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What MARTA needs

March 16, 2010

is some busking.  Let’s check out what the interwebs have to tell us about the art of busking.

To busk, a British term, is to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or a public place, usually while soliciting money.  The word originates from the 1850s and is in part derived from the french term busker to cruise or shift as a pirate, generally looking for prostitutes, and y’all know I like pirates (and prostitutes!).

Some examples, if you please:

Some band called Metro Station (how appropriate) busking on the MTA.

I’m still trying to figure out where the rest of the orchestra is.


Lots of famous people have been known to busk occasionally, from Paul McCartney to Sting, Bon Jovi, and Bruce Springsteen.  Not too long ago Moby got some flak for hitting up a London tube station and only making 5 pounds (yes, I’m too lazy to figure out how to use that fancy L).

Everyone is familiar with the concept, if not the term.  It’s the folks who are out in city streets, parks, and subway stations playing music or doing magic tricks or miming with a bucket, hat, or open guitar case to collect tips.  I have seen some fantastic buskers, from a 12 piece band in New Orleans to a man being blown away in York, but not here, in Atlanta.  And don’t you tell me we don’t have any creative folks or certainly musicians in this city.  So where are they?  Don’t tell me they’re all up in Def Jams working on their albums, or waiting on the next American Idol tryouts.

London and New York have learned to capitalize on busking.  They hold auditions and issue permits so that they can guarantee the quality of the buskers, and London has spaces designated for them painted off in the stations (look for them in the videos posted above).  (I tried to find out more about the process on MTA’s website, but honestly, their site is as about as negotiable as my tax forms, so I gave up.  After two minutes, more or less.  Go MARTA for usability!)  But the buskers on those systems are good and can make that commute a little bit better, since MARTA won’t let the pigeons hang out, I need some form of entertainment, and there aren’t always crazies around to watch.

Busking isn’t illegal, it’s a constitutional right, free speech or something like that, and I think it could liven up MARTA’s image.  People don’t realize how awesome MARTA is (I am not biased, thank you) and this could be a draw.  They could hold auditions, publicize them, make it a big deal.  Then we could get some quality entertainment in the stations.  There’s SCAD, the Atlanta Institute of Music, Georgia State in this city; there is lots of quality to be had.  You could even make Five Points an art gallery and students could have rotating shows.  And artists could paint the designated busking spaces for MARTA, too.

So MARTA, if you’re reading this (maybe any people from, say, the Marketing department??? 😉 I’m proposing we do this.  We can advertise it on Facebook, since MARTA has a fan page, and in the AJC or something, and have auditions for permits to busk.  I don’t know who they’ll want to judge, I can imagine they could get some people the arts scene here in the city, like from Woodruff, and have them do it, or I can arrange something for them (I know a thing or two about music.  Just two.)  It shouldn’t cost anything and might just help with that MARTA cool factor.  People might even start throwing bras around the stations.  Who wouldn’t at this dude?


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