Should we subsidize busking?

| 1 Comment

No Busking.jpg
In an earlier post I enquired about street musicians, and now David Tufte has a great post on the economics of busking;

“Believe it or not, busking was actually the best money I ever made as a musician. In London you could consistently make 10-20 pounds per hour ($15-30 at that time, and about $30-60 after adjusting for inflation). If you were serious, it was possible to do this about 4 hours per day, which works out to $25-50K per year, tax free. Few musicians of any caliber make that much. The money you got varied a lot by location: touristy and entertainment areas did the best because people had money to toss and time to listen. Amounts varied less by time of day: congestion tended to discourage individual donations.

Of course ... you had to sell your soul to do it. In London, the best spots were controlled by groups that were willing to defend turf (although this didn't happen much). Essentially, gangs had evolved endogenously to cartelize the market. No one called them gangs or cartels, so I'll stick to groups.

The system worked like this. In London, much busking occurs in the underground. Everyone knew the best spots - decent acoustics, lots of traffic, a big enough area to work, and so on. In the morning, someone from a group would show up and claim a spot for the day. They brought a notebook, and took reservations for one hour slots throughout the day. There was some openness about getting a slot, but the best way to keep that spot working for your group was for everyone to be on the list and to show up on time in order to transfer the spot to the next person. It was often easier to get a slot if the pubs were open, since the competition was likely to be lighter.”

Read the whole post.

I came across the following comment on a post of Tyler Cowen on arts finding;

“In Berlin last year I heard (1) a busker in a U-bahn station proving that you can play Bach's organ music on a squeeze-box, pleasurably, and (2) a string quartet busking outside KDW and gathering a decent crowd for, again, Bach. In Stowmarket, in deepest rural England, I heard a busker play Ellington's "It don't mean a thing" on the electric guitar, to a sizzling standard. I'm left wondering why my tax is extorted to subsidise ballet and opera, and the crude nonsense passed off as painting and sculpture.”

For Discussion; If buskers make people happy, should we be subsidizing them? What do the happiness economists think about it?

A Busker’s Notes
Losing my Religion - Tube Busker

1 Comment

No Tyler ... bad libertarian ... no!

The key is that we shouldn't be subsidizing the arts at all ...


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on August 9, 2006 9:11 PM.

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