Busking in Sydney: It’s tougher than you think


Busker Joseph Zarb performing in Martin Place, Sydney. Photo: Steven Siewert 


This is a proposal for a feature article about the Sydney buskers’ life under the restricted busking policy.


Busking in Sydney

Busking, also known as street performance, is the act of performing in public places to earn money. The common form of busking is singing or playing music. There are other forms as well, such as acrobatics, magic and pavement art. People engaging in this practice are called buskers.

In Sydney CBD, people can see buskers everywhere, especially at the Martin Place, Pitt st Mall, Town Hall, Circular Quay and Darling Harbour. Busking culture enrich the city as well.

Busking is more a job than a hobby for most buskers, and some of them become popular among Sydney such as Joseph Zarb, a guitarist playing at Martin Place, and Ky Baldwin, a 15-year-old singer and songwriter.

Policy of Busking

In most parts of the Sydney CBD, including Martin Place, Town Hall, Pitt st Mall, and Hyde Park, busking is governed by the City of Sydney Busking Policy, while the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority controls busking at Circular Quay, Rocks and Darling Harbour.

According to City of Sydney (2011), buskers need to apply for busking permits. Moreover, the area and time is restricted. Buskers could only busking in restricted area shown in the Busking Sites Maps.

Busking Restricted Areas. Source: Busking Sites Maps (2011)

Time restrictions make it unfeasible for buskers as well . For example, Pitt st Mall is not permitted prior to 2pm on weekdays and 11am on weekends and buskers may only stay for an hour (ibid.). Therefore, buskers should line up each morning at Pitt st Mall for an hour-long spot to play. Besides, maximum of 2 hours for standard busking and maximum of 8 hours for pavement art are allowed  at elsewhere except Pitt st Mall in the Sydney City.

Research shows Buskers Embrace Busking Policy

A finding in 2015 by Luke McNamara, Professor of the University of New South Wales, and Julia Quilter, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Wollongong, suggests that most buskers accept busking laws as a legitimate part of the urban environment, and see some advantages in the rules (McNamara & Quilter, 2015).

Story Angel and Interviewees

The feature article is mainly to focus on the life of buskers in Sydney, why they choose to busking in Sydney, how the busking policy affect them and how they face to the busking policy.

Interviewees would be buskers in Sydney CBD listed as following.

1.CuzN Band: a busking group originally from South England but now based in Sydney, Australia. It consists of three people, they are Richard Soward, the lead vocal, guitar player and percussion, Jamie Ray, the bass player and Lawrence Gratton, the violin player. They usually busking at Pitt st Mall, which is the most time restricted place.

2.Maia Jelavic: a folk music singer and songwriter borned in Central Coast and now lived in Sydney. Maia could also play guitar, banjo and ukulele. She usually busking at Pitt st Mall as well.

Online Delivery

Photographs of buskers performing on the street need to be taken to enrich the feature article, videos of their performances are demanded as well. All of these documents can be shoot and edited by myself with my digital camera. It is important to ask for the interviewees’ consent to the portrait right and music copyright.

Target Audience and Online Publications

Target audience of the feature article are:

1.Citizens of Sydney who love or know busking culture.

2.Buskers in Sydney.

Therefore, target online publications of the feature article are some online platforms of mainstream publications with high circulations and targeting citizens such as:

1.Sydney Morning Herald (Life column).

2.The Daily Telegraph (Music column).

3.ABC News (Music column).

as well as :

Vice Australia: It is a print magazine and website focused on arts, culture, and news topics. The magazine was launched in 1994 and the website was founded in 1996. Vice now has 5.1 million and 17.2 thousand followers in Facebook and Twitter sites respectively.


Qian LU  (Angela)

SID: 450429523

Word count:666



City of Sydney. (2011, July 11). Interim Busking Policy. Retrieved from http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/100281/Busking-policy-interim.pdf

Quilter, J. & McNamara, L. (2015). ‘Long may the buskers carry on busking’: Street music and the law in Melbourne and Sydney. Retrieved from http://law.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/1774553/05-Quilter-and-McNamara.pdf