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That Underground Sound

We hope your package is ready. You know, your application to be one of the few, the elite, the highly trained, and (hopefully) strangely attired TTC Subway Musicians. Today marks the first day that applications will be accepted for aspiring banjo/didgeridoo/french horn virtuosos who plan to entertain (and likely make a small fortune from) the warm and receptive commuters who patronize the TTC’s subway system.
The Subway Musicians program has grown considerably since the first incarnation was launched 29 years ago, when it consisted of 8 musicians playing at 8 select subway stations. (Fun Trivia: Did you know Rick Springfield started his musical career as a TTC subway musician? Well, he didn’t, so if you said yes, you’re a liar.) Today there are 89 musicians playing at 25 stations, and maybe one of them could be the next Rick Springfield!
All it takes to get started is to fill out the 2008/2009 Subway Musician’s Package [PDF]. You can also pick up your application at the Main Floor Security Desk at TTC’s Head Office (1900 Yonge Street, at Davisville Station) Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Completed and signed forms must be returned to the same spot by June 27, 2008. Auditions will be held at the CNE for the first 175 applicants (or everyone, if it’s less than that) on August 15 through August 17, 2008. It’s a bit of work, but think of the possible fame. The fame!
For everyone else who’s not inclined to apply because they could never figure out how to play “Good King Wenceslas” in their guitar lessons, instead of nervously rushing past these talented musicians because you think they’ll hassle you for your hard-earned bread, stop and have a listen. Stare at them, even. Make them nervous, dammit. They worked hard to get that spot, so give them some attention! Throwing in a couple of bucks might not hurt either.
Photo by psuba98 from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.


  • Stacey Kityana

    bah, i really dislike the idea of auditioned busking… i can understand, and even agree with, a lot of the reasons, but it just seems so contrary to the point of busking.

  • _V

    I kind of agree with you!! Especially considering it’s the TTC. Strikes me as odd that they’re sticklers about quality control of the live entertainment, yet make-shift signs, dilapidated stations, inconsistent service are the norm…

  • David Topping

    About fiveish years ago, a friend of mine saw this skinny guy playing his violin on the TTC (outside of the designated busking area, and not for cash, I believe). My friend remembers him being really, really, really good. At the time, my friend went up to talk to him, and the guy introduced himself, but my friend didn’t remember his name until a year or so later…when Owen Pallett’s first record as Final Fantasy came out.
    (I really really hope that my friend’s story is true.)

  • Carly Beath

    They also charge $150 to the winning buskers. I was going to apply until I got to that part. I’m too poor to be a TTC busker!

  • Jonathan Goldsbie

    That’s even more than it costs to run for mayor or Council ($100).

  • iantri

    Amusingly, some incredibly crap buskers make it through anyway, like the guy who for quite some time sat in the overhead walkway between Yorkdale Station and the mall, plonking out Paul McCartney tunes and other pop standards on a Casio keyboard with an automatic drumkit backing.
    That said, I really do appreciate the [vast majority of] good buskers in the subway, I think they add a lot of needed ambiance to a station. The TTC really should let them down onto the platform like in New York though.