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Busking in Melbourne

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by Brendan Wan (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer who enjoys travel & culture.Enjoy more writings from me by visiting my blog at
Published July 16th 2011
Melbourne prides itself as the artistic capital of Australia. Walk through the streets of the CBD and you will see a number of street performances, ranging from musical bands to street side chalk artists.

If you have some kind of random hidden talent, why not be brave and show it off to the public. Whether it is playing a musical instrument or juggling a variety of household objects at the same time, give yourself your own X-factor moment by applying for your very own buskers license.

Busking is defined by the Melbourne City Hall as being 'an entertainer who is actively providing a performance in the public place in exchange for a donation'.

The process of obtaining your buskers license is relatively simple. Firstly, you will need to fill out an application form - this can be obtained at the Melbourne Town Hall or from the City of Melbourne website. Once the form is filled, you will need to show up to an assigned date for an 'audition'.

This is not exactly an Australian Idol audition with Kyle Sanders tearing down your confidence. This is just a simple procedure where all performances are reviewed and assessed with certain safety and amenity criteria. They will check and assess suitable sound levels if you are planning on using any amplified equipment, issue specific safety requirements if any dangerous objects are in use and provide information on guidelines. All buskers need to pass the Safety and Amenity Criteria in order to perform.

There are four main busking permits that the City of Melbourne offers;

General Area Busking Permit is the common permit for the beginner busker. This allows you to perform anywhere in the city except Bourke St Mall and other restricted areas, but dangerous objects cannot be used in the performance.

Bourke St Mall permit is the professional's permit. With this permit, you are able to perform at Bourke St Mall but you need to be pass an audition panel review and be already an established performer. Bourke St is where the best buskers are showcased.

Pavement Art Busking permit is for the artists who are involved with chalk art or painting on the pavements. There are no audition processes to obtain the Pavement Art permit so all the more reason to sign up for one.

Circle Act with or without dangerous goods permit is assigned for group performances. These performances often include acts that require an audience to stop, watch and perhaps participate. The acts that use dangerous objects will need a Public Liability Insurance cover and will need to obey with specific safety guidelines. Circle Acts will also be issued with a certain location that will sustain a large crowd.

Once the review is done, you will need to wait a few working days before your permit will be sent to you via the post. It's relatively simple and quite straight forward. Now all you have to do is to win the Melbourne crowd with your performance.

It's only natural that you will see all kinds of buskers -ranging from the god awful and ear bleeding to angelic and soothing – but hey, this is Melbourne.

I believe in the buskers in Melbourne. They are the soul and colour of the city in which I have been born and bred in. Melbourne would definitely be a different place without them. Support the buskers movement and become one yourself. Do not fear about getting ridiculed. Just go with the flow and enjoy yourself.
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Why? Earn money while you perform
Where: Any location within the CBD
Cost: $20 for a full year permit
Busking is great. They even have a couple of buskers in Frankston, which has been great for them. They sit in the place where it used to be smoke filled and really have started to make a change to the ambience of the area. Some of them are quite talented. It would be quite good to see an opera singer or some great classical musicians there. Maybe the Council could sponsor them? And create a real change to the feel of the place.
By Jody Kimber - senior reviewer
Monday, 18th of July @ 01:09 am
I used to have a busking license - you never used to have to audition for them... It's probably better that they do the auditions though, keeps the quality of public performances high.
My favourite area is Southbank's circus performers at the end of that bridge that crosses under Flinders Street... They always manage to get the crowd worked up, and no matter how many times I've seen the same trick, I can't help but enjoy it!
I guess we're pretty blessed to have all these talented people willing to take to the streets and share their gifts.
By Sam van Zweden - senior reviewer
Monday, 18th of July @ 02:06 am
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