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Stephen H. Baird, Founder and Executive Director

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MBTA-Radio Threatens Subway Performances October 2007

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MBTA-Radio Threatens Subway Performances

Dear Stephen,

regarding T Radio,...

thanks once again for being such an amazing coordinator,....

I echo many of the other comments I have read from the other performers and T passengers,...

Perhaps i missed it,..  but one thing that is most disturbing to me is the whole concept of selling the public space as a commodity and the identification of corporate interests as having equal or similar rights and interests to the individual citizen, for the use of that public space.

If an individual wants to express themselves in any sort of unique and varied way, there needs to be sufficient access to the public to encourage this variety of expression to flourish.

Out of this variety of expression an artist develops and the culture as a whole is expanded and redefined,.....

This should be placed at the top of the list for uses of public space,.... because its value for the regeneration of culture in the community is priceless.

Public space should not be seen solely as a community resource to enhance a dollar based bottom line.

Additionally,..  it is frightening to consider that if I need to ride the T, i will now be required to listen to one continuos message from one part of my trip to another. It is somehow frightening to the core. I will now be unable to shut out this message,..  and the question is, who controls the content of this message,..  and when hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people have involuntarily heard this message repetitively for months or years. How will their patterns of thought and belief be influenced.

If individual performers express themselves, people can get away from their message if they do not like it, and individuals come and go over time,...  they are an organic expression of the community. many great artists - known and unknown have developed through the T system. They reflect the immediate diverse ideas and in influences within the community at large.

A centralized control of this message continuously throughout the T system takes the power to influence public awareness and culture out of the hands of the community at large and puts it in the hands of a few, whose interest is mainly to further commercial or corporate goals.

T Radio is an overwhelmingly bad idea for so many reasons.

Sincerely, Ned Landin

Hi, Stephen,
I have noticed that the overall response to the T Broadcast is "No concessions." I believe that if we succeed this time, we may not be so lucky next time. I have read the proposal of the T Radio Management. It does make sense but I think that we can have what they offer without losing anything that we have already gotten from the T. The most important thing is to secure it for the future.
For example, I want to remind everybody that the T has alreaday decided arbitrarily where we can play by posting those T designated performance areas on the platforms. By the way, some of those signs have been removed--the one in Central Square and the one at Porter Sq. I have been removed from Central Sq. not by the supervisor, but by some high ranking T employee. He did call the supervisor in order to have me removed.
From the listing we received from the T last time, we can propose that the T radio can be on at the T Stations where we are not playing anyway. We can protect and reclaim South Station and North Station since most performers do well there.
The big question mark for me is about the T decision next time around since their management has already given the green light for the T broadcast test without our knowledge.
When a party approaches the table ready to compromise, it is pretty hard to come up with a unilateral decision. This is my personal opinion on this matter.
Best regards, Gifrants

Hi Steve:

Some comments from the letters at Boston.com

"Would the GM agree to have the same station piped into his office at all times?"

"Apparently they don't get enough money painting buses to look like Snickers bars and gin bottles." 

"Hey the T can make even MORE money by selling earplugs.  Two rackets for the price of one."

I think we should all ask the GM the first question and watch his face fall.

The Boston Accordion Lady

I find this e-mail to you from Pyramid Radio inc. to be disingenuous. I think its magnanimous tone betrays its true intent. The business of a corporation is to maximize profit. How naive we would be to entertain this pipe dream they have presented to us. These noble ideas of theirs is nothing more than a veiled attempt to co-opt the subway performers.
John Westerfield

Hi Steve,

Thanks for keeping on top of this issue!  I have read much of what the other musicians have written on the topic of T Radio and Pyramid Radio's proposal and I have to admit that I was premature in my original evaluation of the situation - especially now that I have read the information supplied by you about the sound levels.  Others who wrote in were wiser in their assessment of the proposal as the next step in the private sector's incursion into what should be our public space - for conversation, contemplation and self expression - not to mention the workplace of many dedicated musicians and entertainers.  I apologize to them for my original opinion.  I signed the on line petition.  And, if I have the opportunity, I'll come to the public meeting, once the location and date have been announced.

Thanks, again!

