8/5: State of the busk

I’m taking off tomorrow morning for a week in Vermont. So, it’s a good moment to look at what we’ve done and learned so far this summer:

  1. We’ve gotten the website and associated Twitter and Facebook pages up and running, with decent visibility and traffic. Also, one of our videos currently stands at 7,641 views, which I think is pretty great. One of our original goals was to establish a web presence for practical legal information about busking arrests — so we’re making good progress there.
  2. The “Music is Legal!” shirts have been printed, and we’ve distributed about 20 so far. They look great, and we’re happy to see ’em in the subway.
  3. Our mailing list is expanding fast. We hope not to use it often, apart from a couple reminders about the possibility of lawsuits. But if and when rules changes are proposed at the MTA, it’ll be the subway arts’ weapon for organization. Si vis pacem, para bellum!
  4. Our harassment database has also grown to over 20 incidents. Not bad, considering it came into being two weeks ago — but also not good, if you believe that subway artists shouldn’t be being illegally harassed. But in any case, the problem is starting to be documented on a broader scale than it has been before, and that may be a solution in the making.
  5. We’ve started to develop strategies for protecting performers proactively, including visibly displaying rules pamphlets and tracking police incidents back to misinformation with station managers. Big hopes for the future on this front…

One other thing: through a lot of conversations in the last few weeks, I’ve heard how hard it’s been for many performers because of wrongful harassment. I’m still the only one I know who’s been hit by a cop for playing the violin — but I’m not the only one who’s been harassed, or hurt, or chased out, or yelled out, or arrested. This is not a non-issue, folks, and we’re going to hit back as hard as we can.

And, a couple goals for the future:

  1. More lawsuits. With the harassment database growing and the news that you can sue for a wrongful summons, this is the time to take a bite out of the NYPD for its failure to train its officers on the laws of New York City. We’ll be psyched to see some notices of claim filed soon!
  2. More community involvement here. Given the basis we’ve established so far and the importance of public performance to the NYC arts scene, we think an organization in this role can be productive in the long term in this city. We’d like to start taking steps to make this more sustainable — and that includes getting friends and peers writing here and involved in planning and decision-making. More on this to come soon!

My 7 AM Megabus beckons, so that’s all for now. I’ll be enjoying a break from the blog for the week — but based on what we’ve heard and done so far, I’ll be looking forward to getting back to work just as much. See you soon, New York!

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