NYC Beats is a web art experiment about New York City’s iconic subway musicians. It allows both their immediate and global audience to explore and engage with artists in real-time through a crowdsourced three dimensional interactive map. 

Role: Graduate Thesis 2018 

Tools: Digital Ocean, Mapbox GL, Three.js, Google Firebase, Node.js

Thesis Link: ITP Thesis Website


My approach was was to step into the world of street and subway musicians - ask, observe, survey and interview them to understand their daily routines. I interviewed 5 musicians and observed more than a dozen. The musicians I spoke to were - spy.nation, Zack Heru, Akrikumba Utibe drummers, Ankit Sreshtha and Chris Zurich. Few of the questions I asked them were -

 - When did you start busking?

- How many hours a day & days a week do you perform?

- Do you go the same location every time?

- Describe your daily routine as a performer

- What is the weirdest experience you’ve had?

On the other side of my user research were audiences of these street musicians. I spoke to a similar number of commuters and New Yorkers who experience street music on a daily basis and asked them similarly themed queries.

Violinist and guitarist duo playing at Times Square subway platform

Violinist and guitarist duo playing at Times Square subway platform

Applebees playing at Union Square

Applebees playing at Union Square


I identified and decided to tackle two use cases in this context based on my conversations with street musicians and their audience.

  1. There were commuters who would really like someone they heard but could never find them again and did not know what to look up since they had no information about the artist playing

  2. The musicians often spent a lot of time hunting for spots in the subways since it’s a first-come system except for the spots dedicated by the MTA


I looked for similar projects and found street music map and the busking project, both global projects that in a certain sense rely on crowdsourced information. The latter is more of tool for musicians as well as a discovery platform. Having read into the history of street art culture of New York City and spoken to New Yorkers and the artists, I believed that a platform more catered to the NYC would be an interesting space. Especially since there were unique instances that could not be addressed by existing platforms.

*who wants to use consistent iconography!!*

User journey of a musician using NYC Beats

User journey of a musician using NYC Beats

User journey of a commuter or audience of street music

User journey of a commuter or audience of street music


I wanted to experiment with spatiality with audio and information design with this web project and therefore decided to use the webGL version of Mapbox to make a 3-dimensional interactive map of NYC. It used three.js to overlay 360 degree videos and spatial audio in to the map. Further on, I also plan on integrating 3D icons. As part of my thesis, I wanted to see what future social networking sites might look like. The map would pop up a form if you wanted to tag a musician to a location and save the data to Firebase. The icon of an “active” musician would disappear if you set the time until when they are playing or default to a 3 hour window based on the average time musicians said they played for.

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