A tall, extremely skinny young white man – or should I say kid – walked into the subway train today. He has had long, unkempt hair all the way down to his waist, dirty black sweats and looked quite ragged. Except he has a small chair in one hand and a half size upright bass , with a bow, in the other.
He proceeded to put his chair in the middle of the car, sit down and start playing – with a high degree of intensity, head moving from side to side, hair flowing, his boney fingers moving up and down the fret in rapid action. He was good – not brilliant, but good – and sure enough caught the attention of many passengers.
After a short 3 minute piece, he got up to a round of applause and put out a baseball cap for donations – very politely, remembering to thank each person. I have never seen so many people immediately give to a subway musician. He easily cleared $10. Then he very methodically picked up chair and bass just in time for the next subway stop, bolted out the door, to the next car up.
I started to do some quick calculation. A subway train usually has 9-10 cars. Over a 45 min to 1 hour ride, going from one car to the next, playing just one piece each time – he probably cleared an easy $90 – all cash!
Extrapolate that – say he did this just 4 hours a day (he could not do this in the morning and evening rush hours, and probably mid day quiet hours would not be worth it), working a normal work week, that adds up to about $79,000 a year! All cash – tax free! That is far more than what many of the people that gave him money make. That is far more than what a really talented musician would make in a real, full time job!
This kid was not some poor, hard on his luck, down and out struggling musician. This was a well thought out and planned, orchestrated show. This kid is actually an entrepreneur, who realized by donning the right look, he can play the sympathy card such that he will make more money that just what his talent would suggest.
Absolutely brilliant – I think we really took us all for a ride. And in full disclosure, I also gave him $1….
P.S. obviously the above is speculative – if he really is a struggling musician trying to make ends meet – I wish him all the best!
Drawing by Shivani Jain, my daughter