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9 Things You Didn't Know About Busking

You need to audition for a permit in London, and in Australia, you can't perform in the streets unless you have a website.

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1. You Have To Audition To Busk In London

The City of London takes busking so seriously that they have tight quality control measures for street performers. All buskers in the Tube or Covent Garden are required to audition for a busking permit. It's a good deal if you're accepted: 3.5 million people use the Tube every day, and the city provides a branded performance area to encourage more tipping.

2. You Need A YouTube Account In Australia

To busk in Melbourne's Bourke Street Mall you must be classified as a professional busker, which requires you to have a YouTube or Facebook account, or a personal website, as well as 30 minutes of material. And that's just to apply! If your application passes the first stage, you'll get an opportunity to audition your performance and be judged in "proficiency, uniqueness, professionalism." Don't worry though, they always keep at least one busker on the panel. Finish everything off with some safety classes and you'll be on the Mall in no time.


3. You Can't Busk At All In Chicago

Chicago might be the most anti-busking city in America. Not only do they require a permit for every single public performance, but there's an outright ban in the busiest parts of town. The no-busk zone includes the Magnificent Mile, and pretty much every park and notable public space.

4. New York Is A Free-For-All, Except On The Subway

Unamplified busking is allowed almost everywhere in the city, except within 50 feet of monuments. Things get a little more complicated in the subway. Performing on a subway platform is protected by the First Amendment, but if you step onto a train, you're violating the rules of the MTA. You need a special permit to use any kind of amplifier, which is why Occupy Wall Street used "The People's Microphone."

5. No Drunk Busking In England

If you need some liquid courage before you perform for change, you should not go to York, England. Drunk busking is explicitly prohibited, and will result in your "busking badge" being revoked. Another condition of busking in York is that you are legally required to stop your show if anyone asks you to, and your performance can't last longer than two hours in the same location.


6. You Must Know At Least 20 Songs in Dublin

New legislation in Dublin, Ireland requires all street musicians to have at least 20 songs in their repertoire. Basically, they're attempting to prevent buskers from playing "Wonderwall" over and over again on the most profitable street corners.

7. You Can't Hurt Anyone's Feelings In Sydney

If your busking set includes original compositions about a bitter breakup or if you're a serious hatemonger, don't perform in Sydney, Australia. The law bans "vilification of any community members, including, but not limited to, racial, sexual, gender or disability discrimination" during busking performances.

8. Churches Can Make As Much Noise As They Want In New Orleans

The law in New Orleans cuts off busking at around 8:00pm without a permit, but exempts "any outdoor evangelistic endeavor conducted by a bona fide, tax-exempt religious organization" from noise violations. Jazz funerals are also exempt.

9. Ex-Cons Cannot Perform On The Streets Of Boston

A local CBS affiliate calls Quincy Market the "Holy Grail for Boston buskers," but says potential performers must first must pass a criminal background check, and have liability insurance in case any audience members are injured. Even then, the buskers only receive a permit if they pass an annual audition. This might be a good time to remember that most busking laws are meant to cover all street performances including stuff like magic shows and those people that pose as sculptures.