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Busking program review and pilot

Phase 1 - research

With a growing city and nearly 500 busking IDs issued on a yearly basis, a review of how The City of Calgary supports busking is currently being undertaken. As part of this review, we are looking at ways to support our home-grown talent through a program that meets the needs of buskers and the community at large, employs best practices developed through stakeholder input and promotes a better understanding of this important and essential cultural practice.

  • In the first phase of the review, The City of Calgary researched best practices in other busking programs throughout Canada. We connected with the community and had initial stakeholder engagements about the busker program and the challenges in currently faces. We consulted with the Business Revitalization Zones, Calgary Transit, Bylaw, Calgary Police Service and the busking community.
  • We also hired a busker liaison consultant, Matt Masters, a long time member of Calgary’s busking community and a recording artist to work with The City. From May to October 2015, Matt conducted the next portion of the Busking program review, which included testing and compiling feedback gathered through formal and informal engagement with businesses, community partners and the busking community. The City received a report of both short- and long-term busker program recommendations and options.
  • The City of Calgary is committed to making one busking program work for city streets, parks as well as Calgary Transit.
  • Business Revitalization Zone members have played an integral role in the Busker program review and the resulting pilot for 2016.

Phase 2 - 2016 pilot

The second phase of the review is the pilot phase. For the 2016 busking season, we will implement and test some of the recommendations gathered in phase one. Feedback on the changes and how it’s working for all stakeholders will be gathered, and the program will be adjusted again for the 2017 season.

Here are some of the highlights for the 2016 pilot:

  • Celebrating the art of street performance - Beginning with the 2016 Year of Music in Calgary, a strong emphasis for the pilot will be on supporting, celebrating and elevating the profile of street performing as a cherished art form. We will do this by connecting event organizers and business owners with buskers, promoting busking related events, and profiling street performers on calgary.ca/busking and in social media.
  • More flexibility for busking IDs - The City is now offering three types of busking IDs. The Standard Busker ID remains free and provides access to busk in public locations such as City parks and streets. It’s perfect for up-and-coming performers and those travelling through Calgary but would like to grace Calgarians and tourists with their talents along the way. The Busk Stop ID will cost the performer $50 and provides additional access to perform at select busk stop locations. These are high traffic, high volume areas and are ideal for experienced and professional street performers. The Calgary Transit Busker ID comes at a cost of $25 and requires a Police Information Check. It provides access to busk in all locations including transit stations, but excluding designated busk stops.
  • Amplification – Amplification is now permitted at busk stops and Calgary Transit stations with a valid busking ID and provided the busker is following the busking guidelines.
  • Improved application process – The City is offering a variety of ways to obtain your busking ID. Buskers can now apply and pay online, then receive their ID in the mail. ID applications will be processed within three business days. Buskers can also visit one of three City locations to drop off and pay for their busking ID application if online is not an option for them.
  • Busker Advisory Committee – Over the next year, The City will create a Busker advisory committee that meets quarterly to provide guidance and support to the busking program. The committee will include members of the busking community, City employees and other arts professionals.
  • Busker Staff- The City will hire a summer student to oversee and execute the busking program from May-August, with current City staff overseeing the program in the off-season.  

Give your feedback

We’ll be looking to the busking community, Calgarians, businesses, BRZs, CPS and Transit for feedback of how the pilot is working throughout the 2016 season. There will be formal engagement and feedback mechanisms in place that will be communicated through The City’s arts and culture social media and email distribution list. Make sure you’re on the list!  

Find out more, get involved and follow updates throughout the review.