magicians, and other performances – so long as you abide by the rules, of course. Read on for a complete guide to busking in Nashville, rules and locations included.

5 Unusual (But Brilliant) Places to Play in Nashville

Photo by Wilton Catford via Facebook

It's no surprise that Nashville's historic and ever-booming music scene sprawls out from traditional venues and clubs into all sorts of unconventional environments. The city's local scene is so massive, live music is everywhere—even at bike shops and on restaurant rooftops.

Before you peruse our list of top five favorites, we'd like to mention Fond Object as a sixth spot. The vintage and record shop hosts shows on a regular basis; they even refer to themselves as a music venue. And they are—it's the setting that's nontraditional. Bands either play in the center of the room, surrounding by racks of clothing and other merchandise, or outside on the back porch. We think that's pretty rad.

Okay, now you can read on for five more seemingly unlikely—yet very awesome—places to play in Nashville.

What No One Tells You About Booking Gigs in Nashville

Diarrhea Planet at Exit/In, NYE 2014. (Image via Unruly Factions)

The superabundance of musicians and clubs in Nashville make for a double-edged sword. It's why the community thrives—but also why it's harder to break into.

We spoke with two staple players in the city's market. One is Alanna Quinn-Broadus, who works with The Basement, which is situated beneath Grimey's New & Preloved Music. The venue is run by its co-owner, Mike Grimes, and his business partner, Dave Brown, but Quinn-Broadus heads up their social media and digital marketing. Our other industry insider who provided insihgt on the Nashville scene is Jesse Baker, who's been the programming director at the long-running historic club Exit/In for four years now.

Whether you're a touring through or starting out locally, the tips they've given below will help you crack the code to booking within the Nashville circuit.

Top 5 Nashville Venues to Play if You're Still Building Your Fanbase

Image via nashvillefringefestival.org

Nashville has historically bred great music, and not only by way of artists actually born there. It's forever been a magnet for musicians and bands of myriad styles. Béla Fleck, Mikky Ekko, members of Kings of Leon, the Civil Wars, and Lady Antebellum – all of them relocated to Music City from someplace else. That combination of ambitious outsiders and homemade talent makes for a pretty diverse pot of Nashville leaders, and the local scene of up-and-comers is no different.

Its reputation may make starting out in Nashville a little daunting, but it's actually not: this is a city that truly cherishes its hometown musicians. Naturally, there are countless venues working in support of that community – these are just five of our favorites.

Top 5 Nashville Venues Locals Love Playing

Exit/In. (Image via facebook.com)

We think this is probably common knowledge for our audience, but just in case: Nashville is far more than country music, and its myriad venues stretch way beyond Music Row. The Grand Ole Opry might be its most famous, but there are tons of other storied stages and new clubs upholding a thriving local independent scene – all of them vital to Music City in their own right. We've highlighted five venues cherished by Nashville bands and artists below. Again, there's a whole boatload more than this – but for anyone new to the city's sprawling scene, this crop is a good place to start.