Subway Music Advice


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September 28, 2010
By Posted in busking | 12 Comments »

I was asked to say what advice I might give to somebody who wants to play music in the subway:

First I’d like to say – just do it! Even though it might seem kind of scary to play music in the subway to begin with, you got to just go and do it because once you start – what’s really scary is coming to the space in the subway and all of a sudden you have to start and perform in the middle of the street… but once you get over the initial say, five minutes, then you’ll be fine. So just get over that.

My other advice for playing in the subway is do whatever you love doing. Your love will come across.
Play music in the subway because you want to do exactly that. I see a lot of people who come to play in the subway because they think that it will be easy money. So, they are really there for the money and not for the love of playing music in the subway. They come to the subway, maybe we see them once or twice, and then we never see them again, because they very quickly realize that it isn’t easy money. So you got to do it for the right reason.
I also know people who play music in the subway because they think that this will be a way for them to get “discovered” by a record label, and these people don’t last very long in the subway either. You got to do it for the right reason, and the right reason is that you want to play music in the subway because you want to play music in the subway. Not because you think that this will lead you somewhere else.
And if you have that attitude then it will open things up for you. You will get discovered by all sorts of people – playing in the subway does lead to stuff but only if you’re doing it with a pure intent.

(please turn off the player at the right hand side of the blog before watching the video)

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12 Responses to Subway Music Advice

  1. Desna C. on September 28, 2010 at 9:32 am

    love your enthusiasm.. you look wonderful..very nice, Natalia :)

    • The Saw Lady on September 28, 2010 at 9:36 am

      Thank you, Desna!

  2. Aaron P. on September 28, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Funny, I just started teaching art and all of your advice for performing in the subway seemed to fit my situation perfectly. I must say those initial 5 minutes were tough but I made it through the beginning.

  3. Steven M. on September 28, 2010 at 9:34 am

    I always wanted to take my guitar and perform on the streets or in the subway stations, and play the songs I know. Both of them. 😀

    • The Saw Lady on September 28, 2010 at 9:36 am

      2 songs is a good start. I once went to a song contest when all I knew was one song – and I won the contest! What I won was my own cabaret show…which forced me to learn many more songs.

  4. Tomas Christiansen on September 30, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Hey Natalia
    I have just seen your video, and thanks for sharing and for the inspiration.
    I am a man from Denmark, who realy wanna play my guitar in the subway, because I wanna and because something is draging me!
    I dont no many songs, but I have made some songs of my own, that I wanna play, so maybe I’ll see you in the “system” next year.
    Tomas

    • The Saw Lady on September 30, 2010 at 4:32 pm

      Hi Tomas,
      I have a feeling you will have a very good experience in the NYC subway – there is a band from Denmark playing in the subway and they got to be so popular. People love the fact that they sing in Danish.
      I am looking forward to running into you in the subway!

      • Tomas Christiansen on September 30, 2010 at 6:02 pm

        How funny that they are singing in Danish..I will definitely look for you when I get there and leave a few dollars!
        I am going alone and I must say I am a little bit worried how things is gonna turn out!
        Do you have any other advice for a “new kid in town”, maybee recommend a places to stay?

        Tomas

        • The Saw Lady on September 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm

          There’s a youth hostel I’ve heard of (never been there) that is cheap to stay at in Manhattan: International Youth Hostel. Last I heard they charge $29 a night. I know of them because they asked me to perform in their cafeteria. Who knows – maybe they’ll let you perform there one night in exchange for sleeping there? Google them.

          • Tomas Christiansen on September 30, 2010 at 7:20 pm

            Thanks

            I will check that out

  5. Jon R on October 2, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Hey Natalia,

    I am looking to start performing in the subway and around the city at various parks (Washington Square, Union Square etc. ) I am having a hard time finding out if I need a permit. Are there some places or ways in which you don’t need a permit (i.e. playing all acoustic) or others where you need a permit (i.e. playing with amplification or in a specific location) I am looking to get going in a week… any advice or resources you could point me to would be immensely helpful. Thank you.

    Jon

    • The Saw Lady on October 2, 2010 at 7:14 pm

      Hi Jon,

      What do you play?
      Theoretically one doesn’t need a permit, because busking falls under the ‘Freedom of Expression’ right. However – the police might require you to have a permit for playing on the street (permits could be obtained from the different precincts for a fee), Parks Rangers might require you to have a permit (I had never succeeded in obtaining a permit from the Parks Department), and in the subway, if you happen to be playing at any of the 28 MUNY spots – you’ll have to vacate if a permitted musician arrives (to obtain a permit you have to pass an audition process).
      Hope this helps.
      If you happen to see me in the subway – come and say ‘hi’!

      All the best,

      Natalia

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