Busking - playing for tips on the street

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Alex_C, Jun 5, 2010.

  1. Alex_C

    Alex_C Piano User

    May 30, 2010
    Gilroy, California
    Turtlejimmy - Ed Lee wants us to resspekt his authoritah, and has turned this into a copyright discussion.

    I think we need more street music paid or not. A funny "sideways" way to do busking would be to sign up to work for the Salvation Army as a bell-ringer, and play a horn too, you get $8 an hour not what's in the kettle lol. Busking for charities of all types could be a lot of fun.
  2. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

    Oct 18, 2007
    The Wide Brown Land
    I think you've missed Ed's point entirely - I think he wished to establish his qualification to offer an opinion, not to suggest that he will "bring de deputies" and cart you miscreants off.

    Furthermore, after making his case, Ed offered you some sage advice, based on his not inconsiderable experience, to assist you in making a sustainable, legal, choice.

    That you think the law is an ass is not what Ed was attempting to help you with - most of us (probably including Ed) will agree with you - that opinion is yours to have, but the laws are there to protect us all. If you choose to flaunt those laws, even though you have been advised against it in a public forum, then that too is your choice - let's hope you are big enough to accept whatever consequences there may be. :shhh:
  3. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    Personally, I'd rather see buskers and vendors on the street than "pros". A good trumpet busker seldom plays loudly and has a repertoire mostly of the oldies that bring back memories to those that aren't in such a hurry.
    As one says the sound is "haunting". If one has the ability to play very well, I could suggest a song by Alexander Borodin entitled Polovetsian Dance that will not get you in copyright hassle and yet attract the upscale bills dropped in your case from the better heeled. Not my problem that they don't differentiate it from Strangers in Paradise from Kismet. It worked well for me in several cities when I encountered hard times financially. For instance, in DC I would stand near a building about 20 feet from an ice cream vendor or a hot dog cart. Customers of an ice cream or hot dog vendor don't walk fast and have the change from the vendor in their other hand.

    Early on in my law enforcement career, I actually was in "cover' once as a busker and earned $37 and change in 4 hours and was allowed to keep it.
    The "cover" placement was ineffective where the subject intended was a "no show".

    Cue, you aren't going to last in a location where your sound will be loud enough to disturb workers in buildings nearby ... security or police will direct you to move on and if you resist, well you'll recap the rest of that story, when you're being given a citation (fine) or hauled away.
  4. turtlejimmy

    turtlejimmy Utimate User

    Jun 6, 2010
    Hey Ed,

    I hear what you are saying. There are many sides to this busking issue. My own experience is so limited ...

    In that town in Canada, buskers were not only tolerated but appreciated. Everyone on the street was pretty friendly, I got coins and small bills from a wide cross section of people; old, young, hip, straight, locals, tourists, children. Pretty good vibes all around, all in all a great experience.

    But, in a city ... In America .... I'm sure the experience would be very different. If I had to worry about being moved on by the police or "security", as well as all the copyright infringing I might be doing .... owing royalties to the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young and Freddy Fender ... I probably wouldn't go out.

    As for the solo trumpet player on the street that was so haunting ... I don't think he was playing tunes (at least nothing I recognized) but rather just riffing on ideas that sounded like a film noir music score.

    Btw ... What were you trying to nail the busker with that you staked out?

  5. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    1. I've many times just diddled or riffed in the open air just for the pleasure of it, with no objectivity of receiving any monies in my case ... although I wouldn't have objected if anyone contributed.

    2. No, my "cover" was then focused on a suspected narcotics dealer. I was against the "cover" from the get-go as any new face in the area is a NO NO for appearance. Well, one doesn't buck the higher ups I learned well. Afterwards, I wondered what I would have done had I had to drop that trumpet to save my life or that of another in a shoot-out. Expensive horn, a Strad I think I recall ... but it wasn't mine, where they got it wasn't my concern, although I'd expect it was had been in the local recovered property locker. It took me 2 hours to shine it and get it reasonably operational ... and I think the mouthpiece to it is now one of those in my collection ... but which one I don't now know. I do remember I had much more hair on my head then, albeit it was also then dyed a jet black and slicked. I loved that Navy leather jacket that I had won in a poker game in Perth AU but I outgrew it and donated it to a thrift shop.

