Proposed metro policy has some buskers singing the blues

Musicians wanting to perform in the city’s metro stations may soon be required to audition first.
The proposed plan was drafted by Pierre Deslauriers, president of the Regroupement des musiciens du metro. While he has said the goal is to improve the quality of music without discriminating against any of the musicians, some Montreal buskers aren’t convinced that’s possible.

One of those buskers is Rachel Perez, a 35-year-old Concordia graduate who frequently plays her violin in the metro. “I’m worried that they might go one step further and charge a fee to play music,” she said. “They already have that policy in the Old Port and it’s the reason I don’t play there.”
She said many buskers only make $7 per hour on a good day. “I see a lot of musicians [playing in the metro] every day and their incomes could very well be affected if they weren’t able to play there,” she said. “As it stands there are only around forty locations where buskers can play.”

Société de transport de Montréal spokesperson Marianne Rouette pointed out that the STM did not have any contracts with musicians and concluded that the STM does not intend to change its current policy.
But Perez isn’t convinced. “If the STM is already charging musicians to play in the Old Port, what is to stop them from doing the same thing everywhere?” Noting that artists are often among the less wealthy in society, she asked, “Why squeeze artists for money when they don’t have much to begin with? The arts should be free,” she said.

Additionally, contract or not, she said she thought some artists could be discouraged from playing in the metro if the new rules takes effect. “They might not want to go through the hassle of auditioning or might not speak the language [French].”
Not all musicians shared her view, though.
Laurent Fugere, who plays classical guitar at Guy-Concordia and Place-des-Arts metro stations said, “The problem is that everybody can play now, and some are really not very talented. I think it’s a good idea to have people audition but I don’t think the STM are organized enough to do it.”

Fugere, who plans to go to Beirut, Lebanon this summer, said he prefers busking to his former job as a tennis umpire because he could travel, even if some days he makes “nothing at all.”
Perez, however, is worried the new plans might take away an essential aspect of the city’s atmosphere. “If they make it harder for people to play music in the metro, there will be less music in the air and people in Montreal will be less happy.”


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