Yesterday, for the 23rd year in a row, musicians gathered at Grand Central Terminal to audition for a chance to perform for free in the Big Show: The NYC Transit System. Although it's legal to perform in the subway system (in accordance with certain rules), try telling that to a transit cop. (We have.) But when you've got an official Music Under New York [MUNY] banner, the sky's the limit. As one hopeful told the Post, "It means the cops won’t chase you away or ticket you." MUNY approval also means prime real estate.
There are about 30 locations throughout the transit system designated as MUNY performance spots; the MTA-run organization schedules thousands of performances at these choice locations throughout the year. The best spots are in commuter-packed subway stations like Times Square and Herald Square, and competition for these locations is fierce, especially around the holidays, when a performer can make upwards of $100 an hour from donations.
This year MUNY received over 300 submissions, from which 68 were invited to audition for about 25 slots, judged by a panel of active MUNY musicians, music industry professionals, and MTA reps. Meanwhile, the rejects had to accept the fact that they can't even get an audition to perform in the subway. But some keep coming back year after year—this was the third audition for musician Natalie Gelman, who told the Post, "I was on tour for the past four months all over the country. But I can't get in to this." The subway's tough, honey—don't quit your day job... as a professional musician.