Monday, July 20, 2009

Streetalk: As a street musician, are your tips down?

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2009 at 1:44 PM

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Mitch: When my horn is clear, my spirit is high — and everything is all right. The tips come with it. I just let the spirit carry me. My music is a spiritual thing. It's not like a car. If my music touches people, it's a done deal for me. If I would have let the economy affect me, my music would be depressing. My tips are dependent on my level of performance, not on how the economy's doing. I come out and entertain people and help lighten the load. And if I don't do good on the street, I'll go to church with it.

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Walker: Definitely. In Little Five before the recession on a Saturday afternoon, everybody would have money. Now, everybody still comes out — but they don't have any money. If we played for an hour, we might get 10 or 12 bucks, maybe. Before the recession hit, on a good night, we'd make $40, $50 or $60. It's a lot more competitive now because there's less money. I'm 17. I have to support myself. I actually got a scholarship to the school of music at Berkeley. But I can’t go because I didn’t graduate high school.

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John-James: Before, you'd probably make $50 in an hour or two. Now, if you get $20 from 11 [a.m.] to 2 [p.m.], you're all right. I used to get a $5 tip here, a $5 there, sometimes $20. Now they’re tipping a dollar or 50 cents. It’s not happening. In Atlanta, you don't find a lot of musicians playing in the street like New York. There’s less people out, and a lot don’t tip no more. Sometimes the cop comes [and] tries to give you a ticket or asks you to move. What makes a city a city is when it has art and music around. Streets are sad here.

(Photos by Jeff Slate)

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