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Busking Regulations?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by mattzink, Apr 13, 2005.

  1. mattzink


    Jun 21, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Hey all!
    Recently had the opportunity to go busking (performing on the street) as part of the entertainment for a walkathon. i loved it! i want to try and talk the guys in our band into leaving their amps behind and doing a little busking around town.

    now, if i was a purest, i'd just set up anywhere and play until someone told me to hit the road. but i'm sure that i wouldn't be able to talk them into playing if i used that strategy. my question is this: who to you have to get permits to go busking? the police? the city? i think if you play in front of a store, it's permissable as long as you ask the shop owner. but do any of you have experience as far as street performance? did you get hassled?

    thanks, matt
  2. Broach_insound


    Jan 25, 2005
    New York
    Thats pretty cool Was it just you and your bass?

    I think you just have to ask the shop owner
  3. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    Depends on the city. I used to play in the street a lot in Boston. There you need to get something called a Street Performance Liscense from City Hall, which cost $25 at the time. The Boston police have nothing better to do but hassle people without liscenses, so its a good idea to get one there.

    Other places you need nothing unless you are charging money, and in some places you don't need anything unless its an organized event. I'd call your city's park and recreationd epartment, they usually handle such things or could refer you to who does.
  4. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    As Tash said, it depends on the city.

    I busked for a couple of summers on Pearl Street Mall in Boulder and they didn't require a permit. But, you weren't allowed to use amplification. As for Chicago, I never bothered because of the permits.

    The store owner doesn't make that much of a difference unless you scare away customers. They can call the cops on you and ask you to move regardless of permit. It's always courteous to ask. However, I did most of my busking when stores were closed.

    Find out about permits, as well as other regulations like noise regulations, and regulations that specifically pertain to buskers.
  5. BassmanA440


    Feb 3, 2005
    Yup, it depends on the City. I had a friend in NYC that used to take his sax into the subway and make 40 or 50 bucks, after he got off of work. He never said anything about being hassled by NYPD unless he fell asleep in a drunken stupor, after spending 40 or 50 bucks at the bar :smug:

    Here in Dallas, I have a friend who plays drums and they hassle him all the time. You definitely need a permit here. The "powers that be" are so paranoid about the homeless situation; they really don't want anyone who the voters can perceive as homeless or transient, such as my good friend the Busker :ninja: .

    IMHO of course - :bag:
  6. mattzink


    Jun 21, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    good advice all - i will check with parks and rec first since our band has gigs lined up through them anyways. by the way, the town i'd be busking in would be bloomington, IN. it's a college town and the people are typically pretty nice. i think we'd be okay if we just set up somewhere and played. but i figured it'd be a good idea to check so i can sell band members on it. none of the stuff we do would be amplified - i'd be using my upright bass. the only area i could see that we'd have possible trouble is we have a female vocalist who can wail - she has a bit of a soul/gospel influence. asking her to "keep it down" would be hard for her and probably wouldn't do her justice. i figure that problem can be addressed to some extent by band placement, like in a park or pedestrian area.

    someone above asked about what we were playing for the walkathon. there were two guitar players who switched back and forth between playing guitar and mandolin, i was on upright bass, and one of the guitar players' son was doing precussion - wasboard, muted snare and whatnot. he did pretty well considering he is in 5th grade and he's never played in public before.
  7. daofktr

    daofktr irritating, yet surly

    Feb 15, 2005
    aurora, IN
    waay cool on the geet's son!!!
    the busking thing sounds cool, too. i moved here from boston, and i've known a few of the buskers there. they loved/hated it...loved the playing, hated the nuisance of dealing with the towns...and the other buskers.
    seems there was a hierarchy of older players that were hell on younger players...especially in harvard square, park street station, and other prime spots. mebbe the younger ones were scabs, which would explain it, but...i was watching a juggler at harvard sq...there was a duo nearby playing at not a bad level, but the juggler got a wild hair about it and gave them total feces about existing.
    i hope bloomington has a better setup...and manners...:D
  8. mattzink


    Jun 21, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    greetings daofktr!
    we're practically neighbors it looks like. i know that busking is probably also competitive in cities like new orleans, but i don't really see too many people busking in bloomington. either there are strict regulations about it or nobody's interested.

    i thought about setting up on the courthouse square as a possibility, but i'm guessing since it's gov't. property, that could get me in some trouble. if you've ever been to b-ton, on a mild summer evening or warm spring evening, i'm guessing it is very "busker" friendly. people here love music, so i'm guessing we won't get razzed too much. of course, i could be completely naive. . .

    thanks for the feedback everyone - and keep it coming if you have suggestions, ideas, or just a great story about busking.

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