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Old 03-22-12, 09:38 PM   #1
vodvill
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Default Busking Permit fees at Festivals

I have been producing a busking festival in the US for over four years. Each year we spend a lot of time and money on marketing to get people to show up so our Buskers can make good hats. We have a list of hired acts at set pitches but have allowed any act to show up and take a space downtown that we don't use.

After struggling financially each year we have decided to ask the non hired acts to pay a small ($30) fee for the 3 days to help out and at least acknowledge that they get something from our festival. For this they get a permit and a listing on the web site about their act.

I have heard many arguments on whether this is legal, ethical, justified, etc. and I am interested in the majority opinion on this forum. Please tell me what you think.
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Old 03-22-12, 10:13 PM   #2
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We have a list of hired acts at set pitches but have allowed any act to show up and take a space downtown that we don't use.
Is it public space you've "left" for them? Have you payed for or rented said space? If not then you don't really have exclusivity to it... you could make your case and ask these acts to contribute but I don't see how you could force the issue. You may just have to deal with the Fly pitching.
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Old 03-23-12, 12:10 AM   #3
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It is public space so the word permit is not entirely appropriate. In the end We will not stop anyone from performing, we just want some support for making the event work for everyone.

Is that too much to ask?
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Old 03-23-12, 08:53 AM   #4
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In my opinion:

I'm not familiar with your festival or your cities bylaws around performance in public space... But... I would say that the best course of action is to clearly mark which areas pitches from the Busker festival. Make P they have flags or a marker on the ground to show that these are FESTIVAL PITCHES. Since you did do the work to bring the crowds there and protect the interest of the event.

Outside of that, it's great to see up and coming Buskers or people trying to learn from Buskers on the circuit trying to rub elbows with other Buskers. In some ways, this is how they develop and get valuable feed back which will then enrich our city when these home-grown entertainers hit the streets and liven your downtown core!

If your pitches are clearly defined, I would suggest that -outside of those pitches- perhaps you could set up 1 or 2 community pitches where you could encourage local buskers to apply and be assigned a time slot since you will be working to encourage your crowds to support some local talent and helping build their pitch. Maybe, instead of charging the Buskers to use it, maybe you can get additional sponsorship or grants to foster local talent. And you could also program in some workshops with Buskers to teach juggling and other skills. It may not be something you make money off of, but it can be a great additional feature for your festival which will give people a real sense of ownership and interaction with the performers (and perhaps change the way people think about Buskers in your area). This may actually give you something to look for additional grants for public education and community involvement- or at least sponsorship. You can check out our website to see what kind of workshops I'm suggesting at http://stiltguys.com.

But, outside of that, a major part of Busking is the guerrilla spirit of looking for an opportunity at the right time and making a crowd from nothing. So, at a festival which celebrates this style of theatre, is likely going to attract some things you can't control. I don't think charging Buskers for a permit would be the best course of action. But, if you can make them part of the event, then you and the local Buskers will be working together and making the event even bigger!

I hope that helps a bit.
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Old 03-24-12, 10:15 PM   #5
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Thanks for input. It is a hard balance between getting the financial support to make a free festival work and providing opportunities for new performers. I will take all this into consideration.

We are also going to provide a busker development workshop taught by a seasoned vet. There will be a charge for that but it will automatically get a performer a scheduled space at the event.
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Old 03-26-12, 10:50 AM   #6
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It's all in the packaging. Instead of trying to enforce an unenforcible fee encourage crasher's to help support the fest by donating a % of their hat. You may actually get more and it might come across better. Supporting the fest with a % of the take isn't an unreasonable request.
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Old 03-26-12, 11:03 AM   #7
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Hey, I know a Richard from KS who will be at the Busker Festival this year! Tell him hello for me.

I am not sure about asking for a hat percentage, but I agree on the approach of making it a request instead of a requirement.
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Old 03-26-12, 01:10 PM   #8
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I've seen Buskers have a negative reaction to a percentage of their hat from other festivals. I think you're right to be wary of that vodvill. But the idea of requesting (like a suggested donation or pwyc) may be a good direction... You might also like to consider (in addition to the professional development workshop for buskers it sounds like you're hosting) to host additional workshops for kids where -if you're paying the busker to do it- the funds from the hat at the workshop could also go to supporting the festival. Some festivals also do a group show at the end of the festival where all the money from the hat go to a charity or to supporting the festival for next year...

Just some ideas to kick around.
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Old 03-27-12, 11:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard View Post
It's all in the packaging. Instead of trying to enforce an unenforcible fee encourage crasher's to help support the fest by donating a % of their hat. You may actually get more and it might come across better. Supporting the fest with a % of the take isn't an unreasonable request.

And who will count this hat?

It will not come across better.

