Information sheets

Busking Permit Guide for Australian Capital Cities

This is a guide for buskers, street performers and visual artists who practise or perform in public spaces in the hope of receiving donations for their work. This guide outlines each Australian capital city’s process applying for a permit to inform artists and performers about the requirements to perform in public spaces.

In this information sheet:

This is a guide for buskers, street performers and visual artists who practise or perform in public spaces in the hope of receiving donations for their work. This guide outlines each Australian capital city’s process applying for a permit to inform artists and performers about the requirements to perform in public spaces.  

For more information about the application process of other Australian’s cities and city and shire councils you will need to contact the council in which you wish to perform. 

  • New South Wales – Sydney 

The City of Sydney defines a busker as “someone performing or creating an artwork in a public space with the intention of entertaining the public for financial reward but does not include an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Cultural Practitioner’. 

To busk in the areas governed by the City of Sydney Council, the person must obtain a busking permit from the City of Sydney Council. There are three different types of permits available: Low impact, High impact and Extended duration.  

Low impact permits are issued to those who leave a small footprint in a public space and the sound is easily managed. They do not require more than 2 square meters of space and often consist of solo performers or small groups such as musicians and magicians. They are only permitted to perform for a maximum of two hours per location per day. This style of act does not require assessment by the City of Sydney. 

High impact permits are issued to those who leave a large footprint in a public space and the sound is harder to manage or they use material that may pose a risk to the public. They require more than 2 square meters of space and often consist of performances such as dance, acrobatics, circus or include instruments such as drums, bagpipes or brass instruments. They are only permitted to perform for a maximum of one hour per location per day. These styles of acts require assessment by the City of Sydney.  

Extended duration acts cause minimal impact on nearby people but need a long period of time to perform. Certain acts that require this could be artwork that is made continuously over a long period of time or human statues. These acts are permitted to set up for maximum hours per location per day. They do not require assessment by the City of Sydney. 

Permits costs are $13 for a three-month permit or $47 for a twelve-month permit. 

Buskers in Sydney are held to several restrictions. They are only permitted to sell original music, videos, artwork or merchandise if it complements their performance. They are not permitted to charge a fee, utilise animals as part of their act nor create an adverse impact on the environment. More information can be found here

There are certain areas that are not governed by the City of Sydney. These include: the Sydney Harbour Foreshore, the Royal Botanic gardens and the Domain trust, the Sydney Opera House, Centennial Park and Moore Park. Several other areas are subject to several restrictions. Please note that the greater Sydney metropolitan area are comprised by other councils and subject to different processes. For greater clarity please click here

The City of Sydney have updated their busking policy in 2019 to exempt Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from requiring permits if they are expressing their cultural heritage, such as knowledge and expression, in public spaces. This aligns with Article 11 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This reform to the City of Sydney’s policy extends to traditional and contemporary performers provided they are practising a connection with their cultural heritage. 

  • Queensland – Brisbane 

You do not require a busking permit to perform in the City of Brisbane except in specific malls such as Queen Street Mall and Valley Mall. You are also required to obtain a different permit if you wish to busk in South Bank.  

In order to busk in one of the relevant mall spaces such as Queen Street Mall you must submit an application. There is no fee for such a permit, but you are required to audition for representatives from the City of Brisbane and Brisbane Marketing. 

More information about the areas that this permit covers can be found here

If you wish to busk in South Bank you will need to apply for a short term or annual permit. Short term permits are provided to interstate or international visitors who wish to busk for up to three months in the precinct. Annual permits are also available with auditions taking place in November each year. Both styles of permits have ‘special’ options for acts that include high risk activities. These performers must have their own Public Liability Insurance Certificate. It is up to the discretion of Brisbane Marketing to permit or not permit these acts.  

Buskers in South Bank are not allowed to perform between the hours of 10pm and 7am and must seek permission to sell or display items from the Venues Sales Executive. More information can be found here

  • Victoria – Melbourne 

You must obtain a permit to busk in the City of Melbourne. Permits will only be issued to individuals whether they are a solo or group performance. There are three types of permits offered by the City of Melbourne: General area, Circle acts and Premium. Each of these have different requirements under the safety, amenity and performance review

General area busking permits are given to acts that don’t require the use of dangerous goods in order to perform. Common examples are musicians, singers, puppeteers, magicians and pavement artists.  

Circle act busking permits are given to acts that require audiences to stop, watch and possibly participate. This permit is required for performances involving the use of dangerous objects. These performances cannot exceed more then 60 minutes and performers may be required to hold their own public liability insurance. 

General and Circle Act busking permits cost $30 for 12 months and $25 for interstate performers which are valid for three months. 

Premium busking permits are only permitted to professional buskers who have held a general permit for a minimum of 6 months. A professional busker is someone who busks as their main source of income, has enough repertoire to not repeat themselves for at least 30 minutes and has an online presence. Those that hold this permit can perform in Bourke Street Mall. 

Premium busking permits cost $70 for 12 months and $50 for three months if you are visiting. If you wish to sell merchandise associated with your act there is a $100 selling fee. 

You must apply for a new permit if you have never had a City of Melbourne busking permit or if your permit has expired beyond three months. Otherwise, you qualify for a renewal.  

  • Australian Capital Territory – Canberra 

The Australian Capital Territory does not require buskers to hold a permit. The key restrictions imposed on buskers are: buskers must not block the right of way of pedestrians in public spaces and buskers may need permission from property owners to busk on private land such as shopping malls. These inquiries should be directed to the property owner. 

