City Centre Mirror
It’s been tough, but music mapmaker Meagan Perry has managed not to judge TTC subway riders by the contents of their iPods.
Perry is the creator of The Stationary Groove Toronto Subway Playlist Project, an online interactive subway map which allows users to view and download playlists of the most popular songs, station by TTC station, based on Perry’s canvassing of transit commuters.
For 120 hours, the equivalent of three full work weeks, the Leslieville resident traveled to every subway station on the Bloor-Danforth and Yonge-University-Spadina lines spending up to two hours approaching headphone-wearing commuters and asking them what they were listening to.
Perry said she resisted the urge to critique the choices of songs – particularly those belonging to a certain Canadian band.
“I couldn’t bring myself to knock someone’s music, not even Nickelback,” said Perry as she recalled her experience.
Since she launched StationaryGroove.com in early July, Perry received 250 song suggestions and has already updated the playlist for one subway station, Finch, with plans for more.
To her surprise, the vast majority of people Perry approached were forthcoming about their choices – though somewhat mystified by her interest.
She even drew the interest of TTC employees.
“The drivers on the trains going back and forth were curious about what I was doing. When I told them, they’d just laugh,” she said.
Perry, who is also rabble.ca’s executive director for podcasts, said she got the idea for The Stationary Groove after returning to Toronto after living in the Yukon for six years.
A native of Bonnyville, Alta., who has also lived in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Whitehorse, Perry says she began thinking about ways she could convey creatively her adopted city’s musical diversity.
She said she noticed certain trends in the music tastes of transit riders – the system-wide popularity of hometown favourite Drake for one – and the potential for commuters in stations outside of the downtown core to prefer non-English songs.
But, Perry said she’d rather focus on the willingness of strangers to share their love of music with her rather than their demographics. And thanks to her experience, she’s found new artists to add to her own personal playlist, like Singapore pop star Stefanie Sun.
Perry said she plans to do another study in the future to see how music tastes have changed. She also would love to hold a public event for Stationary Groove, perhaps on board a subway car.
“Music is communal and people want to share and know what others are listening to,” she said.
“I definitely think we should have a dance party on a train.”
Top tracks/artists listened to by TTC subway riders according to www.StationaryGroove.com
1 Drake (30 songs)
2 Kanye West (13 songs)
3 Chris Brown (11 songs)
4 Rihanna + Adele (9 songs each)
5. Beyonce and Jay-Z (5 songs each)
6. Eminem and Lil Wayne (4 songs each)
7. City and Colour/Bob Marley/Pink/Queen (3 songs each)