It will not sound good to any professionals.

It is an incredibly unreasonable and inappropriate request.

Either expand the festival to include the show-up pitches, or define the boundary of the festival. If you want to use the show-up pitches and have jurisdiction over them, then yes, by all means charge a fee. But then you're responsible for them.

A good model for this might be the Edmonton Fringe Festival. (All Fringes are pay-to-play and they are not "busker festivals" - Edmonton can charge buskers because they draw 250,000 people over ten days). They have outdoor stages that are programmed and provide substantial technical support. They also have busker pitches, where one can get a permit for a small fee, and are supervised but programmed with a draw and buskers bring their own sound.

But the pitches need to be under your jurisdiction. Or, instead of a "permission" fee, if you don't control the pitches, call it a "publicity" fee and put them in the program and let them put up signage that says they are with the festival. Just be aware that if you let Joe Wino The One String Guitar into the program, you are now responsible for the complaint letters he generates. Make sure you want to be affiliated with people who aren't good enough to program at your festival but whose money you want.
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Old 03-28-12, 03:34 AM   #10
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Or hey, I know what, how about you spend more time looking for official sponsors and less time looking to the acts to make up your shortfall? If it's a busker fest, then us buskers are drawing the people in the first place.

What's next, auctioning off the slots to the act that will kick back the highest percentage? Sheesh.
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Old 03-28-12, 01:17 PM   #11
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Forgot to add - at Edmonton, there are buskers who perform on the public streets at the periphery of the festival. They definitely benefit from the increased traffic. Some of them are buskers who have been banned from the festival site. So the festival works on the principal of "Hey, this is the boundary of the festival and we sanction the people inside it. The people outside it are not our problem, and if they benefit, so be it." They do not connect with the buskers on the street because those are people who either don't want to be connected with the festival, or have created problems in the past.
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Old 03-28-12, 03:11 PM   #12
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If you are going to ask the ones that you're not paying for cash, then you might want to start by asking the ones you are paying for a discount.
Better still, if the ones you are paying are getting a full fee and not passing the hat, why not give everyone a retainer (stipend), and then everyone can make the good hats that you say are there to be made.

In Europe, you have more or less 3 types of busking(street performing festivals.

The figures I'm using here are just an example so you can observe and compare the ratio.
1. they pay travel, hotel/hostel, and food and you pass the hat.
2. they pay a daily retainer of between 100 and 300 euros per day + travel, hotel, food, and you pass the hat.
3. they pay your full fee of between (roughly) 600-1200 euros a day (can be more), travel hotel and food, but you don't pass the hat

Obviously the 3rd is not really a buskers festival and is probably the most sort after(by some acts) because your income is not weather and audience dependant.
The 1st is common in Italy and Austria and I see it as a great place for beginners, but if it is a good festival with a reputation, professionals will go if they have nothing else on. i do at times.
The second, for me, in my experience is the ideal. If you don't get rained out and have a strong show, you will end up making more money and probably have more fun in the process.

There are some variations to those types of festivals where they mix full payed fee with part fee and no fee. Can't say I've been to many.

I'm involved in organizing a festival here in Croatia and we like to treat all the acts in the program the same way. We don't like acts crashing the festival if they are within about 100 mtrs of a promoted pitch, but have no problem with them being else where as it does not cause us any problems.

You're in the US find more sponsors, if we can do it, you can.
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Old 03-28-12, 03:29 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isabella View Post
Forgot to add - at Edmonton, there are buskers who perform on the public streets at the periphery of the festival. They definitely benefit from the increased traffic. Some of them are buskers who have been banned from the festival site. So the festival works on the principal of "Hey, this is the boundary of the festival and we sanction the people inside it. The people outside it are not our problem, and if they benefit, so be it." They do not connect with the buskers on the street because those are people who either don't want to be connected with the festival, or have created problems in the past.
I find it fascinating that the notion of busking has to do with people freely doing street performances for tips, and then it gets codified into a thing where there are "us" and "them", and "they" are not wanted so they have to be outside the perimeter of the "busking" grounds. I put "busking" in quotes because it has gone from busking to a street festival. Big difference as far as I'm concerned.

I posted some time back that I really disliked the idea of "busking festivals" and festivals in general because they tend to use up all the audience money so that there isn't much left for the non-organized entertainment. I still feel this way. Just as music festivals tend to ruin music shows in small clubs for a couple weeks before and after the festival, so, too, "busking festivals" would tend to ruin it for the casual buskers who are not a part of the festival.

Why must everything be organized? What's wrong with freedom anyway? I really really dislike making everything in to some kind of commodity where instead of people just casually entertaining and audiences just casually dropping tips for performers they like, suddenly it's packaged and becomes corporate.

