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Melbourne busking: trial ban on amplification causing unintentional effects

Written by URishi

By: Uma Rishi and Georgia Isaac.

The City of Melbourne has introduced an amplified busking ban trial along Swanston Street running from August 1 to the end of October this year.

The trial follows 264 formal noise-related complains about buskers made to the council between January 1, 2013 and June 30, 2016.

The ban covers Swanston Street between La Trobe Street and Flinders Lane.


Credit: City of Melbourne. Unamplified busking zones and busking zones, Swanston Street Precinct.

Lucky Moore, one of Melbourne’s more than two-thousand street-performers who busks on Swanston Street on his days off from entertaining shoppers on Bourke Street Mall, has noted some unintentional effects.

“The amount of buskers with amplifiers is the same and they’re just finding new spots. Perhaps spots closer to residential areas or less convenient spots to busk in town, whereas Swanston Street, being quite a wide road with low residential property, would’ve been a better option,” he said.

Moore also says the ban has seen Melbourne lose some of its charm.

“I mean cities aren’t exactly an exciting, vibrant place by themselves, it takes art and it takes music,” he said.

Sam Whiting, a music tutor at RMIT University, says it will be hard for buskers to play on Swanston Street without amplification because of the surrounding noise.

“Acoustic instruments aren’t going to cut it and I think amplified instruments on Swanston Street work really well because it’s a noisy place. I understand that there are problems with amenity in terms of businesses, you’ve got sounds leaking into nearby businesses… but I think the advantages and benefits of having buskers around outweigh the negative sides,” he said.

Though Lord Mayor Robert Doyle acknowledges that busking adds colour and creativity to the city’s atmosphere, the city council believes this needs to be balanced with protecting the amenity of people who live and work in the area.

The council says it has over 2000 busking permit holders in the City of Melbourne.

This includes a full complement of musical acts from harmonica to harp, bass guitar to bongo, accordions to ukuleles, electric bagpipes to one-man bands. We also have acrobats, hula-hoopers, sword-swallowers, fire-twirlers, magicians, comedians, portrait artists and landscape painters,” a City of Melbourne spokesperson said.

This interesting array of buskers are welcome in the City of Melbourne but after more than 250 complaints about noise and amplified busking, we have decided to trial a non-amplified period on Swanston Street. Busking will continue, just not amplified. This trial is for Swanston Street only. Busking throughout the rest of the city remains unaffected.”


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