Shanise Spencer (left) singing at Times Square 42nd Street station.

Announcing… The BUSK Stop: NYC!

Serving Street & Subway Performers Through Social Journalism

Eight months ago, I had my first conversation with a busker at Fulton Street station. Now, after speaking with dozens of other street and subway performers around the city, I’m finally ready to launch my final Social Journalism project for the NYC busking community!

My classmate Katelyn Gillum (left) and I hanging out with Jesus Guadalupe (center), a street and subway performer.

Defining Community Needs

Buskers in New York are super diverse, so it was a long process to accurately define common community needs and understand the challenges they face. However, as I spoke with them more and more, two important things kept coming up: busking locations and self-promotion.

Meeting Jeremiah, a bucket drummer at 59th Street Columbus Circle station.

With that said, my final project has two primary goals:

1. Provide subway performers with information on where they can perform.
2. Help performers further their career goals by promoting themselves to the outside world and building their audience.

Part 1: Subway Busking Locations

All subway stations in NYC are unique. Each has its own layout, train schedules, rules (spoken and unspoken), busking “territories”, commuter demographics, types of performers, and overall atmosphere.

At the busier subway stations in New York City, there are typically several popular spots to perform. However, quality busking spots are largely subjective. The busker’s type of performance, personal preference, and motivation for busking determines where they decide to set up.

A busking spot is deemed “quality” when it helps the performer succeed. Some performers define success around how much money they make in tips. Others just want to perform without someone (or something) interfering.

Grace Miller (right) serenading commuters at Times Square 42nd Street station.

Having access to detailed information about specific subway stations would be beneficial to underground performers. Therefore, the first part of my project will focus on five Manhattan subway stations that attract many buskers:

59th Street Columbus Circle
Times Square 42nd Street
14th Street Union Square
West 4th Street
Fulton Street

I have teamed up with Project Subway NYC, created by a NYC-based architect named Candy Chan, to create interactive busking maps for each of those five stations! For her project, Chan mapped out ten popular subway stations in New York and created a three-dimensional illustration for each one. She is allowing me to use five of her illustrations as the foundation for the interactive maps! Here is the one I already made of 14th Street Union Square station :)

An interactive busking map showing some possible performance spots at 14th Street Union Square station.

Part 2: Self-Promotion

The second part of my project is all about promoting street and subway performers throughout the city. This will be done through a Facebook page called The BUSK Stop: NYC. The page will provide an underground look into the busking scene by highlighting different street and subway performers. The goal is to foster communication, collaboration, and networking between buskers and their audience.

Hila the Killa (left) performing with Sir Kn8 (right) at 14th Street Union Square station.

Each week, The BUSK Stop: NYC will feature different street and subway performers via Facebook Live, giving them a chance to display their talents and share their story with people around the world.

Facebook Live creates a bridge between the audience and the performer by allowing viewers to comment, ask questions, and maybe even request songs! These videos can also build performers’ social media presence, gain fans for their pages, and maybe even result in future job opportunities for them.

My GroundSource initiative for subway buskers.

Collecting Stories

In addition to my final project, I am launching a GroundSource initiative to collect stories and experiences of subway performers. The responses from this community will help me understand the what buskers look for in a performance location.

Follow my journey via The BUSK Stop: NYC on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! I always welcome questions, comments, and feedback :)