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Street Music

I am always astonished and pleasantly surprised by the quality of the music to be found on the streets of Paris. Whether it’s the classical musicians and opera singers to be found under the arches of the Place des Vosges in the Marais, the jazz bands in St Germain des Prés, the street musicians in Montmartre or the buskers in the Métro, street music fills the air of Paris. Street music is an old tradition out of which emerged Edith Piaf who began her career by singing in the streets of Paris. I wonder how many others will rise from the streets of Paris to the world stage.

Whether is legal or not to play music on the streets in Paris is a difficult question to answer since, as with almost everything in France, the regulations are shrouded in the fog that is French bureaucracy. What is clear though, is that street musicians don’t have the right to ask for money. If you choose to reward a performance by street musicians by dropping some loose change into one of the boxes that adorn every street musicians pitch then that is up to you but the musicians can’t ask you to or even suggest that you might. It’s one of the sad facts of life that whilst many people watch and listen to street musicians performing and obviously enjoy it, a large number walk away without leaving some token of their appreciation. Whether it is legal or even wise to try and record street musicians is quite another matter!

I am currently building this “Street Music” page which will include some of the recordings I’ve made of street musicians mainly in Paris. Over the coming weeks I will add more sounds to this page ranging from individual players standing on street corners to outdoor music festivals and all points in between. So, if street music is what you want to hear you won’t have to trawl through all my posts to find it.

Here we go then! Enjoy!  And feel free to leave me a comment about anything you hear.

All the recordings are recorded in binaural stereo. To get the best effect you should listen with headphones.

1. A recording made at the summer jazz festival held in La Défense in 2010:

2. Another recording made at the same festival:

3. Singers in the Church of Saint Séverin. Not exactly street musicians but amateurs nevertheless. This is a favourite of mine.

4. South American buskers inside the Metro station Châtelet:

5. Jazz from the Jardin du Luxembourg: A group of six jazz musicians having fun on a Saturday afternoon.

6. A Harp in Montmartre: A man playing a harp in the shadow of Sacre Coeur

7. A Street Organ: A man making a little organ sing and singing himself in the rue Mouffetard

8. More Jazz From the Jardin du Luxembourg

9. Edith Piaf “sound-alike” in Montmartre

10. A brilliant accordionist in the Metro Bastille

11. A jazz trio in rue Mouffetard

12. Music at the Christmas market in La Défense

13. Street Music in the Place des Vosges

14. Street Music in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine


16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tyler
    Sep 14 2010

    Just wondering, how do you go about getting permission to record? I want to record buskers as well, but I’m not sure how best to let them record me.

    • Sep 16 2010

      Thanks for your comment. Gentle persuasion is usually the best way – Oh, and a hefty tip usually helps too.

  2. Oct 20 2011

    Very interressant project. Can I use “The brillant accordeonist” for my project of urban sound please ?

    Gilles Malatray

    • Oct 20 2011

      Thanks for your comment Gilles. Yes, you can use the sound of the accordionist for your project. Please give credit to Soundlandscapes.

  3. Jan 10 2012

    Your site is simply wonderful. On each trip I make to Paris, I am amazed and delighted with the sounds of the city. I would wake up to church bells every day, walk to a cafe for breakfast where there would be talk and footsteps on cobblestones, motorcycle beeps and then maybe a single street musician. One magical night I was walking home through the courtyard of Notre Dame and the wafting sound of a lone guitar playing “Hallelujah” Pure magic! Then another evening, a crowd cheering for their favorite team in front of a bar…. then Euro beat music and then the sounds of bells and choirs and children playing… walking on gravel in the parks, casual sounds of laughter and talk at the cafes. All of it so very much a part of the magic that city. I’m happy I found your blog!

    • Jan 12 2012

      Thank you so much for your comment Myrna. Your description of your trips to Paris and the sounds you’ve heard are exactly what excites me about this city. I record and archive these sounds because they are part of our social and cultural heritage and they deserve to be preserved for future generations to enjoy. I hope that this blog will give you continued enjoyment and connect you to this wonderful city.

  4. Mike
    Jan 26 2012

    hey out of curiosity, what equipment did you use to record?

    • Jan 26 2012

      Hi Mike, the answer is “it depends”! Sometimes I use a Nagra LB broadcast recorder, sometimes a ZOOM H4N and sometimes a Sound Devices 722. I have a range of microphones but for street recordings I usually use the Soundman OKMII binaural mics. I also use a pair of excellent Rode omni clip-on mics. I hope this helps.

  5. Dec 31 2012

    Hello hello, what a wonderful site. It’s so nice to hear such lovely music resonating from the streets of Paris.

    I came across your site while doing research for my upcoming trip to Paris… would you be willing to answer a few questions? I am a musician from New York City and I will be in Paris this coming month and am hoping to busk or at least play on the streets while in Paris. I’ve read you need a permit. Is this true? Any advice would be very much appreciated.
    Thank you in advance.


    • Jan 1 2013

      Yes, in theory you do need a permit, especially if you want to play in the Métro. However, many musicians don’t bother and simply go ahead and play anyway. Apart from in the Métro, the police are fairly tolerant and will generally leave you alone unless someone specifically complains about you. You should be aware that, whether you have a permit or not, it is illegal to ask for or to accept money for your performance – something else that’s often ignored but, be careful.

      Paris is a city that is, on the whole, very kind to artists so you shouldn’t have a problem so long as you’re sensible. Perform in very public places, don’t ask for money, and don’t upset the neighbours!

      Good Luck!

      • Jan 2 2013

        Thanks for the advice.
        Very much appreciated

  6. Herberth
    Sep 24 2015

    Hello. I was in Paris the week of 9/13 and listened to a woman play at the Invalides metro stop. I think her one person band name was “some”. I’m not sure. Do you have any idea who this is? Thank you

    • Sep 24 2015

      Thank you for comment, Herberth,

      I’m afraid I don’t know the lady to whom you refer. There are so many street musician in Paris, many of them just passing through, so it’s difficult to keep track of them all. I happened to be out of town during that week but I shall go along to Les Invalides Métro and see if I can catch up with her if she’s still there. If I can find out something about her I’ll let you know.

  7. Konrad
    Mar 1 2017

    Hey, what equipment did you use to record these?


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Christmas Music in Paris: Classical Concerts and Traditional Carols
  2. Blogs about buskers

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