New York Street Music
Whereas subway music occurs in an interconnected space traveled by an exceptionally heterogeneous population, the street music scene in New York consists of public space environments that attract more particular audiences. 1 During their lunch hour, young professionals gather around Andean and jazz bands in Liberty Plaza in the Wall Street area. On weekends, young people looking for entertainment with an "edge" congregate in Washington Square Park. Theater- and moviegoers cheer breakdancers and stand-up comics while waiting on line along Broadway in Times Square.
In 1970 Mayor John Lindsay signed a bill abolishing licensing requirements for street musicians, and since then New York has regained its reputation as one of the most hospitable American cities for street entertainment. 2 Some musicians, however, would disagree. In informal interviews some of my sources reported that officers with the New York City Police Department had moved them, ejected them, fined them, confiscated their instruments, and arrested them. Indeed, such actions may be within the bounds of police authority under the ambiguous noise, safety, and conduct codes of the city. In some instances police claim to be responding to complaints made by those merchants who consider street musicians to be negative competition. 3 In other situations officers' discretionary decisions may actually be based on personal taste or mood, which is why Harrison-Pepper calls them "the ultimate theater critics." 4
Although the city no longer has a uniform licensing system above