    Quite often a Piper roams the streets of the Old Town section of Alexandria VA. There was a Court case brought against one of the pipers that did this for disturbing the peace of a homeowner in a newly built townhouse near the Torpedo Factory. The Piper prevailed, proving that that the architectural specifications of the house was inadequately insulated in violation of the local building code. Alexandria VA has a tradition of Scottish heritage and the presence of this Piper was an tourist attraction. Too, they have a Bell ringing Town Crier in colonial attire that is another attraction. Many days, I've been with a local group just jamming in Jones Park or Bel Haven park, and the tourist and local pedestrians put money in the one case we had laid open. This group donated the money to various charities, per the signboard in the case. Let me say, then there were two trumpeters that were much better than me. I never asked, but I do believe one had been with a military band, and I'm sure the other was equally and exceptionally professional. That was just before I got married to my present wife, and I then had a very nice Selmer-Paris trumpet that I subsequently traded for a car. Well, it was quite a few years later that I learned that clarinet player had been with the USAF band and at this later time was a top reed repairman in the DC area, and one of my best friends. Too, he visited me often when I was in the hospitals in the area. I think it was a ruse, when he said he had been delivering instruments near the hospital and just stopped by ... but it well could have been true.
  6. Phil986

    Phil986 Forte User

    Nov 16, 2009
    Near Portland, OR.
    Interesting Ed. I saw a trumpet player in DC once, actually at the crystal City metro station. Not such a good location, it's full of DOD people or employees of business working for DOD, and their lives are ruled by deadlines. These people never have time for anything. I recall to be the only one who stopped and listened. I also chatted with the guy. He was tackling some fairly arduous baroque stuff. I suspect he was there mostly for getting use to play more difficult stuf with an audience, as distracted as it was.

    From my life experiences on 3 continents and an island, I'd say turtlejimmy got it right. The US is just not very busker friendly. Joshua Bell himself made about $40 an hour in DC:
    Pearls Before Breakfast - washingtonpost.com
  7. Alex_C

    Alex_C Piano User

    May 30, 2010
    Gilroy, California
    What's happened here is, Ed jumped in with both feet and at first sounded like he wanted to string all buskers up. Since this didn't kill the thread since I don't put up with gits, old or young, the thread had flourished and Ed's come right around and now he sounds pro-busker. This is because besides yelling at the aforementioned kids to get off his lawn, he has nothing to do but type on here - it could be worse, we could be stuck living in his town and have to listen to the guy in person.

    Types like him can be OK to have around, even somewhat useful, as long as they are managed. This is plain ol' NCO 101 from da Army lol.

    OK so then: It seems from what I've heard and seen personally, violinists do the best busking if they don't sound awful. Joshua Bell got ignored by quite a few people, but he actually found he made a living wage in his short try at busking. If he started making a career of busking, at that location and others, trying out different times, etc. he'd have likely greatly increased what he could make. Guitarists do the worst unless they're quite good, with the exception I'd say of slide guitarists, slide sounds so good to most people that a few licks can serve you quite well. I've seen flute and stuff like classical groups with an oboe, which are very cool. There's also a guy with a cimbalom, a sort of hammered dulcimer on steroids, that he plays with little bows he invented that go on his fingers. There was going to be a movie about him but then, the economy started its present tailspin and he doesn't talk about it, and looks a bit more "down" lately.

    I think trumpet or cornet is awesome and yeah, as Ed says, oldies (that aren't copyrighted) and not playing too loud, are very good things. At least we don't have to worry about being not loud enough - many instruments get hooked up to an amplifier or even need one, and then you get into the no-amps rule (which I agree with).

    I personally have no problem with the idea of paying say $30 for an annual license and being subject to approval, in other words, to have to audition. However, again that pesky Constitution gets in the way, and it's been decided over and over that busking and even asking for spare change, is protected speech. They sort of fall into the same category as asking someone what time it is, humming/singing to yourself. etc.

    Coffee shops sound like an awesome idea. I kinda know a guy locally who plays at different coffee shops on different nights. He makes a basic living, which is better than many are doing these days.
  8. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    Yes, turtlejimmy is right on ! As for busking in the DC environ, it isn't at all profitable in rush hours, but I found it to be fairly favorable on weekends or holidays and moreso away from the Metros. Too, don't get near another unless you come to an agreement of a split and can play the same arrangements.

    I know who Joshua Bell is only from advertisements, but I read the entire Post article you provided and I thank you for providing reference to it. Too, now I'm going to order his CDs.

