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TTC buskers get new underground 'stage' to show off their talents

New pilot project designed to boost visibility of performers

TTC musician

A TTC musician plays at one of the new "stages." (TTC)

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The TTC is experimenting with a way to make subway buskers more visible — a "stage" that clearly demonstrates the musicians are associated with the TTC, not just busking for cash in a random spot.

The new pilot project includes four different subway stations-- Bloor-Yonge, Spadina, Main Street and Finch.

The new "stages" consist of a vinyl wrap-around decal stretching from the wall behind the musicians to the floor underneath them, clearly labelled as part of the TTC Musicians program. 

Until now, all musicians played inside a set of yellow dots on the floor arranged in a rectangle. Those still exist in most subway stations that aren't part of the pilot project.

 'Are we homeless? Do we have a job?'

"People have this misconceived notion of who we are," performer Morad Guzman told CBC News. 

He hopes the more formal stage looks will cut down on these types of well-meaning questions: "Are we doing this because we don't have anything else to do? Are we homeless? Do we have a job?"

Guzman plays full-time in the subway system, always dressed in a suit, often with his dog beside him, also clad in his Sunday finest. Like other performers, he had to audition and pay a fee for his three-year licence.

Stuart Green is a TTC spokesperson involved with this project. He hopes it'll make the musicians more visible.

"There are a lot of talented people performing in the TTC and we really want to give them pride of ownership of their performance space."

And as for how successful those subway buskers can be: Green noted that former TTC musician, Adam Solomon, went on to win a Juno Award in 2005.

Stages could mean more money for musicians, TTC

Green would also like the new mini-stages to mean more money for TTC performers. Plus, the six-month pilot project could eventually add more cash to the TTC's coffers.

Green gives the example of the transit system in London, England, where they've turned musician stages into an advertising platform. 

"They get sponsorships from a record label or a theatre company or a concert promoter," he explained, which is something the TTC will investigate during the pilot project.

"If there's a potential to generate some revenue, we would absolutely want to do that."