New paid busking program aims to help musicians, but some worry about a catch

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city of Austin is trying something new to make the Live Music Capital of the World even more music friendly. The city’s Economic Development Department will pay buskers, or street performers, to play their music in the Green Water development, around the Seaholm District downtown as part of a six-month pilot program.

The pilot is part of the city’s ATX Musicians Compensation Initiative. A $150,000 grant given by Green Water developer Trammel Crow will fund the pilot. Artists will be paid $150 an hour for up to four one-hour performances. Musicians must apply online at www.atxmusic.org. Anyone applying also must be registered as a city of Austin vendor.

The city says the program is designed to serve several purposes:

• To provide additional revenue streams to local Austin musicians

• To draw downtown residents and visitors to newly opened public spaces and buildings within the development through public music performance

• To learn the best methods to expand the program to additional areas within Austin

• To provide opportunities to increase live music performances that support Austin’s Music Friendly Community designation.

Often, buskers aren’t free to play anywhere they want in town. They are sometimes cited under panhandling or noise ordinances.

Well-known busker David Quick, who usually performs on Sixth Street says it would be nice to receive the pay and perform without fear of being cited, but he says he worries about the motives behind the pilot program.

“It wouldn’t have gone through unless people thought about how much money could be made,” he said.

Quick says he worries the developer funding the project just wants to capitalize off of local performers. “And then it’s an instant tourist attraction,” he said. “It’s making it an amusement park.”

Quick says he feels drawing artists in by making it easier to play in one area of town than another is squelching their First Amendment rights to perform anywhere.

“Instead of taking it out of the freedom of the Constitution, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, it’s putting us in a situation where we’re going to be in a controlled situation,” he said.

The pilot program will begin Saturday, March 10 and will run weekly from Saturday, March 24 through Saturday, Sept. 29.

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