When riders enter the subway in New York City they often discover buried treasure. Music flows at 25 locations throughout the transit system with Music Under New York (MUNY). One man is working to give those artists even more exposure.
Every week passengers riding the NYC subway system have the chance to catch over 150 free performances because of the Music Under New York program. A wide range of musical talent ventures beneath the city to entertain the masses.
The musicians audition every spring for the chance to give their audience a rich cultural diversity. A panel of judges from the music industry select the best talent to perform for that coming year for millions of passengers.
One passenger, Andrew Rallo, was so impressed by the talent he founded Subway Records, Inc.
Rallo's vision all started one day while listening to a busker strum his guitar on a subway platform. Rallo observed people circling with smiles conversing with others.
"I watched people circle around him while he played..." Rallo recalls. "I missed my train. I remember watching commuters from across the platform, talking and smiling with each other. These are things that New Yorkers don't normally do, all because of this subway artist and his music.”
Subway Records has entered the Pepsi Refresh Project to help fund and promote subway music. The Pepsi program is offering grants from $5K to $250K for positive ideads that affect communities in the United States instead of spending that money of Super Bowl ads.
Rallo knows that the chance of winning is a long shot. Subway Records is currently ranked 132 in the contest. He believes if all fans of the subway buskers voted Subway Records would be a shoo-in.
Andrew Rallo is passionate about the artists and music he represents. Subway Records has been around for eight years in a very cut throat industry working with some of the most under-represented artists that New York City has to offer. Subway performers are limited as to how to earn a living while they entertain the crowds. They are allowed to collect donations but are not allowed to sell their own CDs while performing.
"MUNY goals are to increase ridership not to promote the artists. The artists can get ticketed for selling their music. Performers in the subway system have to have a license to perform. It's a struggle for the artist. No one is really there to help them."
Subway Records, though is there to help the artists. Their sales model is revolutionary in the record business-artists set the price of their music instead of the label.
"Subway Records is free for the artists to sell their music. They set their own price, so they decide after our commission what their albums go for."
That commission is very small. Rallo's company only takes in $2 an album sold.
Subway Records is surviving but not enough for Rallo to quit his day job as a director of sales.
"Subway Records is a tightly run ship. We have a shipment center in Redbank, New Jersey but in the future we are planning on going just digital." Rallo explained, "We are sitting on a great working model with a history of sales. Our technology is beyond what is out there in the industry for e-commerce."
The company does represent more than just subway performers. They have independent artists and some labels including Tommy Boy Records. The back end side of the business allows for both artists and labels to make more money.
"At the end of the day it's about the music. If we can sign more labels we can help the artists and labels succeed making more money than ever before. This business is close to my heart. The music brings in positive energy." Rallo though very proud of his company is modest about himself, "I am nobody special, I just want to promote these very talented artists. When I sign an artist we can sell their records but when we sign up a label that is 500 artists making more money. It's a no-brainer. Everyone wins."
If Subway Records were to win the grand prize with the Pepsi contest they would be able to expand their vision. One of the ways of that expansion will be through advertising and community outreach in five cities.
"Every major city in the United States has a subway system. We will be working with artists in Boston, Washington, New York City, Chicago and Atlanta to promote their talent. I believe there is a ton of talents just waiting to be discovered."
Subway Records will also be donating some of the grant to public schools to educate students about subway music if they take the prize.
The musical talent and positive energy of subway music is every city’s underground buried treasure. To vote for “Reviving Subway Music in the United States” go to www.refresheverything.com/SubwayRecords. Voting ends February 28, 2010.