Street musicians asking for a little respect

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the music portion of South By Southwest kicks off, there is a campaign afoot to show Austin street musicians more respect.

What they do is called ‘busking’, and it is a time honored, universal tradition. Thirty-six cities in America feature busking. Thirteen European countries do too, and even in Russia.

But some who busk in Austin say they get harassed by police, treated as loiterers or panhandlers.

“We need to set the tone in Austin,” said Jennifer Houlihan, executive director of Austin Music People. “To say busking is welcome, something we want to see, to support our artists.”

The Diamond Kings street group comes to Austin from Dallas most weekends because they are tired of the big hassle they get in Big D. They can make as much as $1,000 on one visit to the capital city, and they say they feel welcome.

“It’s a lot easier here, they are more lenient,” said Marquise Jones. “Some cops even give us tips, saying we’re doing a great job here.”

They follow the busking guidebook, which recommends they pick a good street corner, don’t dress like beggars and seed their own tip jar to get things rolling.

“Absolutely, it builds momentum,” Marquise said of tip jar. “Makes other folks feel like they can give.”

The folks who stop to listen to buskers like the Diamond Kings agree they deserve respect.

“I think it’s the best part of the festival,” said Cindy Ehnes. “The opportunity to hear musicians trying to make it, who bring themselves to it.”

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