Remember Peruvian Pan-flute players? For a while, it seemed like the only subway music you heard was performed by groups of ponchoed men with bowl cuts. Even if you liked Pan-flute music, the ubiquity of it made you hate it. Not anymore. Maybe it’s the crappy weather this winter, but the underground has been busting with seriously badass music, like the eleven outstanding acts here, handpicked after three months of station-hopping. Many of the performers are licensed with the MTA’s Music Under New York (MUNY) program, which registers groups to play scheduled slots at 25 music hubs. Others slip in under the radar, in true busker style. Either way, the police can hassle or bust you for soliciting (selling CDs) or being too loud—a definite downside, along with toilets (there are none). But there are more benefits than you might expect: good money (as high as $300 an hour), exposure, and a captive audience. “If you want to do music full time, you can. If you get arrested or get a ticket, you start again the next day. Bail is just a business expense,” jokes Heth Weinstein of the duo Heth and Jed. Hear their music, or check them out live. Admission: a single-ride MetroCard.
SAMANTHA MARGULIES: Classically trained in opera (at the Manhattan School of Music).
SOUND: Delicate yet powerful, whether she’s singing classical or Leonard Cohen. “I sometimes get laughed at when I sing opera, but when I make the transition from Puccini to Fleetwood Mac, people are impressed,” she says. “In a way, opera is easier because there are established patterns, there’s structure. Developing your own pop style is harder, because you need to innovate.”
BEST OF THE SUBWAY: “It’s paradise. I can try whatever I want and I’m not asking anything of anyone and vice versa. I’m just free.”
WORST: “A couple of summers ago, when I started, I made more than I do now, which can go as low as $15 an hour and as high as $50 an hour. I’m what you call an economic indicator.”
FIND HER AT: samanthamargulies.com.
Listen: "Think of Me"