Street music and the law: busker perspectives on the impact of local Council rules and regulations
Street performers have long had an ambiguous relationship with the law. At various times they have been castigated and policed as “beggars in disguise” or treated as an urban nuisance to be tightly controlled and tolerated at best. Recent decades have seen something of an about-face. City governments in many countries are embracing buskers as a cultural and commercial asset and are putting in place legal regimes that aim to simultaneously encourage and control busking. Field work in Australia’s two largest cities— Melbourne and Sydney—can be used to assess whether the rules and conditions that are associated with permit systems are compatible with the goals of most buskers: to make an artistic contribution to the quality of urban life and to make a living. Contrary to the view that state-imposed rules are incompatible with the nature and ethos of busking, contemporary busking laws are widely supported by street musicians and are regarded as facilitative of, rather than a barrier to, busking’s positive contribution to the vitality of the everyday life of the city.