The Science and Struggles of Street Performing in New York City

Mariko Morimoto‘s dream is to be a mainstream musician. From approaching strangers at music conferences to soliciting her songs to teenagers at the gates of Warped Tour, Mariko is willing to do most things to get noticed.

“I picked a very scary career,” says Mariko, 26, who spends two hours nearly every day singing and playing her guitar on subway platforms. “I’m pushing my vocal cords two to two and a half hours of nonstop singing over loud trains,”she adds.

But is it all worth it? I sat down with the emerging artist to learn about some of the tricks and troubles of being a street performer in New York City. 


Do you have any favorite spots?

Rush hour during the week at Rockefeller 57th Street—that’s my favorite because everyone is really appreciative. I have a strict rule with myself that I don’t go to that place more than once a month. If I’m going to show my face again, it has to be new material. Another good spot is 42nd Street on the N, Q, R. My favorite weekend spot is 72nd Street on the 1, 2, 3. No one street performs there. I always pick spots where there aren’t more than one street performer. I’m only guitar and voice so I’m going to be drowned out by any percussions or big setup. 

Have you had any negative experiences recently?

I recently got a summons by a police officer. I have to go to court and present my case on why I shouldn’t have to pay the fine. He didn’t have to give me a summons. If I get caught again I’ll probably go to jail. 

Does that make you nervous?

No one wants to be in trouble. Am I really making New York City worse? Is this a crime that they need to focus on? It infuriates me a little. I know it’s the law but I think this in one law that is really unnecessary to focus on.

How do you respond to the stigma that surrounds being a street performer?

I consider myself a very considerate person. That’s part of the reason why I switch around as well. I like to think about other people. Regardless of how great you are, it’s hot down there and it’s just not a great environment. That’s part of the reason why I move around so often. I’m trying to be considerate of other people. In this industry, the people are the reason why I’m surviving right now, so I need to accommodate to the majority’s interest.  

You’re also available on iTunes?

Yeah, on iTunes, on Spotify, and Sound Cloud. I’m also on YouTube and my own website. I have this go-getter mentality and I’m doing whatever it takes to get noticed. I definitely need to put more videos online. That’s a consistent comment that I get on my Facebook and YouTube page. I’m kind of old school. But we’re at a digital age—I need to wake the fuck up. 


Julia Friedman


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