David Holzman

Hi Steve,

I received your emails about T-Radio while performing at the Kim Tom Clown Festival in Shanghai.  I followed the story as your emails came in, but I didn't have an opportunity to respond.  I just got back to Boston last night.  I read the letter from the Pyramid Radio folks this morning.  Their ideas seem respectful and promising to me.  Please keep me informed as you move forward with your negotiations with them.

Thanks for keeping me abreast!

David Holzman

Hi Stephen,

Thanks so much for sending this our way! We are out in Indiana at the moment, but will be back soon & eager to participate by more than just the computer. My thoughts (and Dave's) are that live performance is vitally important to subway musicians, and one of our best spots to play, South Station is the one they were testing for their program. While any musician is always very happy to be played and interviewed on the radio, kicking them out of the spot where they have their daytime (or night time) "gig" where they make money, interact with people, and provided live enjoyment and entertainment to people and instead provide a half hour recorded spot on T radio is still extremely harmful to the musician.

If the radio was set up to play only at spots where musicians do not & cannot play (are there any?) maybe this would work out & then radio interviews with musicians might be helpful. But there is also, of course, the rights of the passengers, whose right to commercial free ride is being threatened.

I think that it is considerate that the radio show is looking for ways to support subway artists financially, but honestly it seems to me that making it impossible for us to make a living street performing and then providing a fund for emergencies instead is not ultimately extremely helpful.

Let me know what other people's thoughts are....and please keep us posted. We are deeply concerned about this issue and will be there in person by the end of October.

Thanks so much for all you do,

Lisa Housman & Dave Falk

Pyramid/MBTA sponsored performance spaces (locations within the stations where the radio is blacked out) This sentence arouses all my sensitivities about being controlled by corporate interests and having our first amendment rights hijacked. Sounds likely their plan is to take over our performance spaces and assign us a few token spaces that are still allowed. This is not acceptable.

This feels to me like we're coming onto their 'game board' (they being Pyramid Radio), which makes the street performers more or less at their mercy and no longer in the strong position of autonomy we have enjoyed to date thanks to the agreements we have forged with the MBTA. I'm not sure what the answer is. We will certainly need to very carefully consider what our legal options are in crafting our response.  And if our free speech position isn't strong enough to circumvent Pyramid Radio, we may need to use a strong 'court of public opinion' PR approach to respond to this latest threat, similar to the one we used in the past when the T started installing televisions at various stations.

Sharran Williamson

reminds me a bit of when Mike (owner of hidden sweets) first opened.  he reached out to buskers, he encouraged them to keep their amps or heavy gear in his basement, he would put an office chair out for Mare, people would call ahead when they wanted to play etc. then he put out his radio and would turn it off if ya came by to play.  But he started to have favorites and would leave the radio on when some performers came to play if he didn't think they were good for business, he started putting stuff out where buskers have alway set up. and of coarse now he thinks he should have the right to say nobody can play in front of his store.

One of the most important virtues of busking to me, is its complete and utter independence from corporate media, and that it's free from the influences that usually follow any such partnerships.

I do  imagine the community should want to offer some of the benefits pyramid radio is offering, and it up to us to call attention to our value to the community and what ever our need might be.  I would rather pursue that avenue regarding pyramid's offer if those are things buskers are seeking.

thanks for the update and i'm sorry if this is too much for e-mail and comes of as ranting, i imagine you have a lot to do.  i hope to come on Wed.  i to try to shuffle my schedule a bit. 


Mike Hastings

Hi Steve,
 I just skimmed the letter of suggestions from the T.  It sucks.  (First time I ever used that word in print or in speech for that matter.  I don't want to play on radio.
I think I speak for ever busker, if they have a modicum of taste or common sense in their heads.  This is not live music.  Theywill never compensate us for what we can make busking.  I make on average 15 per hour and on MY schedule not on their schedule.  They will never compensate us for our going rate
This is attempt to capitalize on us.  This is an attempt to commercialize us.
This is an attempt to silence us and to placate us for the time being until they finally squeeze us out entirely. And mostly they will never provide anything more than tokenism for the time being and eventually nothing, because frankly, they don't give a damn about us. 
What can be more distasteful than using serious musicians to sell scratch tickets. Commercialization is everything busking isn't about as I'm sure you know.
This letter from the T has me absolutely steamed.

Thanks for listening,
The Boston Accordion Lady

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