The Day the Music Died

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Public Purse by Simon Perry. Opt considered a piece celebrating the busking community in Melbourne.

The Day the Music Died article serves as good point of the ongoing issues with council and authorities attempting to prevent public expression. These authorities cite things like crime, public nuisance, liability and even terrorist risks in order to ban busking and any form of street performance.

In my own city, Melbourne is a very liberal city with a strong artistic background. Yet still there has been a apparent crackdown on buskers with the council seemingly hiring a new department of by-laws officers whose full time job is to shut down buskers and generate revenue by fining performers.

There is a lot research that has gone into street culture and buskers, including a number of fully developed thesis/articles on academia.edu and books like Underground Harmonies by Susie J. Tanenbaum that has an impressive detailed social study on the effects of busking in NYC, also Standing Room Only by Linda Bee (I’m featured in this book) also briefly goes into the details of street flow research.

The research clearly states that busking not only improves the atmosphere of street, but in fact DROPS crime rates. It provides an enlivening and artistic festive environment that is free to the local councils, (in some cases buskers pay the council).

Despite of the facts, authoritarian council’s around the world are enforcing ‘Community Protection Notices’, ‘Dispersal Orders’ and ‘Street ordinance compliance notices’ for buskers and in extreme cases like the article notes, even before a performer played a single note or because another was carrying a golf bag.

This is a really disturbing turn in our culture and something that need to be seriously addressed before it gets worst.

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2 thoughts on “The Day the Music Died

  1. Damn, what the hell is going on these peoples brains? I’m not sure if they’re actually concerned or just citing things like terrorism to aid their agenda but either way this shit is ridiculous. I’ve been living in New York City and daily I see people performing on subways and subway stations and outside on the sidewalk all the time. Most of the time people either walk on by or stop to admire and even tip performers, artists, etc. I’ve never seen violence as a result of this either (not saying that it doesn’t happen). In any case, this is pretty crazy. Are folks doing anything that you know of to address this issue?

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    1. In the UK there are people and buskers fighting these rules, taking councils to court and winning. The Busking Project is a major supporter and documenter of these instances. http://busk.co/
      In Melbourne, during the x-mas holidays several buskers were intimidated and fined by officers without warning. Typically, there is a process of warnings before a busker can get fined. (There is one officer who is a real bully and gets sadistic pleasure out of being a prick).
      The buskers addressed this with the council and negotiating now, we may eventually have a town meeting. So far however, since a collective of buskers have complained, I have not seen the by-laws officers around.
      In Australia, at least, there is no legal basis or right for a council to fine a person performing in the street. Busking is not illegal and we have implied rights of free speech and expression in the constitution. (Note Australia does not have a bill of rights). Ironically city councils are not recognised in the constitution. They function more like a body corporate. What this means is that councils have as much legal power as an average citizen randomly handing out fines. No court will uphold fines given to buskers. I’ve been informed of 17 cases where this has been proven true.
      The worst thing about this though is the annoyance and the council knows it, they know that most people will pay a fine before taking it to court.

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