The schedule wall at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011

The Quest to find the Perfect Permit System
One of our goals is to find out what permit systems work around the world. The idea is to come up with as good a system as possible, a middle ground between the lovers and the haters of permits.

The Busking Project is not created by buskers. We’re relying on the experience of others as we go. So, please tell me where you think I’m wrong, or what I’ve missed. We’ll incorporate your views into the final product.

“The Pros and Cons of Permit Systems” (below) is the first part. The second part will then detail a permit system that deals with them. The final part will talk about implementation of the system, who will benefit, and what still needs to be resolved.

Thanks for reading,



PART I: The Pros and Cons of Permit Systems


  • An audition process ensures that some standards are met
  • Permits reduce police harassment for permit holders
  • Permit holders are in some ways “legitimised” — reducing self doubt and embarrassment, convincing people that it’s okay to perform on the streets
  • Formally scheduled pitches reduce arguments between buskers
  • Permit systems allow authorities to quickly remove bad apples. If they`re not playing by the rules, they will be pushed out.
  • An organised authority managing buskers makes contacting them for gigs easier



  • An audition system will give weight to performers who conform to “established urban aesthetic notions about what a professional musician is”
  • A limited number of permits arbitrarily denies some buskers permission
  • Cops are more likely to harass non-licensed buskers
  • Permits might legitimise some buskers, but they also delegitimise the rest
  • Buskers who aren’t free on audition day will not be able to get a permit
  • Not all ethnicities in a city will be equally aware of the permit system
  • Licensed pitches fill up easily, restricting permit holders
  • It costs a lot of money and time to properly administer a license system
  • An organised schedule removes the cultural exchange between buskers
  • Nomadic buskers cannot get permits quickly
  • The bureaucracy of permits takes the “street” our of “street performance”
  • Permits add to the myth of the “established” or “professional” artist, something many buskers are against
  • The issues permits fix can be handled without the need for a permit