How to Busk in Boston Part 2: Before You Start
(A piece by Matt Sokol from weirdodrummer.tumblr.com)
This is a guide to performing music for tips in the MBTA stations through Boston’s official buskers program.
In part 1, I talked about why busking is a good way to start making money from music. In this article I’m going to explain the steps you need to take before you can start performing in the T stations.
What do I need to start?
You will need a few things to begin your busking adventure in Boston:
$25. There’s no way around this. If you want to busk in the MBTA stations, you will need a T Musician Permit which costs $25 to get. It’s an investment that should pay itself back off within the first session or two. I’ll explain how to get that permit soon.
Amplification. This isn’t strictly necessary for some instruments, but it makes a big difference. YOU CAN NOT PLUG-IN YOUR AMP. Everything must be self-contained. You can buy an amp that charges overnight and then works without plugging in.
The T stations are loud and light amplification makes a big difference. If you don’t own a suitable amp, you’re better off starting out un-amplified with an acoustic guitar than you are to not start at all. You’ll discover in time if an amp would be helpful for your act.
Music. This seems obvious. Only you can determine what music will work best. There is a man who busks regularly performing instrumental music on a hurdy-gurdy. Another guy plays blues harmonica and sings. Meanwhile there’s a girl who I swear just sits there and strums a harp back and forth all day… I guess it works for her.
Go with your heart and make sure you have at least 45 minutes of music to start.
How do I get the busking permit?
Welcome to the easiest yet most annoying step: Paying up and waiting for a few weeks until your permit comes via mail.
Go to the MBTA’s official Subway Performers Program webpage at http://www.mbta.com/business_center/subway_performers/. If you’re reading this in the future and that link does not work, googling “MBTA Performers Permit” may get you there.
Print the form and fill everything out. You then need to deliver the application to the Transit Realty Association in person, along with two forms of ID, a recent piece of mail addressed to you (no more than one month old), and a money order of $25 payable to the MBTA.
You can’t pay with cash, check, or card. Money Order is the only form of payment that they accept.
After you successfully hand in your application, they will take your photo and send you on your way. Within the next two weeks, you should receive your performance permit in the mail, and then you’re ready to start busking.
I will tell you how to attempt your first busking session in next week’s article. In the meantime, get your permit!