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16th Dec 2013 6:56am | By Jade Bremner
There’s no better season to belt out tunes in the Tube - and it could be just the career leg-up you need as a musician.
Ever wanted to perform in front of an audience of millions?
Well, in London you don’t have to be a multi-platinum-selling artist to be heard by thousands of people every day – Underground buskers get a platform on which to showcase their talents and gain valuable experience playing live, all while earning a crust during the busy Christmas season.
An estimated 3.5 million people use the Tube on a daily basis.
And at 25 stations, more than 200 musicians perform at up to 39 busking pitches. To win a slot, and play for festival-sized crowds, buskers must first audition through Transport for London’s Underground Busking Scheme.
Once they pass and are awarded a licence, they are eligible to book a pitch and start playing for tips.
The standard of buskers around TfL’s sites is so high, London has become one of the most desirable places for street artists – and passengers – in the world.
Yoko Hallelujah came from Japan specifically to busk this way. She’s been strumming Beatles covers and her own songs in the tunnels for five years.
“On a bad shift, you can make £5 and on a good slot, I’ve made £100,” she says of her two-hour shows.
“It differs every day – donations are connected to the way people feel. If a Londoner is not in a happy mood, they won’t give us any money.”
Hallelujah explains her busking has been a launchpad for the release of her own CDs around the world. She says perceptions about her means of delivering entertainment have changed over time.
“My friends now respect my busking and music, so do people back home in Japan,” she says.
“They offer positive encouragement, so I don’t stop.”
Balham’s Jamie West has been performing around the capital’s transport hubs for 10 years and it’s been good to the singer-songwriter – he won the first Young Busker Of The Year award in 2009, which led him to play the opening of the Olympic Village and even radio airplay.
Yet he still hits the streets and walkways.“Busking at Christmas is really good,” he says.
“Not just for the [money in the] guitar case, but also because people are more friendly.
”He plays folk, rock and blues during a set. “Right now, I’m listening to loads of Robert Plant and the Mystery Jets,” he says.
West is proudly a full-time musician.
“This year I released a single called Put Your Love Letters Up about the walls of Post-it notes communities made after the riots,” he says.
He gets to showcase his music daily, but admits punters can be unpredictable.
“One guy started dancing in front of me, then put his hands down his trousers momentarily. I had to stop playing to make sure he didn’t take it any further!”