Since I was 12, I have busked in the Melbourne CBD, from Christmas Carols in the weeks leading up to the end of the year, through to my own compositions with Suit Yourself. I am incredibly disappointed to hear of the council's ban on amplified busking along Swanston Street, not only because the ban includes Suit Yourself's favourite busking location beside City Square, but because it is going to destroy the city's musical and universal atmosphere.
To those of you who have not visited Melbourne, our city streets are full of musical and artistic performances of all levels. Just as I once did, young performers play to the city some of the first songs they ever learnt. Concurrently, internationally renowned bands are busking just down the road, such as Amistat and The Pierce Brothers. Busking in Melbourne is not a desperate pleading for money; rather, a mode of expression and a way of life for so many musicians.
But the disgruntled opinions of one man, who happens to be Melbourne's Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, may pull the plug on busking altogether. Starting August 1 and carrying through to the end of October, Doyle has imposed a ban to amplified busking along Swanston Street, including many key busking hotspots, such as along the City Square and in front of the State Library of Victoria, All this, just because he isn't a fan of "noisy buskers".
The knee-jerk reaction to Doyle's decision may be to argue that it is only a ban to amplified music. Acoustic guitars, violins and even home-made drum kits are fair game. So why all the big fuss?
Well, Melbourne, just like most major cities, is noisy. With passing vehicles and thousands of pedestrians, acoustic instruments can't even cut through the white noise of the city, let alone a volume suitable for performance. So buskers have turned to amplification, many choosing portable guitar and keyboard amps, just like the one I use. And not once have I had a pedestrian, store owner or busking official approach me regarding being too noisy or raucous. The amplified sound has always been respectful and not overpowering. If anything, the two blaring trumpets are the vociferous personalities of Suit Yourself.
After all, we have abided by the decibel restriction outlined in Melbourne's busking guidelines. Perhaps if the Mayor chose to combat "noisy buskers" using outlined protocols rather than careless impulse, the busking community might see greater value in what he is trying to achieve.
So to all my fellow Melburnians, or perhaps even distant friends, family or website visitors, I ask you to stand alongside us buskers and support our objections to Doyle's temporary ban, because all it takes is one falling domino to bring every other domino down. Busking is such an important aspect of Melbourne as it enlightens our streets, contributing to our back-to-back "World's Most Liveable City" victories.
So, how can you support Melbourne's healthy and talented busking community?
I strongly urge you to sign this online petition to combat Doyle's ban (http://www.thepetitionsite.com/669/411/936/stop-the-ban-on-busking-in-the-cbd-before-august-1st/) and let the Melbourne City Council know that you are not impressed. Don't do it for me or any other buskers; do it for yourselves. Because Melbourne's "vibrant" city might seem rather flat without eclectic tunes on every street corner.
In the meantime, it looks like I'm going to have to pull out the melodica or tuba for Suit Yourself's next couple of busking sessions...
Please feel free to join into the discussion on my Facebook page or in the comments below. Will love to hear what you think!
Jared loves to share his passion for music and artists through music reviews and commentaries. These include a selection of reviews written for community radio stations 3MBS and Radio Monash.