A street musician with his guitar performed in one of the Clarke Quay tunnels. (Image from Thanapoom Boy / Shutterstock.com)

Busker Jonathan Goh voices frustration over how regulations are being used to to cause issues for unproblematic buskers

A busker, Jonathan Goh, took to Facebook on Thursday (3 October) to talk about how the regulations that are meant to make busking in Singapore less problematic is now being used to cause problems for buskers themselves.

Mr Goh said that he had just received a call from the National Arts Council giving him a second strike within two weeks of the first strike on his busking card. Apparently, someone had complained about Mr Goh busking off his designated spot.

Mr Goh recounted the tale:

Story goes, I was busking in Orchard, but my location was Wisma Atria but because there were already 3 buskers there, I had to move down to Takashimaya, which most of us busker has done for the last few years.

Apparently someone sent an email with my picture to NAC, and with very specific term such as ‘busking at undesignated area that is not under his endorsement’.

Mr Goh said he had been busking at Orchard Road for the past five years with no complaints and only being checked by the police about once or twice a month when the officers were on patrol. But in recent times, busking has become more popular in Singapore, noted Mr Goh, so the police have been checking his endorsement more frequently.

He said, “But now, every time I’m busking, the police would appear at least once to check on my endorsement because they received a 999 call.”

Mr Goh added that other buskers have experienced the same thing.

The busker went on to say that he has heard talk that the calls to the police are being made by another busker who is eyeing the occupied designated busking spot for themselves.

Mr Goh voiced his frustration and disappointment at the lack of options in dealing with such a situation.

He said, “It’s quite disappointing to know that there are people who does this and I am really frustrated at how there are no other options to mediate this situation when I talk to the police, NAC or the company handling this because no one actually expect that a situation like this could arise. Even when I raise it up, most of them are like saying that we have to follow the SOP.”

Mr Goh lamented that the SOP is useful in punishing errant buskers but right now, the system is only causing issues for unproblematic buskers.

He said he has raised the issue with the Buskers Association, hoping that they can come up with some recommendations to deal with this problem.

Busking in Singapore is regulated by the National Arts Council, which provides letters of endorsements or busking cards for buskers under the Busking Scheme which allows them to busk in about 112 designated locations around the island.

Buskers in Singapore have to attend an audition before qualifying for a busking card which is valid for a certain period.