Don’t throw buskers under the bus

As the city considers different ideas for the proposed “enhancement” of downtown (see the 2014 Downtown Enhancement Plan at, please don’t throw buskers under the bus.

Many of Asheville’s creative community — not only musicians but artists of all kinds — depend on street performance as part of their livelihood. Visitors and locals experience the street scene as charming and vibrant, an essential part of the village atmosphere that people want to slow down for a minute to enjoy.

As the city grows and changes, this is Asheville’s chance to declare this a community that truly supports and cherishes its artists. When the rising cost of living equals increased difficulty making ends meet for those in the arts, busking is one accessible option. Overregulation is unnecessary and works against creating a thriving arts economy.

When creating or changing any ordinance that revolves around the “enhancement” of downtown, listening to the needs of the creative community, rather than dictating to them, will create a truly enhanced shared space.

Let street entertainers do what they do best without forcing undue regulation.


Sumer Grace and Amy Hamilton




Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “Don’t throw buskers under the bus

  1. todd johnson

    Just so everyone is aware. There are already regulations in place for all street vendors and performers..although very different for the two groups. Street vendors must have a permit to vend in a specific location, pay a yearly fee, and have both a state business license and an insurance policy.
    Street performers are supposed to have a permit from the city as a busker, can move around where they set up to perform and pay a yearly fee to do so.
    As someone who has grown up in Asheville I have virtually never seen a street performer who actually has a permit or anyone ever asking them for one….except a few rare incidents when police had someone causing issues for everyone else, and asked them for their permit.
    It seems that most all street performers can pay to get a permit which last time I saw was $25 for a year!
    “(There is no way that is too much to come up with. I have watched street performers make $50 in an hour before and even some of the less talented ones can make $25 or more in an afternoon. So even if you do not have the money to buy one immediately, after a day or two of busking it should be reasonable. )”
    I have seen many times where (one performer or group of) will stay at one spot for way too long, when you are supposed to stay no longer than 2 hours at any spot to ensure other performers get an equal chance.
    Also have seen many times where performers spread their things out on the sidewalk to an extent that it is hard for anyone to even walk by without getting forced to stop while the congestion tries to move. Sometimes they are elderly with walkers, or parents pushing a stroller, or just even lacking the room for two people to walk by at the same time….which is ridiculous for a city with wide sidewalks. Some performers usually the lesser talented ones, act like this is great since people are forced to stop in front of them and hear them.
    If there was someone just checking for these permits occasionally it could eliminate the selfishness of one group over a spot, since chances are they never had a permit to begin with.
    So regulation has been in place for quite some time for the street performers, just very rarely applied.
    I feel these performers do add to the quality of enjoyment for all coming to downtown. But there are also many performers who have very little talent but slam our sidewalks with their limited ability and make it harder for the good performers to find a spot to play.
    I would imagine if the people who have less talent were told they had to buy a permit, many of them would just skip the idea entirely.
    Because in many cases it just seems like people are finding a creative way to panhandle if they have no apparent talent, it is just people who feel sorry for them giving them money. That is not an attractive thing for anyone to encounter.
    These less serious performers are therefore taking up space that a true performer could occupy.
    Doing so also bring the level of enjoyment down for everyone downtown and lessens the quality of the overall experience. Truly many of these people that come to perform, should never perform beyond a basement or front porch until they gain some skills at being an actual musician. There are plenty of talented performers that live here and would love to come play. But they know it is so difficult to get a decent spot with all of the not so talented crowding them out every week…or they would feel it worth it to come play.
    As someone who cares about downtown (I am not a performer). I do hope there is some actual regulation so that the overall quality and enjoyment for everyone can go up instead of the steady decline I have seen.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.