Music-whether it’s in the city streets, in a park, at a concert or in a club, it’s all great. I love listening to any type of live music- if it’s good and even better if it’s free!
Who are they? Could they be homeless people just looking to make a few bucks from tourists? Are they really millionaires just having some fun? Probably none of the above. Some of them are aspiring young musicians or students looking for exposure and hoping to maybe catch a break and be discovered. For others it is a way to supplement their income as they struggle to earn a wage. Whatever their journey these buskers are iconic to the New York City scene and provide a background for tourists, visitors and people who work in the city. As the busker plays, they want to capture your attention, even if for only 5 seconds as the walkers pass by, hoping you will drop them a buck.
Did you know??- Not just any musician or busker can perform on the streets or parks in New York City. It is not as simple as plopping yourself down on any street corner with a coffee cup for donations and start playing songs on a guitar, drum, or other instrument. There are City restrictions and permits are required if you want to debut your singing or playing talent on a public sidewalk. Different rules and permits are required if you are near or in City parks, MTA stations or subways and in these cases you must file an application to audition with MUNY and be approved to play at these type of locations. Now you can understand that playing tunes on the sidewalks is not as simple as it looks. Maybe the next time you pass a musician playing on the street or in the park, you will look at them a little differently and respect the fact that just like you, they have a profession and are trying to make a living at it.
As I am in the city everyday to go to work, I make it a point to get in about 45 minutes early to do some walking. I commute from the Jersey Shore by bus and get off at Port Authority in NYC. From here I take a walk either to Times Square, Central Park or in the opposite direction towards Herald Square. Still after many years of walking thru the streets of Manhattan I try to observe new things or people as I walk. Along with all the traditional landmarks of the city are the performers and musicians playing in the streets.
In the eyes of many tourists these buskers are probably beggars or homeless people. As a regular in the city I recognize them as individual musicians playing their music hoping to make a few bucks. They vary in talent, some ok, some very good and some very-very bad. I decided to take some time to focus a little more on each performer and listen a little longer to them. Many of them do have goals and story to tell about their life experiences.
Some of these musicians perform regularly at clubs or other venues at night and try to make a little more money on the streets. They might make $50 or $100 bucks on a good day. A solo musician that plays any instrument likes to make music and hopes that people enjoy their entertainment. Buskers don’t expect everyone to give money as they walk by. Many successful musicians of today worked the streets in the beginning of their careers having the same dream to be famous one day.