To busk or not to busk That is the question for WRA members By Chris Woodall A survey on the quality of Whistler street entertainment is asking opinions about allowing busking, a form of freelance streetside musicianship. For the first time, a three-page survey asks Whistler Resort Association members for input concerning all aspects of the WRA's festivals and events, from daily street entertainment to weekend festivals and mountain-top events. Members are also being polled for their views on busking. It is currently not allowed in Whistler. "If there's support for busking, it would free up our budget for other things," says Arlene Schieven, WRA research manager. Busking is not panhandling, says Stephen Vogler, a long-time Whistlerite and career musician with the Hounds of Buskerville band. "Busking tends to get a bad rap." He and his brother Peter have been in the music biz a long time, including making a living at busking. "It's a time-honoured musical tradition," Stephen Vogler says. "People bringing music to the streets has been done for centuries." Busking is the ultimate free enterprise endeavour. Play well, and passers-by will drop money in your hat. Play badly and you don't eat. "The main thing is the music's spontaneity," Vogler says. "If the audience enjoys your playing, they'll pay you for the show." The WRA asks if a pre-screening process should be in place to weed out the, well, "less accomplished" or just plain nuisance buskers. When a municipality controls it, buskers are assigned designated spots and can only play during certain times of day or night. That's a good idea, Vogler says. "It can be a bit crazy if it's a free-for-all." Although the survey doesn't directly ask this, Vogler says a mix between allowing buskers and having more formally organized special events weekends would be a good idea. The WRA survey was meant to be simple, with space for input from members who might suggest the same thing, Schieven says. Some 300 surveys have gone out. Although the deadline was last Thursday (Jan. 15), the WRA has extended the deadline to encourage as many responses as possible. "We want to see what direction our members want to go," Schieven says. Previous surveys were aimed at tourists’ opinions. "We'd like to get a sense of how the programs work for our members, or maybe if we should offer them at different times," Schieven says. If word gets out that Whistler is open to busking, it could attract a better level of musician — or performing artist, busking isn't restricted to musicianship — who make their living travelling Canada and the world by busking, Vogler says. There's decent money to be made at it. "Six years ago we used to go to Robson Street (in Vancouver) and earn $50 in a couple of hours between the three of us," Vogler says. He and his brother were also "bandit buskers" in Whistler a couple years ago, earning about $30 an hour playing on the Valley Trail until bylaw officers told them to beat it. Many musicians with big-time recording contracts started out as street-corner buskers: including Moxy Früvous, Mae Moore, Joni Mitchell, Shuffle Demons and the Hard Rock Miners, among others. "It's a good way to hone your skills," Vogler says.


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