Moscow Street Performers Hit With Strict Rules: 'Musicians Are Being Harassed'

Boris Grebenshchikov and Brian Finnegan
Gennadiy Avramenko/Epsilon/Getty Images

Boris Grebenshchikov and Brian Finnegan perform live in an underpass between subway stations during a shooting for independent television channel TV Rain (Dozhd) on Dec. 12, 2015 in Moscow, Russia. 

Moscow city authorities are introducing control over street music performances -- a segment that is believed to be worth millions of dollars a year but haven't been subject to any regulations so far.

Recently, Moscow street musicians have been banned from their traditional spots on Old Arbat street but the city government said they will be given legitimate spots on the subway system.

According to city authorities, 15 spots on Moscow's subway system will be designated for musicians who will be able to apply for free licenses. Donations made to musicians by passers-by and subway passengers won't be subject to any taxation.

However, to be able to legitimately play on the subway system, musicians will have to go through a selection process. Only 200 musicians and bands will be selected by a jury comprised by members of the local bands Chelsea and Gorky Park and graduates of the TV talent show Voice of Russia.

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To be eligible, musicians will have to present a two-hour program of original material, and although no official guidelines regarding genre or style have been announced, some reports said that heavy metal and electronic music won't be welcome.

"The 15 spots on the subway is too little," Tay Tsurkava, a spokesman for the street culture workers organization, told Billboard. "Meanwhile, musicians are being harassed on the streets."

There has never been a law regulating street music performance at a national or local level in Russia, but technically all performances on the street or the public transport system are illegal as they could be qualified as an "unlawful gathering" or "unregistered business."

Meanwhile, dozens of musicians daily perform on the street in Moscow alone, for some of which this is the main way to make a living. Police are believed to generally turn a blind eye in exchange of a cut in musicians' earnings, but lately, some of the musicians on Old Arbat have been picked up and fined.

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Moscow authorities say they want to improve the subway system's image by having musicians perform there, much like in other major world cities.

In London, busking on public land is legal in most places, however in the busy financial district performers are not allowed to collect money, according to Also, free permits are issued for performing in London Underground stations.

In New York, street musicians do not need a permit unless their act includes a loud speaker, megaphone or stereo. A permit is also required to perform in or near a city park.


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