If I were mayor, I’d have a permit system in place that gives street performers benefits. While adding to my sense of control, it would also provide a very cheap form of advertising for my brand. I would call it something like The Street Performance Art for City Enlightenment (SPACE). My press secretary would tell everyone how liberal and “of the people” I am by supporting alternative arts. I would do a well-publicised photo-shoot with some beatniks. Then I’d go back to my real job of reducing funds for libraries, schools and hospitals.

My police officers would be too busy busting Occupy Everything protestors to worry about buskers, so the permit would not be mandatory. However, I’d want it used by the best buskers, so it would be free to get, and I’d offer benefits to make it desirable to “professionals”. The better my buskers are, the better I look.

The Audition Process

There will be one large-scale promoted audition per year. It’s not the only way of getting a permit, but as it’s a showpiece, it’s good publicity for the people who enter. It will be a live-streamed event to which the press is invited. The top eight acts at the main audition (voted for by a panel) will be given a small monetary prize and be allowed to perform on one of my city’s established stages. Maybe I’ll give them a badge as well (with my signature on it).

If a performer does not (or cannot) make it to the audition, they can audition either at the three other less-publicised audition slots, or by bringing in a DVD or references to the office. Out of town performers can send a reference and a URL.

People must pass auditions to receive a permit. However, there would be no limits on how many people can get a permit.

  • All people who apply must have a repertoire that can fit a twenty minute slot, or 5 songs. If you’re looking to get a permit as a musician, you should know how play 5 songs.
  • They must be sober for the audition, and promise to perform sober
  • They must show a certain level of skill, to be judged completely subjectively by the appointed panel, by a majority vote. The panel will include the head of a flashy art org, a celebrity or two, a couple of busker-appointed nominees, me (or one of my lackeys), and an online vote so that I can use the word “grassroots” in interviews.
  • Travelling buskers from other lands will be offered the chance to get a 3-month permit to perform, during which time they will enjoy the same benefits as the regular licensed buskers. It does not matter if they are here for 3 months or 3 days.
  • Celebrity buskers from around the world will be offered the chance to work for my city, allowing them to apply for a WORK VISA. This offer is radical enough to spread the news of my liberal and generous nature worldwide.

The Benefits

Permit holders will

  • be given a profile page on my government’s SPACE website (which would show my signature on every page), including contact info and promo videos
  • receive the permit, a sign, some business cards, and a T-shirt, all of which have their and SPACE’s details on them (and my signature)
  • be obliged to do one official performance per year (if asked) at a snazzy fundraising event for SPACE
  • be admitted to the pitch-allocation roster

Pitch Allocation

SPACE pitches would, of course, have the SPACE logo and my name somewhere painted nearby. Colourful lines on the floor would define the pitch, be they walk-by places or full circle shows. These pitches would be in prime locations — parks, plazas, pedestrianised zones etc — and each would be scheduled online. People would be able to schedule themselves onto pitches between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The rules:

  • Walk-by pitches can be reserved in hour-long slots for 1/3 of the day, no more
  • Circle-show pitches can be reserved in hour-long slots for 1/2 the day, no more
  • 1/3 of the pitches will be reserved by random selection (online), 1/3 by a morning roll-call (names out of a hat), and 1/3 on a first-come-first-serve basis
  • After morning roll-call and first-come-first-serve rosters have finished, the random selection tool will allocate spots for the other pitches
  • If a performer is late for their pitch by over 10 minutes, it is free for anyone to take
  • Non-licensed buskers can perform on licensed pitches (if not taken already by a licensed busker)
  • When a licensed busker is performing on a licensed spot, they must have either their SPACE banner or T-shirt on show (both will have my signature on them)
  • If buskers repeatedly break rules, they will have their permit revoked, and be unable to receive another one for three years.
  • Licenses are renewed every 3 years (circle shows) to 5 years (walk-by acts)

Circle Shows

All circle shows must be performed by buskers who have an act long enough to fill the spot. This will be peer assessed, as I don’t really mind street performers arguing amongst themselves. The assessment will also judge whether the performer is a safety hazard. If they pass both tests, they will be awarded a permit denoting their abilities. As they have shown they are capable and safe, and will draw a crowd, my city will pay half the fees of their liability insurance. All performers, licensed or not, who want to do circle shows, must have liability insurance. I know you’re professionals — that’s why you work on the streets.

Non-licensed pitches and non-licensed buskers

For a small fee, non-licensed buskers will be able to have their names added to the SPACE website. SPACE will print business cards for them (with my signature on) on request. Most importantly, buskers — licensed or not — can perform at any time, anywhere (although they must adhere to the general rules of busking).

SPACE Benefits to me and my People

SPACE Funding and Promotion

As mayor, I have political clout with arts organisations in my city, from which I will try to secure funding.

We will also apply for grants from large funds looking to promote community arts.

Once I have shown how successful the plan is, I will sell the time of analysts to implement the same system in cities all over the world.

The SPACE website will include a map of the city with all the pitches listed, plus popup promo videos of the performers in each destination.

I will also upload a sleek looking video of me, talking about how much I care about bringing people together, and the blight of the 6-hour TV watching day.

The site will include a voting system where members of the public can vote on their favourite performer. Every six months the top three voted for performers will gain a permit-for-life, and be allowed to headline a performance in a well-established venue. This will gain the program both grassroots and establishment publicity.

Going Back to the Pros and Cons


SPACE will legitimise busking to the extent that both permit and non-permit holders will enjoy better public reaction and fewer police hassles. The SPACE website will gain them promotion for them (and, of course, me), help reduce conflicts between buskers, and give me a sense of control.


The only two negatives that are still remaining here are that buskers who enjoy the illegal aspect of busking will be disappointed, and the permit system will still give weight to the myth of what a “successful” performer should strive for. Remember, I’m a mayor. What do I care about someone’s desire to “live on the edge”?

One other pro that we will have to live with: it will make me look very, very good.