8 Points. Busking Is Not Panhandling/ Let ‘Em Play

Jan 14th, 2013 | By | Category: News

The City Council will be modifying the ordinance concerning busking (playing music, performing, dancing, etc for tips on the sidewalk- but not blocking the sidewalk) downtown.  Before you get all riled up, everyone wants this to happen.  It is a great thing for our city, as well as the arts and music scene.

In my opinion, despite the fact that panhandlers are required to have a Panhandler’s Permit (although I’ve surely never seen one) to panhandle, buskers should not be required to have a permit.  We should be encouraging street art.  No permit, no fee.   But, that’s just me.  I want you to realize how different busking is from panhandling, as the City Council will be, no doubt, making comparisons.

Here are 8 points on how busking is not panhandling, and why we should allow busking without permits, without fees.

1)  Panhandlers are asking you for money.  Buskers merely provide art.  You can choose to tip or keep walking.

2)  Buskers don’t tell you about their sick kids at home to try to guilt your money from you.

3)  Panhandlers approach you, seeking a conversation and money.  Buskers stay put and play music for us, or dance for us, etc.


5)  See number 4.

6)  When musicians come through from out of town, it would be really great to be able to embrace them and give them the chance to play for some lunch money.  It would be near impossible to get a busking permit for the one day they will be here- not too mention costly if there is a fee for said permit.

7)  Asheville allows busking without permits, without fees.  Asheville.  We’re way cooler than Asheville.

8)  Busking without permits and fees would not cost the City a dime.  Permits and fees would cost the city money to process, enforce, etc.  To quote one of my favorite Greensboro bands-  “It won’t cost you a dime” – The Leeves

The City Council will be addressing this issue this Tuesday, 1/15, providing the feedback that a bunch of us musicians provided to Action Greensboro and DGI was presented and accepted in time for this City Council meeting.  Come show your support.


What do you think?


Stephen and Hank, of Holy Ghost Tent Revival, busking in Knoxville, TN. photo by M. Sheets

Tags: , ,

13 Comments to “8 Points. Busking Is Not Panhandling/ Let ‘Em Play”

  1. Emily says:

    These are all very good points! I would also like to point out that if the city charges buskers money to perform in its streets, it seems to me that the city is defining itself as a music venue, profiting off the performances of said buskers. Performers' rights organizations (PRO's) such as SESAC, ASCAP, and BMI collect fees from music venues in order to pay songwriters royalties for performances of their songs. SESAC and ASCAP both have systems in place that allow songwriters to report individual performances of their music for compensation. If the city collects money for street performances, it may be opening itself up to billing from PROs. If this is the case, point number 8 above becomes incredibly more pertinent. Not only would the city have to pay to enforce busking licensure, but it might also have to pay PRO's. It sounds to me like the best solution is to keep street performances free and save the city the paperwork, the money, and the headache of charging musicians to perform a service for the community.

  2. mattysheets says:

    NICE POINT! Thanks Em!

  3. David McLean says:

    I couldn't say it any more simply or concisely. It's totally counter-intuitive to create barriers to street musicians.

    I've owned and operated a business downtown since 1995 and busking will only make things better.

  4. […] Check out 8 ways that busking isn’t panhandling in this Avant Greensboro article. […]

  5. Toni Tronu says:

    Hopefully they will see it our way!!

  6. S-J says:

    I think busking should be encouraged, not the opposite. Wouldn't Greensboro have a more fun, appealing, cool environment downtown with live music happening here and there in informal settings — something that adds vitality and a pleasant element of discovery and surprise to everyday life? I can give a concrete example.

    One recent Saturday, after dropping off some library books and visiting the Bargain Box, I was walking past the Empire Room on my way to Loaf Bakery, Design Archives and destinations further south when I heard music. As I approached the front of the building, I could see there was a young man sitting in front of the glass doors with a portable keyboard, singing and playing his heart out. It was a crisp, overcast day, and I was feeling a little preoccupied. The sound of his voice and the piano melody roused me out of my introverted reverie, bringing me back into the moment and making me smile. As brief as a wink, we exchanged glances and I kept walking, but that tiny interaction cast a warmer glow around the afternoon. I remember considering how neat it was that music could just appear out of nowhere on the street, like a whiff of perfume, and elevate my mood; you could say it was aromatherapy for the ears. Now, that's the kind of place I'm happy to live in!

    What if I'd been visiting from out of town? Music on the street is something that happens every day in other places that I've visited, like Athens, GA, Los Angeles and NYC. Those moments, where I've encountered something new and wonderful by serendipity that sparks my imagination and makes my time there more special, are memories I treasure. I think we would do well to consider how offering visitors and new residents a taste of that here would bring our city even more renown for its friendliness, hospitality, creativity (including respect for those who produce creative works of all kinds), and openness to culture.

  7. Roch says:

    Why is this even coming before city council? What meddlesome control freaks felt compelled to make it an issue?

  8. Scott Hicks says:

    We are at a crossroads right now. Between busking and food trucks and loosening restrictions, we have an opportunity to make our city as diverse and energized and self-identified as the likes of Durham and Asheville. We need to stay noisy about this – I think we have some real potential allies on the city council who aren't a part of the art scene so they don't really "get" what we're missing here. A 60 million dollar performing arts center is NOT WHAT WE ARE MISSING.

  9. Michelle says:

    Busking should be encouraged – they are a tourist attraction, they make the streets livelier and the people they attract to the area will then augment the chance that shops/restaurants will have of passers by visiting them. Buskers spread joy basically for free. Check out the expressions on the faces of the passers by as this busker plays in NYC:

  10. Kris Ferris says:

    Busking is something that should have been happening all along in this town. When I moved here in 1994, Greensboro was touted as being progressive so I was hopeful. As I settled in and became familiar with the area, I started seeing a bit different picture. The arts were spoon fed to the public through periodic controlled events funded by the city, or through corporate sponsors with agendas attached to their monetary support. I have watched musicians, artists and theater folk push against those boundaries with varying success over the years. The current discussion of a performing arts center revives some of that "control" image in my mind as it strikes me it will be a place available only to performers who have a certain level of notoriety or judged talent, as was the case with the festivals that were the main source of seeing writers of original music, or other creators of original art in any form when I arrived here. I am fully behind busking and not having it require a permit, especially for traveling musicians. Most of the musicians I know personally are intelligent, responsible, ethical and all just want one thing…to express their soul freely. Let it be!

  11. Floyd the Barber says:

    Cooler than Asheville, are u serious? Whatever KoolAid you’re drinking, kept it in Guilford county. That sentence really downgrades your credibility.

  12. Jeannie says:

    I agree busking is part of the joy of going downtown Asheville keep performances free.

Leave a Comment