Sunday, August 3, 2008
In Paris, where there are 360 licensed subway musicians (buskers), only one in three makes the cut. Nowadays the RATP requires them to audition for authorization to perform underground. Buskers are supposed to perform only in corridors and station lobbies, and not on platforms or in trains, where they might create safety hazards or assault the eardrums. If unauthorized performers get caught, they are fined 50 Euros.
Twice a year, musicians descend to the RATP’s basement to audition before a panel of judges, who have to decide from the perspective of a passenger. Is it good music? Is it music that would be nice to hear in the Métro?
Veteran buskers must renew their badges, which requires a 15 Euro processing fee. Some of them play as buskers when the regulars clubs where they work are closed. They can pick up a little pocket money, averaging 20 euros in a few hours. However, hardly anyone can make a living by just playing in the subway these days. Instead, they see the Métro as a good place to practice in public. Most musicians keep fliers, business cards and CDs at the ready when they perform, hoping for both cash and future gig work.