Music in the Subway Makes the Heart Sing

This afternoon I took my usual subway ride from Gamla Stan to Rådmansgatan. On the way there I was lucky enough to catch the performance of an “on the actual” subway band. The band, which was made up of a two accordion players, a guitarist and a tambourin man, was quite good considering the venue and the circumstances. So while I enjoyed the light hearted tunes for a total of 3 minutes, the other passengers around me just looked annoyed and uncomfortable. Perhaps it was because they knew they were going to be forced to listen to the band for the next 6 or 7 stops, or because they had heard the band before. Whatever the reason, it was clear that Stockholmers don’t really enjoy their live music while riding a quiet subway. Although I enjoyed the music for a total of 3 minutes I could definitely identify with my co-riders. I mean who really wants to listen to amateur musicians in a space no bigger than a living room when you would rather be quietly reading your metro newspaper or listening to your ipod? Right? Well in light of this common annoying occurrence there has been some discussion of whether or not music in the Stockholm subway, in any form, should be permitted. I agree that the actual subway ride should be rather noise free, but while you wait on the platform contemplating life and all the adventures you plan to have before you die it seems rather fitting.

The whole experience made me miss home-Montreal that is. The reason being is that Montreal’s version of SL, called STM, realized quite early that by monitoring and managing the subway musical talent the whole metro ridding experience could be enhanced. The STM has build an “experience” in which the ridder not only gets a quick, safe and clean ride to their destination, they also get to hear the lovely tunes of auditioned amateur musicians. Instead of letting any “joe blow” with a guitar get on the subway, STM incentivizes musicians to audition for the right to play. Each qualified musician gets a time slot and is required to play under the designated blue  musical sign: in return for their cooperation they are promised no competition during their assigned time slot and, if no complaints from passengers, a regular time slot.

This musical phenomenon has gone on for years and has been such a huge success that along with Vienna, Montreal is known worldwide as one of the most musical and artistic cities (a least in North America). Of course there are the occasional bad performers but if you don’t want to listen you simply go to the other end of the platform or complain to the STM. And you will never be forced to listen to any music while riding the actual subway.

Maybe its the home sicknesses talking but I have to say: congrats Montreal STM for learning the basics of building an experience service. Perhaps Stockholmers will some day realize that some of those “annoying” musicians sound pretty damn good on the platform, under the blue music sign, and after a few auditions.

Here’s a video someone made of the Montreal Metro Music experience. The video is all in French but what most people say is that they really enjoy the music. They also say that sometimes the musicians are not great but that overall it’s worth it because it makes the whole Metro ride a unique experience.

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This entry was posted in General Interest, Management, Sweden and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Music in the Subway Makes the Heart Sing

  1. Lisa Enckell says:

    I kind of like it too, it makes my day a bit happier, but the awkward feeling comes when they walk around, begging for money…

    In London they have the same system as you describe in Montreal and I like that a lot. In fact in London I’ve actually seen really good performance and a couple of times I’ve stayed just to enjoy the entertainment.

    Let’s hope they can do the same here in Stockholm!

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