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Applications open for city program that offers street musicians paid performance slots

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Three years ago, the Austin Music Commission unsuccessfully urged City Council to amend city code to permit street performances, or busking, in Austin’s downtown entertainment districts. Now, the city music office is using a one-time infusion of $150,000 in private developer funds to create a Busking Pilot Program in the new  Green Water development in the Seaholm District downtown. 

The music office is currently accepting applications from street musicians of all genres who would like to perform unamplified sets outside the development in designated hour-long time slots. Artists selected for the program will be paid at the standard city rate of $150 per musician per hour. City officials say they expect most slots to be awarded to solo artists, but they have set aside some money for larger groups.

The music office plans to program roughly six musicians to perform at the development each weekend for a year.

The initial response from musicians has been strong. With little publicity about the program, music office staffers say they received roughly 70 applications in the first 24 hours and over 100 musicians in the first week. After the Austin Music Commission meeting Monday, music office director, Erica Shamaly, said her staff was considering some sort of online audition, possibly through YouTube videos, to screen the applicants.

The program aims attract downtown visitors to newly opened public spaces and buildings in the area. City officials plan to use the pilot program to establish best practices in the hopes of expanding the program to other areas of the city.