Portland: Land of Busking Gold

The Competition-First Installment

Before I tell you a little bit about what we’ve been up to, I’ll introduce a few of the other street performers of Portland.  Honestly, there’s not tons of music competition here. I saw a bluegrass band the first day we were here, but haven’t seen them since so I can’t comment.  That and a string band from North Carolina seemed like the most threatening competition. There’s a few traveling street kids who play as well.  I’ll get to them later.

Deep Chatham:

When we first arrived there was a string band called Deep Chatham playing and we were sure we would never do well because, how can you compete with an upright bass?  Deep Chatham was good, but they are also from North Carolina and on tour and they were gone by the time we started seriously going after the night crowd.  Plus, they were selling their cd’s for $5-10 suggested.

(This isn’t my video or even a video of them from Portland, but imaging them playing in Portland.  And also that they have a female fiddle player with them)

$10?  We put more work into our crazy ass demo’s than that!  Should we up the price?  Or are they reaching too high?  I didn’t get a chance to check.  They disappeared before I could really talk with them.

Noah the fiddler:

Noah in the Old Port

Noah in the Old Port

Noah was there the first night we arrived, Monday, playing his fiddle across from an ice cream parlor while the tourists exclaimed, “Oh a fiddler!” and conservatively danced a few steps.

He’s good.  A mix of classical music and some fiddle tunes.  Nothing too fancy, but well played.

He told me he’s been playing here 2 summers in a row. He also has a full time job (!) but he does this on the side, not in a band, not for necessity, just because he likes to play music.

Noah had a great look too:  the vest, boy-ish haircut and bandana in his violin case all seemed to fit the cobblestone streets.  I can’t believe I just said boyish.

I pried a little bit, asking him how much he might make (get down to the important details!) because I assume a fiddler must make bank.  He said last summer he made around 2,000.  That doesn’t seem too bad.  That’s not killer money either, though.


bill somethingThe metal guitar player rocking his falsetto…damnit, I forgot his name!  He gave me a facebook page and everything, but he didn’t have a business card and I’ve met so many bill, bobs, toms, johns, jakes, jacobs, jordans, dans…that I can’t remember who’s who.  Sorry common-name men but it’s true.
At any rate.  Bill or Bob or John plays thrash metal on his classical acoustic guitar.  He’s got a nice falsetto. When I met him he was playing Anthrax.  I hear he also plays while riding his bike.  I have yet to see this, but this dude is cool and hopefully I find him again.

While I watched him rocking out on the corner, a woman gave her 5 year old son a dollar bill to throw in his tip jar.  And we worry about pissing off parents!

Bill or Bob or John or whatever his name is told me he’s been playing in Portland off and on for 10 years.  One summer he made $2500 playing at Old Orchard Beach, a tourist beach south of Portland. Two Portland musicians, both out on a Saturday night, averaging similar amounts of money.


2 thoughts on “Portland: Land of Busking Gold

  1. My children and I are going to Portland next week can you recommend a great busking spot? They are saving money for a music competition. Thanks

    • Anywhere in the Old Port neighborhood is pretty good. Find a quiet corner, or just scout out other buskers and see which spots they like to play. Market Street is a good first bet. Good luck!

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