By "corporate" I mean that suddenly there are permits to be had and security and toilets to be paid for and advertising to go out. And then food vendors are brought in and then there's a reality show covering you, and then it's no fun anymore. It's a business. If you want a business that badly go open a concert venue.
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Old 03-30-12, 01:29 AM   #14
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I'm referring to the Edmonton Fringe Festival, not the Edmonton Buskers' Festival.

Quote:
because they tend to use up all the audience money so that there isn't much left for the non-organized entertainment.
You may feel this way, but about Edmonton, you would be incorrect. The buskers on the streets outside the festival experience greatly increased traffic, especially family traffic during the day, as opposed to the typical drunk weekend night traffic.

Quote:
and then it's no fun anymore. It's a business. If you want a business that badly go open a concert venue.
And finding out that you are a hobbyist rather than a professional suddenly makes a lot of your arguments sound a lot more like they make sense, to you.

This IS my business. I make a full-time professional living as a busker/street performer, with some corporate and theatre work.

I WANT to work in an organized, regulated venue. It's a lot more FUN for me to have a green room, place to get water, other buskers to mingle with, fantastic tips, advertising to get patrons to the festival, and a huge, appreciative audience that stays for my whole show and respects me as an artist. I enjoy being part of a schedule instead of having to whip out my dick to see who gets the best show times. And, to give you more perspective on where I'm coming from, my act sets up a 25-foot trapeze rig - it's a little difficult for us to just "move along there" if we're in an unpermitted space.

Since you are in this for "fun", why does it matter if you experience less traffic before and after a festival? If what counts is "fun", then isn't one person who gives a dollar and enjoys listening every bit as valuable as 50 who watch for a while and you make 100 dollars? If it's not your business, who cares? Sit home for the week before, the week of, and the week after the festival, and you won't even notice the difference.
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Old 04-03-12, 06:17 PM   #15
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Why do orchestras need a conductor? Why do they even exist? I've heard Bassoons before and they were really fun. Why does structure exist? It's just so structurey! I happen to play the triangle and sometimes I'll be out there jamming in public and all these people pass by on their way to see an orchestra and I'm like, "Whats wrong with freedom man?" Orchestras degrade my triangle experience. I don't care but at the same time I do care. I once had a wrinkle to exploit but someone moved my cheese. My freedom requires others to stop doing stuff that affects my bottom line. I want the world to adapt to my concept of freedom and think it's perfectly fine to see challenges in life as simply reasons to rationalize not being as successful as I was or could be. I'm THIS close to taking my utopia and going home!
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Old 04-03-12, 07:52 PM   #16
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Entertaining as usual mr. ewen.

as to the original post, it seems like a trivial amount of money your looking to get from these "other" performers. Is it truly going to be worth the hassle? Is there no alternative?
My compliments to you for continuing to present your festival as tough as times are. Good Luck and i hope it all works out.
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Old 04-04-12, 12:35 AM   #17
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Why do orchestras need a conductor? Why do they even exist?
Actually, orchestras don't need conductors. In fact they sound better without them because the musicians are listening to each other, not watching for a baton. I much prefer conductor-less orchestras and ensembles.
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Old 04-04-12, 03:34 PM   #18
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You know i use to work the Eugene country fair outside Eugene, Or. There you could work at the door for a time and that would get you in to the fair . Once in side you pretty much were on your own. But you weren't a stage act. I've also worked 44th street in Westport and by the collage in Lawrence. Where do you put this event on and what time of time year? Jeep
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Old 04-08-12, 01:46 AM   #19
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Jeep. It's on Mass street. August 24-26 this year.

It's probably slightly better than Boulder, tip wise... for that particular weekend.
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Old 04-08-12, 08:50 PM   #20
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Angry Lawrence, KS?

That's Lawrence, KS - the home of University of Kansas? We just had Final Four in New Orleans and I painted a lot of these wierd-looking birds on your people...How can you 'struggle financially" putting up a festival in a college-town? They don't let you sell beer? You can't get local bands for the main stage? There is no bank in town to be a sponsor? Students are not gonna come to see just buskers - unless they have children, they want lots of beer and loud music. You make money selling beer, from sponsors, and renting vending space to food and crafts people. You do not make money on entertainment - it is either and expense (stage acts) or a "freebie" (ambience performers, busking acts etc) Actually, succesful buskers are usually paid to come to festivals - at least housing/travel expenses and some sort of daily stipend...It is not a question of ethics - it's just how low can you go? Charging buskers? "OMG, this festival is really lame..." - will say the busking community and the audience, and it's very bad PR. Buskers bring crowd to you, you want them there, and you will not ever get any decent acts if you try to get $$ from them...Get some people together and brainstorm the whole concept. Check out Victoria Buskers festival - that's a jewel of perfect management and great fundraising...
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