Ky. Voices: Let's bring music, and fans, to downtown streets

June 12, 2013 

Lexington is full of musicians. It just isn't as evident as it could be. That can change right now, and in a fun way that is actually sanctioned by city ordinance.

We do have some valued venues that offer stage performance opportunities to local artists on a regular basis. It's a tough, "white knuckle" business, financially, and the contributions of those proprietors in supporting a local music scene are tremendously appreciated.

Those businesses should be encouraged by local government in the interest of drawing out the authentic vibe and texture that distinguish a city and make it an interesting and attractive place to be.

But what if we were to bring live, acoustic music outdoors, into the atmosphere and ambience of downtown?

Well, we can. The only thing standing in the way of routinely experiencing live music in our daily lives is effort.

Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government regulations warmly welcome live music to our streets. You might have experienced this recently during the Lexington Area Music Alliance Best of Bluegrass week, which featured live bluegrass music in strategic locations around downtown.

City ordinance defines a "street entertainer" as a "person who, on a public sidewalk, public square or other outdoor public property, performs in order to provide amusement and includes, without limiting the generality of this definition, a street musician."

A street musician or "busker" is welcome to perform on the public sidewalks, public squares and other outdoor public property in a defined area of downtown between the hours of 10 a.m. and 11 p.m.

The boundaries are "the south right of way line of High Street, the west right of way line of Jefferson Street, the north right of way line of Third Street, the east right of way line of Midland Avenue, the east right of way line of East Vine Street between Main Street and Rose Street, and the east right of way line of Rose Street between East Vine Street and East High Street," according to Sec. 17-29.7.

Now, we're talking strictly acoustic music here. No "amplification, recorded or broadcast music or any other means of increasing the volume" of a performance is permitted.

The law allows an artist to accept tips (strongly encouraged) and the busker "may offer for sale recordings of his own work, in the form of records, cassettes, videotapes or compact discs, provided that his display of recordings may not obstruct pedestrian traffic and that the display must be removed as soon as his performance ends." (Hers, too.)

Other obligations of the performer include ensuring that the sidewalk is not entirely blocked by listeners. If a nearby business owner is disturbed and objects, the artist must relocate. And his or her performance may not interfere with that of another.

The Lexington Area Music Alliance is encouraging its member musicians to consider "taking it to the streets" during these warm summer months. We hope you'll stop and listen.

And a contribution in appreciation certainly would be fine.

Tom Martin is president of the Lexington Area Music Alliance (lamalex.org).

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