Throughout the years, busking across the nation has been a vital part of the underground music scene. Whether it is in the CBD or outside the small suburban shops across the great divide, busking is everywhere. However, there was recently a push to ban amplifiers within the CBD and, more specifically, in Pitt Street Mall, as they apparently conflict with the shopping centre. This ban on amplifiers means that buskers will not be able to project their music above the constant construction works happening nearly everywhere, and their beautiful music will be drowned out by traffic and any other source of noise. Since the opening of the monstrous Westfield in the CBD, buskers have been receiving negative vibes from the heads of the shopping chain; however, the shopkeepers themselves did not seem to have an issue.
In true great Aussie spirit, there was a sudden uprising by these buskers to try and overturn these bans on amps, accompanied by the people of Sydney, who enjoy travelling to Pitt Street Mall not only to shop, but to witness some of the greatest unearthed musical talent Australia has to offer. In light of this, and the last big push to lift the ban, the buskers, JackManFriday and Joe Moore, alongside some unsung heroes, have organised a small event (which will feature a special international busker) to show that their wonderful music can work in harmony with the giant shopping centres that have flooded the city.
We caught up with Jack to see what his side of the story was:
“So at the moment the council is deciding whether or not an amplifier ban will be placed upon Pitt Street Mall in Sydney. Buskers have been a mainstay of this iconic landmark for over 20 years, and complaints from the 18-month-old Westfield have pushed the council to a decision. I could say a tonne of reasons an amplifier ban would be a backward step, but I’ll suffice to say three things.” [Since this interview, the ban has been lifted and amplifiers are now allowed in Pitt Street Mall with a restriction, according to Joe Moore, fellow busker.]
“First, a ban on amplifiers is discriminating against artists using modern technology, such as loop stations or keyboards. In addition, a percussionist and vocalist could not match each other’s volumes”, Jack said.
The noise levels produced by traffic and construction within Pitt Street Mall would make it nearly impossible for most instruments to be heard, and as such amplifiers are almost essential for all buskers.
“Second, communication with the buskers has been non-existent, instead we simply have fingers pointed at us”, continued Jack.
Busker Joe Moore added to this, saying: “We haven’t really been told anything, they’ve just pointed the finger at us”, referring to Westfield.
“Thirdly, we buskers bring in Westfield’s customer base. This is proven the world over and right here at home”, stated Jack.
Recent statistics have placed retail shopping in quite a depressing state, with some figures suggesting that retail has dropped nearly 60%, which raises the point as to why Westfield do not endorse these buskers. They would surely attract more customers as witnessing some amazing musical talent, both Australian and International, adds another dimension to shopping.
To celebrate the concept of busking and to raise awareness of the ban that was nearly imposed, all the buskers of Pitt Street are coming together to push for greater acknowledgement, along with putting on an awesome show for all to see.
“We’re also putting together a special performance this Saturday, 19th May, involving an act, now internationally recognised, who grew from busking on the streets. Folks will have to check them out on the day in Pitt St Mall”, Jack explained.
Jack continued: “In Pitt St, most of us are making our living off busking, but I can honestly say that comes second to the love of performing to the public. The feeling of having people take time out of their day to watch, when they have no obligation to, is extremely humbling, whether it’s one or a hundred people. We play for that, and that is what we’ll fight for.”
To join the cause to support busking, an online petition is available here and tomorrow’s event will take place mid-afternoon.