  • Northern Territory  Darwin 

The City of Darwin defines busking as “performing music, dance, street theatre or art in a public space for the purpose of receiving contributions from members of the public”. You must obtain a permit to busk in the City of Darwin. Busking is only permitted between 9am to 10pm Sunday to Thursday and 9am to 12am Friday and Saturday. 

Busking is permitted in Darwin in all council owned public spaces and commercial areas with exceptions to some restricted spaces in the mall. Buskers are also not allowed in the immediate area of a war memorial including the Cenotaph in Bicentennial Park.  

Permits can be issued at the Civic Centre on Harry Chan Avenue during business hours. You must complete an application form accompanied by proof of identity and pay an application fee. A one week permit costs $5, a four month permit costs $20 and a one year permit costs $30. 

  • Tasmania – Hobart 

The City of Hobart provides busking locations at Elizabeth Mall, Wellington Court, Franklin Square and Salamanca Market (on market days). You must obtain a busking permit

Permits are free and available online or by filling in an application form. You will be allocated a position by an officer in the Elizabeth Mall on the day. Busking is permitted from 11am to 3pm Monday to Saturday. More information regarding busking in the areas outside Salamanca can be found here

In these designated areas, buskers are subject to restrictions such as: buskers may entertain the public and accept, but cannot ask for, donations for their performance. Buskers cannot obstruct the passage of pedestrians or vehicles, create nuisance or unreasonable noise, display advertising and cannot combine to do a joint performance unless otherwise expressly approved. 

Busking at Salamanca Market is subject to separate conditions. You may only busk in this public space on market days (Saturdays). Buskers should visit the information booth at the market at 8am for area designation. 

  • Western Australia – Perth 

Under the City of Perth’s Street Entertainment Policy CP18.9, a busker “is considered to be an entertainer who is actively providing a performance in a public space in exchange for voluntary donation”. Under Perth’s Public Trading Local Law (2005), you require a busking permit to perform in a public space. 

In order to obtain a busking permit you must submit an application form online or at Council House. You are required to provide a link to a video of your performance or if you are a visual artist you are required to provide up to 6 photographs of your work. 

There are four types of permits available: a Button permit, Gill permit, Blade permit or a Visual Artist permit. 

A Button permit is provided to performances or acts that are low impact and don’t require a large amount of space and only engage with pedestrians for a short period of time. Gill permits are similar to Button permits but are subject to a greater review for safety purposes. 

Blade permits are given to circle or large group acts which attract larger crowds, emit a higher level of sound and leave a higher impact. 

Visual Artist permits generally take up one square meter and involve an actively created work. The artist is permitted to sell the work they have created whilst busking if they have also have a sale of media permit. 

More information on the requirements of each permit can be found here

Busking permits for three months cost $25 and permits for 12 months cost $60. The fee for selling merchandise alongside busking is $20 for three months and $45 for 12 months. If you require a replacement permit due to a lost or damaged permit the fee is $12. 

  • South Australia  Adelaide 

The City of Adelaide defines busking as “a person (or group of people) performing in public in exchange for donations”. This council is the only Council that imposes restrictions on the number of members in a busking group. The maximum number of buskers permitted in a group is 6. 

You are able to apply for a permit online or at a designated customer service centre. 

Busking is permitted in areas outside Rundle Mall as long as the footpath is a minimum width of five metres. Certain areas are restricted such as outside prominent buildings like Town Hall or Parliament House. The busking permit does not cover busking in Central Market or Adelaide Railway Station. 

It is important to know that busking permits are only given on a monthly basis but the renewal process is easily navigated online. More information regarding the application and restrictions of busking permits can be found here

  • Resources 

https://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/council/our-responsibilities/permits-and-notifications/busking

https://www.visitbrisbane.com.au/information/busking-in-brisbane?sc_lang=en-au

https://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/arts-and-culture/film-music-busking/street-entertainment-busking/busking-permits/Pages/busking-permits.aspx

https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/1819/~/busking-in-the-act

https://www.darwin.nt.gov.au/community/programs/arts-culture/busking-and-street-performance

https://www.hobartcity.com.au/Community/Events-and-activities/Busking

https://www.perth.wa.gov.au/forms-and-payments/arts-heritage-grants-and-sponsorship/Arts/busker-permit-application

https://www.cityofadelaide.com.au/business/permits-licences/busking/

Need more help?

If you have questions about any of the topics discussed above please contact Arts Law.

Disclaimer

The information in this information sheet is general. It does not constitute, and should be not relied on as, legal advice. The Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law) recommends seeking advice from a qualified lawyer on the legal issues affecting you before acting on any legal matter.

While Arts Law tries to ensure that the content of this information sheet is accurate, adequate or complete, it does not represent or warrant its accuracy, adequacy or completeness. Arts Law is not responsible for any loss suffered as a result of or in relation to the use of this information sheet. To the extent permitted by law, Arts Law excludes any liability, including any liability for negligence, for any loss, including indirect or consequential damages arising from or in relation to the use of this information sheet.

© Arts Law Centre of Australia

You may photocopy this information sheet for a non-profit purpose, provided you copy all of it, and you do not alter it in any way. Check you have the most recent version by contacting us on (02) 9356 2566 or tollfree outside Sydney on 1800 221 457.

The Arts Law Centre of Australia has been assisted by the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Australian Government - Australia Council for the Arts

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