WATCH: Dublin buskers - meet the street musicians on Grafton Street
The sounds of guitars, voices, and other musical instruments have long been part of the landscape of Dublin’s streets, particularly along tourist-heavy Grafton Street.
Street performers usually place hats or open instrument cases in front of them, inviting people to donate money. Some musicians busk full time, while others hold side jobs. Some are native Dubliners, while others hail from countries as far as Australia or Brazil.
In recent months, buskers have had to contend with new legislation that have limited their freedom. According to Dublin City Council, buskers are prohibited from performing “anywhere in the vicinity of the GPO on O’Connell Street, Henry Street or Prince’s Street” and “on East Essex Street or Temple Bar Street from the junction at Eustace Street to the junction at Fownes Street/Fownes Street Lower.”
Additionally, councillors approved bylaws in February 2015 requiring musicians to obtain busking permits. Street Performance Permits cost €30 per year and use of amplification requires an additional €60 permit.
Australian folk rock musician Sam Brittain also pointed out that “artists can only have two hours, so it means that if you’re lining up for a spot you’re only ever going to be two hours away from playing, which gives more people a chance to play.”
However, Brittain pointed out that restrictions to the decibel levels on the streets have left musicians in a bind. “The new noise restrictions are quite hard,“ he said, “especially with a street that’s so loud to begin with, so to try and get a sound that’s on the street that’s professional . . . but still keep below the levels that they’ve kind of stipulated with the laws . . . is a challenge at the moment.”
Despite the new legislation, buskers still take to the streets, citing engagement with fans and opportunities to meet new people as benefits of the job.
“You just kind of get to meet really cool people,” said Dublin musician Laura Carroll, “and it’s an enjoyable way to make money.”
The amount of money buskers earn per day can vary, so some performers also rely on CD sales or weekend gigs at pubs and bars.
Busking in Dublin is a long-standing tradition that won’t go away soon. “I’d like to do it for as long as possible,” said Brittain. “The day that I’m not able to go out busking anymore and lose that routine . . . it’d be bittersweet.”