ORGANISERS have unveiled controversial new changes to the busking rules for the Tamworth Country Music Festival – including sweeping social media exposure before they hit the festival but strong new entry-level standards to lift the quality of musicians along Peel St.
The traditional open-door policy of anyone, anywhere, has been given the big boot and the Boulevard of Dreams will now see buskers have to pass musical tests to pull a pole position in Peel St.
The new guidelines for busking for the Tamworth Country Music Festival 2013 were announced yesterday.
Launching the new Australian Country Music Busking Championships (ACMBC) and its own website yesterday at the Capitol Theatre, busking co-ordinator and three-times Golden Guitar winner Deniese Morrison said this year’s primary focus was talent identification and development.
“I just know there’s going to be another Beccy Cole, Keith Urban or Kasey Chambers out there in 2013,” Ms Morrison said.
In 2013, buskers will need to register via the new, user-friendly website and can upload YouTube clips, photos and short biographies to whet the public’s interest.
For the first time, buskers will be on show to the public before they hit Tamworth streets and be able to garner votes prior to appearing at the 2013 festival.
“Fans can vote before the festival even begins via the website. A top 10 ranking will appear for those with the highest votes,” she said.
Those determined to be the pick of the crop by a panel of judges will be invited to take a spot in Peel St, while the other two busking zone areas would be Kable Ave and Bicentennial Park.
Ms Morrison said issues commonly brought up at the end of festival by retailers and fans was that of overcrowding, excessive volume levels and performers being “drowned out” by louder genres of music.
“This year, buskers will be strategically spaced out in the three blocks from Bourke to White streets, so everyone has the chance to be heard,” she said.
There would also be a higher emphasis on working with buskers to schedule performances on a roster basis, enabling everyone to be “seen in their best light”.
But whatever your age, talent level or genre, “everyone is welcome,” she said.
Recognising the importance of busking to the festival would also be a priority this year with the concert promoted as a feature event in Bicentennial Park on Australia Day.
Ms Morrison said consultation with retailers and festival stakeholders had been made in the lead-up to the launch and they were “over the moon about the changes”.
Tamworth businessman Peter Harkins agreed, saying that Tamworth Regional Council was doing a great job of listening to retailers and fans.
Saying he’d witnessed arguments and fights among buskers situated near his Peel St business, Cheapa Music, he agreed something needed to be done.
“I’m overwhelmingly positive about the changes which I hope will solve the noise issues,” he said.
Tamworth musician Lawrie Minson said although he enjoyed the “happy chaos” of Peel St in the middle of festival time, he said he welcomed new ideas.
“The festival is a constant work-in-progress. It’s always good to look at ways of making the festival better for everyone,” he said.
Lawrie said he did believe some performers would be unhappy about the changes and would view the changes negatively.
“Busking has always been a contentious issue, but I think it would be a shame to regulate it heavily,” he said.
“As long as there is appropriate debate after the festival with the capacity for input and dialogue from all concerned, the changes will be viewed positively.”
Fair call, says former Tamworth musician Matty Zarb, who won the competition in 2010, saying he believed the changes would cut out turf wars existing among some
“There’s a tradition that says people go back again and again to the same spots. You have to make room for the young blood to come out and shine. It’s about cultivating and farming our next generation of talent,” he said. Mentioning up-and-coming young stars Minnie Marks, Telarah Connors and Chloe Knott, he said he’d watched them all start out amid the cacophony of Peel St.
“Look at the Perch Creek Family Jug Band; they have a huge following. They’re not obtrusive or loud. They performed late at night and attracted huge crowds,” Matty said.
“Loud doesn’t get the crowd. Talent gets the crowd. If the competition is governed properly, the changes will be successful. It needed a shake-up.
“I’ve played every stage in town, but the most fun I’ve ever had was picking on Peel St during the festival.”
The busking competition, which regularly attracts 500-600 entrants, is widely recognised as the launch pad for future Australian country music stars.
Troy Cassar-Daley, Keith Urban and Beccy Cole began their careers as buskers on the streets of Tamworth in earlier years.
Ms Morrison said she was excited about the changes and believed they would open the doors to future talent.
Tamworth singer and 2003 busking championship finalist Ryan Sampson, who played at the launch yesterday, said he got his first taste of musical stardom when he was a six-year-old on Peel St.
Strumming a guitar with his brother singing Nobody’s Child in front of the old Chandler’s store, Ryan said the pair had the “cuteness” factor and made piles of money from appreciative festival crowds.
“I remember I was so nervous and shy but I was madly in love with country music.”
The Northern Daily Leader was the instigator of the Australian Country Music Busking Championships and remains a sponsor, providing the prizemoney.