If you’ve come here, you may already know a thing or two about your rights. But if this is your first stop, it’s important to understand what the MTA does and doesn’t allow in principle. The best way to do that is a thorough reading of the MTA Rules of Conduct. Susie Tanenbaum’s excellent “Know Your Rights!” guide is an additional resource that explains the law and discusses the history of how it was made.
The basics are these: You can perform on the platform acoustically. Additionally, you can use amplification on the mezzanine. It is not necessary to have a permit — indeed, there is no performance permit system at all, a fact apparently known by surprisingly few New York City residents. You are not supposed to sell CDs, perform on the trains, or be too close to a station booth. Finally, there are various other detailed restrictions best investigated by reading the Rules themselves.
In practice, however, the rules are not so clear-cut. Performers are often harassed despite following these rules to the letter, simply because police or station agents mistakenly believe a permit to be required. And performers successfully navigate the trains and also sell CDs without raising eyebrows. (We support them in doing so, and we believe the resounding absence of customer complaints over CD sales and doo-wop groups in the trains speaks for itself).
So it’s important to have a practical understanding of the law as well as a theoretical one, in case your rights are violated. If you’ve been arrested, given a summons, or harassed, read more at our guide on what to do.