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New York's "Underground Economy"

Friday, November 20, 2009

Making a living has never been easy for subway musicians but some say it's only getting tougher. Some buskers are striking up deals with corporate sponsors. Others complain that transit police have been cracking down on performers. Today, we get several views on New York’s “underground economy.”

Joining us is Luke Ryan, a musician who struck a deal to be in a deodorant campaign; Heather Haddon, a reporter at amNewYork newspaper, and Steve Zeitlin, executive director of the organization City Lore.

Guests:

Heather Haddon, Luke Ryan and Steve Zeitlin

Comments [21]

a

Also, most musicians are at a disadvantage in terms of being able to make a living, so they shouldn't have to pay like the guy from VA says.. let's get universal healthcare and subsidized basic living requirements taken care of first, then we can talk about the "free rider" subway musicians..

Nov. 20 2009 04:16 PM
a

Also, most musician's are at a disadvantage in terms of being able to make a living, so they shouldn't have to pay like the guy from VA says.. let's get universal healthcare and subsidized basic living requirements taken care of first, then we can talk about the "free rider" subway musicians..

Nov. 20 2009 04:16 PM
a

Why do the police give out tickets for little amps? The trains are much louder than anything the musicians are playing !

Nov. 20 2009 03:03 PM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

So it takes a village, except in New York City?

If 1,000 musicians make $1,000 a year and another 100 make $10,000 a year and don't pay taxes on this money ($2,000,000) we lose a couple of cops, firefighter or teachers. And of course there may be hundreds of others

That is not fair. They are free riders on the taxpayers that provide the forum. I think the officially sanction buskers should file taxes and/or at least pay a small fee for being able to play, perhaps $10 a day with all money going to clean up the subways.

Nov. 20 2009 02:53 PM
Kim from Manhattan

The MTA and the city should do more to help promote and assist the dedicated subway musicians. They play an important role in the daily commute of New Yorkers.
Great show today!

Nov. 20 2009 02:39 PM
peipei ("pay-pay") from manhattan

my favorite street musician is the piano guy, who lugs around a 400 lb baby grand piano and infuses the underground tunnels with energetic and sometimes frantic tunes. i talked to him occasionally and now we are facebook friends.

Nov. 20 2009 02:38 PM
Alex from Brooklyn

I would never give money to someone shilling deodorant. There are enough ads down there already.

I have given The Interplanetary Saxophonist money on the JMZ and a 4 piece doowop group on the 2 train.

Also "The Odd Couple", the Polish(?) Violinist and Latino Guitar player who occasionally joined forces in the Bedford L stop.

Banners and backing tracks are a turnoff for me.

Nov. 20 2009 02:37 PM
Alex from Brooklyn

I would never give money to someone shilling deodorant. There are enough ads down there already.

I have given The Interplanetary Saxophonist money on the JMZ and a 4 piece doowop group on the 2 train.

Also "The Odd Couple", the Polish(?) Violinist and Latino Guitar player who occasionally joined forces in the Bedford L stop.

Banners and backing tracks are a turnoff for me.

No $ for anyone with backing tracks.

Nov. 20 2009 02:36 PM
Anina from washington square neighb.

I thought the line between legal/illegal was whether you're actually taking money. (Sort of free speech insures that you're allowed to do it at all, but the money is the factor.)

what's the story with that?

Nov. 20 2009 02:36 PM
Jeff from Manhattan

For me, hearing music down in the subway is one of the great joys of living in NY. I've hear so much great music down below and experienced many beautiful moments of pure poetry.......particularly in Union Square and Times Square...Rock, Classical, Twin Flamenco Guitarists, Gospel, a boy playing an upright piano on the track level of the Broadway line, a Beatle tribute band, Folk musicians...and so much more. I think that music in the subway adds a sense of community and shared experience to our city.

Nov. 20 2009 02:31 PM
Anne from Manhattan

I can understand why there might be problems at places such as 34th and 42nd. On the 1,2,3 platform at 42nd there is always a lot of chaos with all the tourists. One or 2 musicians always on the platform can become rather overwelming. In general, I feel like stations in high tourist areas have musicians that are louder and not as talented as other stations. At the 103rd 1 stop, the musicians are usually wonderful with a regular violinist and an occasional harpist. How do musicians pick stations to preform?

Nov. 20 2009 02:30 PM
caryn lombardo from New York

Least favorite: The ukelele guy on the Metropolitan Ave. G train. His wailing drives me to violence.

Fav: the horns and drums at Union Square

Nov. 20 2009 02:30 PM
Christian from Midtown

The musicians with the loud karaoke bands behind them as support, should be ticked until they have to sell ther karaoke machines to pay the tickets off.

Nov. 20 2009 02:28 PM
Jennifer from Brooklyn

My favs:

1) The old-man accordion player under the southern most stairs of the downtown NRWQ line at union square. He can really belt out the hits, and his Hava Nagila is killer.

2) The older black woman with what must be quadruple D's who sits on a milk crate, dressed in a black T-shirt and drenched in sweat (ALL YEAR LONG!) who sings Motown, Blues and R&B hits like it's going out of style. She moves around, but is usually at the Herald Square stop.

Nov. 20 2009 02:28 PM
Twitchy from New York

Two years ago, somehow the bass player of my band learned violin in all of her spare time (when she wasn't busy being late for rehearsals and gigs), busking on the subway. Together with her guitar-playing boyfriend, they managed to make rent on a weekly room in Spanish Harlem. I doubt they could still collect the same amount of spare change.

Nov. 20 2009 02:28 PM
Helen from Gramercy Park

Last Sunday on the R train, I heard someone singing opera beautifully. When the person came into view he was a tall, slim African American - I was expecting a Pavarotti look a-like! This man had an amazing voice, he needs to be found and given a recording deal!

Nov. 20 2009 02:27 PM
andrew from nyc

from an email someone just sent me about Josuha Bell performing on DC metro incognito

..something to think about...

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing.. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story.. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made.... How many other things are we missing?

Nov. 20 2009 02:27 PM
hazy from brooklyn

musicians?
how about the CONSTANT pan-handlers? how about the scary thugs? I saw two guys fully punch a subway passenger that was just sitting and not even interacting with them just before they got to the stop. They took off. People were too scared to do anything. it was in clinton hill in bkln.
and police are wasting time on a musician???

Nov. 20 2009 02:23 PM
Ashton from Chelsea, Manhattan

As a music lover, I never pass a musician performing underground on our subway system -- or the metro in Paris or the Underground in London -- without giving him or her a small donation. My views about musicians ON TRAINS, INSIDE CARS is completely different. I feel abused by anyone doing anything when I cannot escape. Does the law you've discussed that makes playing music in our subway system legal only apply to platforms and spaces other than the trains, themselves?

Nov. 20 2009 02:22 PM
anita mcfarlane from astoria

oh and one more thing. i think it's horrible unless the music is soft and lovely. it's already too loud on the subway.

Nov. 20 2009 02:20 PM
anita mcfarlane from astoria

Can you tell us about how other cities deal with this please? What about auditioning and being "allowed to perform". I've done tarot card readings on the streets in Dublin and Toronto. Never tried it here. Is it only music that is allowed?

Nov. 20 2009 02:18 PM

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