Street artists await crackdown on busking laws

Anna Lange, who paints vinyl records, may leave Melbourne if busking rules change. Picture: Charlee Hawkes

By CHARLEE HAWKES 

Melbourne City Council will this week decide on a new set of guidelines for buskers.

The proposal responds to several complains about the quality of busking in Melbourne.

Under the new rules, vinyl record painters, portrait artists, caricaturists and balloon art sculptors would no longer be considered buskers, and the permits they can apply for would be substantially more expensive. 

Anna Lange has been spray painting vinyl records on the streets of Melbourne for five years and is one of many buskers who are likely to face new restrictions. 

“The council loves to say that Melbourne is diverse with artists and buskers, but then these changes seem to go against what they say,” she said.

Ms Lange and her husband said they would consider leaving Melbourne if she was unable to renew her license.

“People are not as generous with money anymore, it makes it really challenging to live like this,” Ms Lange said.

The proposed changes will also invite the public to take part in the auditioning process for premium busking licenses. 

Of the 2000 current busking permit holders in Melbourne, 110 artists hold premium permits, allowing them to secure a performance spot in the most popular areas, such as the Bourke St Mall.

Musician Gareth Wiecko has been busking in Bourke St Mall for two years and said the regulations enforced by the council made Melbourne the “best city for busking”.

“We’ve had representatives come and talk with the buskers and together we will come to a decision,” Mr Wiecko said.

Mr Wiecko said it would be “difficult” to have the public included in the decision.

“I don’t think it’s fair that the public decide if you can make a living out of busking,” Mr Wiecko said.

By including the public in the decision-making process, the City of Melbourne aims to promote busking in a way that lets the spectator have a voice. 

A survey by the City of Melbourne found that 88 per cent of stakeholders agreed that busking was a positive part of life in Melbourne.

 City of Melbourne media manager Mandy Frostick said it was important the busking guidelines were “fair and balanced for performers, visitors and businesses”.

“We’ve spoken to many people both within and outside the busking industry, seeking their views on the existing guidelines and whether they are still working well”, Ms Frostick said.