If music be the food of love, then play on
February 26, 2003 1:55 AM   Subscribe

Busker Dü: You're short of money. You're not afraid to make a fool of yourself. You have no pride. You have a musical instrument to abuse. Well - that, apparently, is easy. At least if you're a Guardian journalist. But what else can a feller do these days to drum up that old "Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime?" spirit?
posted by Carlos Quevedo (12 comments total)
And here's a companion-piece, in Flash, on the perils, difficulties and occasional delights of being down and out and having to make ends meet.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:18 AM on February 26, 2003

Another companion-piece: the stunt that inspired the Guardian article.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:48 AM on February 26, 2003

Excellent article - Thanks Carlos!

[GuardianFilter :P]
posted by armoured-ant at 3:54 AM on February 26, 2003

No human spell checking at the Guardian, evidently...those tricky little homophones!
posted by Vidiot at 5:58 AM on February 26, 2003

After half an hour, an obviously homeless bloke starts hanging around behind me so I keep an eye on my belongings. He pulls out a quid, throws it into my case, and heads off without a word. It is one of the most humbling moments of my life.

posted by namespan at 8:01 AM on February 26, 2003

True story: we were trying to make some money to finance volunteer work in southern Chile indian communities, so we figured we'd sing some boleros. Four of us, 2 guys and 2 girls, in central Santiago, suspicous policemen teeling us to move along, etc, Ended up on a bus full off construction workers who ended up singing along with us all of our repertoire. I think they were more impressed by the girls' legs than our off-key singing, but we still made a bit of money.
posted by signal at 8:40 AM on February 26, 2003

I busk regularly and can say that real estate and busking have one thing in common: one of the most important things is...

Location, location, location!

A good place is one where:

- People tend to move slowly. A place that tends to be a destination rather than one where you just pass through to get somewhere else is better.
- People tend to have change ready. That's why subway, train and bus stations are popular with buskers. You might also want to try locations near hot dog carts, "chip trucks", ice cream stands or my own preference, the local by-the-slice pizza place.
- Outside bars or clubs, after last call. My own preference. People are more generous when drunk, and if they've been dancing or seeing a live show, they're quite receptive to hearing a little more music before calling it a night. They're also likely to have lots of loose change dangling.
- Live in a country where the primary unit of currency (the pound, dollar, whatever) is in coin form. Doing this may require some advance planning.
posted by AccordionGuy at 9:00 AM on February 26, 2003

AccordionGuy: thanks. Next to the Lying in Ponds FPP, I think that may be the most useful Metafilter post I've read. We'll have to see after I play a few tunes.

Has anyone ever tried contacting city officials beforehand to get a permit or find out the law? Did it go well?
posted by namespan at 10:59 AM on February 26, 2003

Has anyone ever tried contacting city officials beforehand to get a permit or find out the law? Did it go well?

Yes, I have.
No, it didn't.

Here in the gorgeous city of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, I asked the local Chief of Police himself (he as an easy accessible office) about busking. He told me that it was begging and that his officers would move me along. I asked about a license and he told me that he'd never heard of such a thing as a license to busk.

I laughed. But I still haven't busked here.

posted by armoured-ant at 5:49 PM on February 26, 2003

Hey, namespan!

Hope your busking goes well (or, if you've already done it, I hope it went well).

Here in Toronto, Canada, there are busking permits, but nobody who busks outside the subway ever gets them. I've never been bothered by the cops about not having one.

Busking in subway stations is a different matter. You have to audition to be authorized to busk, and then you can only do so within in certain parts of the subway stations (very clearly marked). Mind you, the high volume of people passing through makes it rather lucrative; during the Christmas season, it's possible for a busker to make $800 in a six-hour shift.
posted by AccordionGuy at 6:50 PM on February 26, 2003

AccordionGuy: it's possible for a busker to make $800 in a six-hour shift.

With an accordion?
posted by Vidiot at 9:04 AM on February 27, 2003

With a harp. That wasn't me, that was my friend John Lavers.

My personal best is $150 in two hours, between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., and yes, with an accordion.
posted by AccordionGuy at 9:12 PM on February 27, 2003

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