Asheville Citizen-Times: Answer Man: Guidelines for buskers? City regulations for busking? (11 February 2020)

Mick Mullen sings and plays guitar next to the Flat Iron Building in downtown Asheville in this file photo. The city of Asheville does have a guide for buskers, create in conjunction with local street performers.

The Asheville Buskers Collective worked with the city of Asheville to formulate rules and develop a guide to etiquette, which went into place in 2017.

You don’t have to have a formal permit of any kind to busk, though.

“The quick answer is the streets are open for people to perform,” said Andrew Fletcher, a busking advocate who was involved with the collective. “You don’t need anyone’s permission to go out there and start busking. There are a few rules that apply — you can’t light anything on fire, for instance.”

That seems fair.

The city issued guidelines for busking after hearing concerns about crowds spilling onto streets and excessive noise, usually because of amplifiers.

The city of Asheville recognizes that the street performer scene adds an eclectic element to our vibrant downtown scene,” said city spokeswoman Polly McDaniel. “In 2017, in partnership with the Asheville Buskers Collective, the city launched a Street Performers Guide brochure…”

“It’s going pretty well,” Fletcher said. “Sometimes, you might have one person who doesn’t follow the rules, and that creates a domino effect with other buskers, as people get displaced.”

Generally, though, those buskers that flout the rules tend to “wash out,” Fletcher said, meaning they don’t do well and move on.

One area Fletcher would like to see some change is the city formulating a way to allow buskers to also sell their merchandise, such as compact discs. 

“You can play for tips, but if you want to put your CDs out there, the police may consider that a non-permitted commercial activity,” said Fletcher, who says he’s “a semi-retired” busker who’d like to get out there more often.