I played 10 songs in a BART station and I earned some money

I walked down the steps into the Montgomery BART station and saw a thin, black man sitting on a chair with a guitar in his lap. He was tapping his feet, smiling and telling people to have a nice weekend as he strummed. I glanced down at his open case in hopes of sizing up his earnings.

I continued on to the other end of the station, where I found a tall, scraggly white man standing with his back against a large advertisement, playing a guitar and a harmonica. He was good, but nobody seemed to give him much attention. He might have been too quiet.

Because I was getting nervous, I started convincing myself that all of the playable spots were taken, and that I should head the airport right then to avoid missing my flight.

As I walked toward the exit, I stopped in my tracks, slung my guitar off my back, and slid up against a wall near a set of stairs. In a matter of seconds I found myself sitting cross-legged and strumming the introductory chord to the country song “Wagon Wheel.”

The 45 minutes that followed were incredibly enjoyable. Here are some things I realized, in the order that I realized them:

  1. The acoustics in the station are amazing.
  2. Smiling and making casual eye contact is good for business.
  3. Popular songs like ‘Stand by me’ get way more attention than lesser-known jams.
  4. Receiving 5 cents feels exactly the same as receiving a dollar. It’s the validation that people are enjoying the music that stands out.
  5. I’ll never walk by a street musician again without dropping a coin in their basket.
  6. I have no reason to be afraid, embarrassed or annoyed about this blog. Playing in public once a week will feel less like a chore and much more like a short, casual show.

I counted my money on the train ride to the airport. I made $8.11, exactly one cent more than the total cost of the BART train, which I thought was awesome.

Although I’ll be kicking all my money toward my student loans, my earnings total made me realize that you can indeed make a small, humble living this way. It’s a nice thing to know.

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