Asheville Citizen-Times: Designated zones, music sales: Buskers jostle for new laws (28 April 2015)

Mick Mullen sings and plays guitar next to the Flat Iron Building in downtown Asheville Tuesday afternoon. Mullen, who moved here from Nashville a week ago, said he specifically came to Asheville to be part of the busking community. “I’m here because this city really cares about its buskers,” he said. “That’s what really brought me here.”

“Churches, nonprofits and the like are fostered by public policy so they do not go extinct,” musician Andrew Fletcher told the commission in speaking on behalf of the Asheville Buskers Collective, an alliance of street performers. “We ask that you think of street performers as providing a similar public benefit.”

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Fletcher acknowledges some travelers do give busking a bad name, but he said his relationship with the travelers is complex.

“I really wanted to unpack that connection — what a street performer is and what a loiterer is,” he said. “There’s certainly a connection (between travelers and street performers) because songs and culture get to move from place to place, and that’s certainly a vital component to street music.”

He said he wouldn’t get rid of the travelers even if he could because lots of street musicians start out that way. Abby Roach, who performs as Abby the Spoon Lady, is one of Asheville’s most well-known street performers, but she came here as a transient who took rides on freight trains to get from place to place, she said. Now, she’s developed such a large following that she performs at venues and festivals.

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So in addition to the vibrant street culture of downtown Asheville, there’s a lot of money riding on the ordinance.

“The successful buskers do it successfully enough to where it averages out to a real income,” Fletcher said.