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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Tube Buskers sing songs for Money

Tube Buskers Sing for MoneyPlay Johnny Cash for Me

Yesterday Metro reported the not too shocking news to most of us that buskers on the London Underground sing songs for money! Errr, shock horror. Well there is a bit more to it than that. Bizarrely, some record companies believe that one of the best ways to promote a record is to get a busker to sing it for you on the Tube.

Just before Christmas a test exercise where buskers sang songs from Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire once every two hours helped to push the album into the charts. So now according to The Sunday Times "When the new movie Walk the Line about the life of Johnny Cash opens in London next week, cinema-goers will be treated to a selection of his songs in London Underground stations. Buskers are being hired for £40 a day to sing Cash's hits as part of a marketing ploy to sell CDs"

But it's not just artists like Johnny Cash who are being given a boost on the Tube. Sony paid 34 buskers £150 each to play two hours of Eurythmics songs for three days, which only cost them £5,100 to get their songs heard by some of the 3 million people who use the Tube every day. A spokesman for Sony said: "I hope it gave commuters a chuckle. Sweet Dreams is not the usual song you would hear on the Tube, and it made you look up."

Apparently there's a bit of a kerfuffle going on (probably started by buskers who've not been able to cash in on the deal) as people are saying that this doesn't fit very well with the traditonal busker's "alternative" way of life. One banjo player at Monument station said: "I am a bit ambivalent about the idea. Busking, which used to be an alternative lifestyle, is now part of the corporate world."

Busker at Kew Gardens Tube Station with No busking StickerHowever, another busker defends his position to take cash to play Cash. Andy Thornes from Streatham, south London was playing songs at Tottenham Court Road Tube station last week and said:

"It is a good pay day for us. I like to play my own stuff most of the time, but the other day I left one two-hour pitch with just £1.80 to show for it. Anyway, I like Johnny Cash. I'll even throw in songs which aren't on the album like Ghost Riders in the Sky.

"Mind you, another record company promised a £50 bonus whenever one of their executives heard a busker sing songs from a particular album and we are still waiting to be paid."

What do you reckon? Should buskers be left to their normal "alternative" lifestyle or should big record companies sponsor them? Or have you heard a busker sing something you thought was unusual for them recently?


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