Nowadays, town and city councils are clamping down on unauthorized busking in an attempt to clear the streets of unsavory types hassling people for money. You often need a permit to perform or busk and if you don’t have one you will be removed by the police, even if you are really good.
These permits can generally be obtained from the local borough council and are either free or will cost between £10 – £20. You will most likely need a couple of passport size photo’s and you may have to audition in front of a judging member of the council to prove you are good enough before they issue you with one. Once you have been issued with a permit, you will have to sign something saying you will abide by the rules imposed on street buskers and performers. The licence could be valid for a year or more, depending on the local authority.
The rules generally imposed on buskers in the forms you sign are usually along the lines of – don’t make a nuisance of your self, don’t stay in the same spot for more than 45 minutes and don’t start begging for money etc. There are also hundreds of other minor regulations in there as well but the main ones are just common sense.
You may also be provided with a map of the town centre areas you are permitted to busk in.
Some boroughs still allow you to perform without a licence, but the police may move you on if you are really awful. It can be down to the discretion of the officer who questions you.
Most indoor shopping arcades will not allow you to busk on their premises, but if these complexes are outdoors and made up of a network of local streets, then you may be able to obtain permission from the shopping centre manager to busk on their grounds. Again you will probably have to audition in front of the manager and may need to ring and ask permission every time you want to play there.
If you are planning on going to a city or town you have never busked before, it is definitely a good idea to ring the local authorities before you go, as you could find you have a wasted journey.
First ring the town or city’s police station and ask if you need a licence to busk. They might say you don’t need one or they may point you to the local council. Then give them a ring and ask if you need a permit and what the process is to apply for one. If you are busking on private property or in a shopping centre, ring the centre manager. Be extremely polite and if you are lucky they may give you a trial run.
Be positive about your playing skills and don’t get upset and give them a load of abuse if you get turned down. The chances are they have already had to deal with many other so called ‘buskers’ on their territory begging for money, being a nuisance and playing the same song all day long on a clapped out guitar with three strings.
Remember you are trying to add something positive to the dynamics of the street or place you are busking in, and it’s your job to portray the image of a busker in the best light possible, so don’t let the side down, even if you get turned down.
Keep trying and sooner or later you’ll get lucky.