An “Intellectual Property” Lesson From A Busker

On Saturday morning, as I sat at 7th Avenue subway station in Brooklyn, waiting for a Q train to take me back home, I noticed a banjo player playing across the tracks from me on the Manhattan-bound platform. The station was noisy as usual, but still, somehow, his urgent strumming and foot stomping (on a percussion device I cannot name) managed to catch my attention. The banjo was insistent and perky, and the beat provided by the foot-drum (there you go, I named it myself), combined with it to produce an oddly compelling rhythm. As befitting a subway busker, his instrument case sat open next to him, awaiting small change and rumpled bills. I thought of making a contribution, and sighed, “If only I wasn’t going the wrong way; I’d have given him some cash; I’ve got a train to catch.” And then, bizarrely, another voice spoke: “Fool! You’ve blathered on so much about voluntary contributions underwriting new economic paradigms for supporting artists in a world free of onerous “intellectual property” regimes, and you won’t cross the tracks to stick a bill in a busking bowl?”

So I got up, checked to see if a train was coming, ran up the stairs, across the divider, down the stairs, up to a startled banjo player, threw in a dollar bill (there seemed to be a few more of them in there), and ran back up the stairs back to my platform. The homeward-bound Q train pulled in, and a dollar poorer, I headed home.

7 comments on “An “Intellectual Property” Lesson From A Busker

  1. Noor Alam says:

    Ok,that’s impressive, I hope the guy saw that you appreciated him enough to sprint up the stairs!

  2. Samir Chopra says:

    I’m not sure he noticed. But that’s OK. I was feeling much better – thanks to the short run and the donation!

    • Saw Lady says:

      Thank you very much for your kindness!
      I am not that banjo player, but I busk in the subway (I play the musical saw ) and I know how a gesture such as yours can “make the day” of a busker. Of course the money is greatly appreciated, but the fact that you went out of your way is something the busker will keep thinking about – it gladdens the heart. It’s people like you who make the experience of busking in NYC such a nice one.

      • Samir Chopra says:

        Saw Lady,

        Thank you for your comment, and for the YouTube link. Nice work! I hope to see you in the subway world one of these days; if I do, I will stop and say hi!

        Buskers have often gladdened my heart as I wait for a train; it’s the least I could do.

  3. Luthor says:

    the important thing is that the donation was based on merit, not pity.

  4. […] many subway buskers. I’ve taken many moods and preoccupations with me into subway stations; the subway buskers have often found, without needing to communicate explicitly with me, the right no…. Sometimes, I find my mood lifted by the sheer performative brio of a busker, sometimes I smile […]

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