What Happens When You Busk in LA

By Isabelle Cruz
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Lena Walker, Source: Guitar Treats

Some may call busking a humble beginning for those trying to make it big in the entertainment industries. Others may do it for a living or to bring communities together through art.

The realities these performers face isn’t parallel to the kinds painted in the movies. We can all picture that scene: someone just setting up their amps and starting to play in the subway, then making it big by going viral… followed by running from the police once he or she gets caught. In truth, the rights of these artists have been challenged over numerous cases claiming that control over their desire to busk imposed on their freedom of speech and their right to express their talents to the community. In the end, the artists have won these cases and continued to thrive in their respective communities within a code of conduct.

The general rules for any busker (mostly for Los Angeles) are: No amplifications, don’t harass or solicit pedestrians, and stay on the sidewalk.

Some locations require a permit like Santa Monica, Universal CityWalk Hollywood, and certain Farmers Markets. But, places like Venice Beach, Huntington Beach, LA Metro, and Hollywood Boulevard, don’t require any permit.

The experience of watching a busker or street performer can draw many tourists, but that attention doesn’t seem take away from the personal connections the artists crave to make with their listeners.

Katie Ferrara by Abe Velarde

LA-based singer, song-writer, Katie Ferrara turned to busking for a number of reasons, one of them being her inability to make money or connections with fans in Hollywood clubs. The clubs had consistently failed to promote LA artists. Since coming to that stark realization, she has focused on making more personal connections with her fans by collecting emails, performing at events for people who happened to walk by and enjoy her music, and traveling all around Southern California and to other parts of the world in various tours.

There is a lot of value in street performers in getting people to really appreciate the communities they live in.” said Ferrara.

Ferrara advises people who busk to create their own community through music and to find a place in the city that could benefit from live music.

If you want to try busking, aside from the rules and regulations, the only guideline that seems to resonate is to just have fun. You might find that in a world of online platforms and record deals, it is your preferred way to connect with an audience. If you’re looking to just watch and enjoy, explore the various locations still brimming with this form of street art. You’d be surprised with the talent in your local area, and you might just feel this gentrified city feel smaller and a little more down to earth.

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