    OK, one of my fingering exercises is a Shubert Allegro (from what I don't know) I picked it out of an exercise book and did a slight re-arrangement to reprise it. It's mostly staccato 16th notes, so I'd also have to say its an articulation exercise. As for his "Ave Maria", I've heard it wasn't originally composed for the Church, but needlest to say it fit's perfectly even though I'm not of the Catholic faith, being initially Presbyterian and now Methodist. Moreso, I've also recorded it on my brass horns ( playing ALL parts myself ) during my comeback from February 2006 to mid July 2008. Any who want to receive my MP3 of it, provide me an e-mail address via PM or direct to [email protected]
  9. Alex_C

    Alex_C Piano User

    May 30, 2010
    Gilroy, California
    I've not had a chance to see what buskers are like outside the US, but from what I have read from many sources, indeed, the US is not very busker-friendly. That being said, OK so Josh Bell was making $40 an hour, that's incredible money, more than 99% of us make. Now apparently Bell's another Menuhin or Heifetz, he certainly deserves more than good busker wages, but he could live on that. Even in NYC.

    I studied violin myself, just a little. I got my instructor into busking. He was flabbergasted, made about $40 in his first hour and a half. Ever afterward, when we'd meet for a lesson, I'd ask him how he did, busking over the weekend and he'd delightedly tell me how he played 3 hours here, made $80, hour and a half there, made $60-odd..... Being a college student, he found it great to be able to make money on the fly like that. Make his own hours, go where he likes,. etc.

    I told him that engineering is a great hobby, and it's great to know things that engineers know, to tinker with and design things, but you have to do something that will ensure some kind of a secure future. Do engineering if you like, but your mainstay has to be something dependable. I told him that with his violin skills, he could play at different locations and build up a schedule, at restaurants etc., and make a good living. Engineering, well, that's very iffy. He said that sounds about right, since his instructor has gone from engineering to just teaching violin, viola, and cello. And doing much better financially.

    I met my old teacher a week or two ago, he's going to a Conservatory back east. It was good to see him again. (Over the last two years, I'd lost my small hi-tech biz and lost everything, and was well, kinda homeless for a bit there. I'm finally situated at a fixed location again. Violin practice, and just about everything, went by the wayside. I had to trim my possessions to what I could carry on my back.)

    I considered taking up violin again, but the instrument's just not durable enough. The way I live, is kinda like being out in the field in the Army. Which is OK, but not so good for a delicate instrument made of wood and hair etc. This is probably why the military's known for brass and not strings! And while the time required to build range in brass is frustrating, it could easily take me just as long to play decently in 3rd position in violin. I'd taught myself trumpet a couple winters ago, and had a few lessons, and well, I think this instrument is more suited to me. I just got a Bach case for my Holton, that's really tough, like students or marching bands use, and I have no worries about the safety of the horn in this, tied down on the motorcycle and if the sun makes it a bit hot, no big deal. That treatment will wreck a violin. Someday, if I"m a decent player, maybe Aaron and I can jam together, on trumpet and violin oops Viola. Maybe we'll meet at the farmer's market in Mountain View and Cello Joe will be there with his cello and his "drumbicycle".
  10. guyclark

    guyclark Piano User

    Feb 28, 2008
    Los Gatos, CA
    I'm not sure I want to get into a political type discussion, but this nags at me:

    It was pointed out earlier that the laws are in place to protect all of us. Doesn't it seem, however, that at least the ENFORCEMENT of some of these laws is aimed at protecting the rich, at the expense of the poor and powerless? It seems like a situation where a guy gets busted and the book thrown at him because he played a copyrighted piece of music on the street without "permission" and made a few bucks in the process is not protecting anybody but the copyright holder (who may not be the compser, but some corporation that purchased the rights to the piece).

    Perhaps if there were no more serious crimes to be investigated and criminals to be stopped, time could be taken to deal with these musicians. However, to selectively enforce these laws on these people, while serious criminals get away with their crimes simply because they are too powerful or dangerous for an easy bust, is a travesty of what justice the laws were intended to protect.

    I know that if I don't like a law, it's my job to get that law changed. I would hope that in the meantime, officers of the courts and law-enforcement would use a bit of common sense, and dare I say, compassion in these types of situation!

    That's my two cents in the open trumpet case!


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