Live auditions for buskers help ensure fair evaluations & improve performance quality: Edwin Tong

One busker took to social media to share why he thought the physical audition process is outdated.

Hannah Martens | May 09, 2023, 11:27 PM

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Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong shared on May 9, 2023, that the National Arts Council (NAC) will review the license renewal process for buskers in Singapore.

However, he also extolled the virtues of the live audition format for busking performances.

Tong responded to a parliamentary question from Nee Soon GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng of the PAP, who asked if a simplified busking audition could be implemented for those renewing their busking license compared to new applications.

Buskers' plight

A Facebook post by professional circus artist Jonathan Goh on April 2023 shed light on buskers' troubles when renewing their busking license in Singapore.

Goh, a Singaporean based in London, shared that he had to spend S$2,000 on flight tickets to fly back to Singapore, as he was required to go through an audition in person.

He pointed out that he had been busking since 2014 but was still required to go through the audition — where he had to audition for five minutes before a panel of judges.

Goh also claimed that he had never seen any of the judges on the streets, and questioned how much they knew about busking to "determine someone's street-worthiness at a totally different environment in such a short time".

Goh said the permit was valid for two years, but NAC changed it to a one-year validity in 2022.

He felt that the audition process was outdated.

"I understand the need for new buskers to audition physically to prove that they have an act that can work. However, for experienced buskers like myself, who have been performing in the street for years and are known, why are we required to renew our permit every year and go through the audition process?"

NAC says live audition ensures "robust evaluation"

Tong stated in a written parliamentary reply that the NAC Busking Scheme aims to "enliven [Singapore's] city life and energise urban spaces".

He shared that NAC seeks to provide a fair and level playing field for applications through live auditions to enter and remain on the busking scheme.

The live audition format ensures a "robust evaluation" of a busker's in-person performance, which considers buskers' "responsiveness to situations and ability to engage audiences in real-time".

Tong explained that the evaluations have helped ensure the quality of busking performances in our public spaces.

He pointed out that buskers also can select from four auditions held in a year based on their schedules.

Possibility of online auditions

Tong said that NAC regularly reviews the busking scheme and seeks feedback from the community.

"NAC is currently studying the feasibility of simplifying the renewal process for buskers with good track records," said Tong.

He cited examples like online auditions or submitting video recordings that will ensure the quality of busking acts and the fairness of the audition process are not compromised.

However, NAC will continue to conduct live auditions for new buskers and keep it available for those who are less digitally savvy.

"NAC will engage and consult stakeholders from the larger busking community on the feasibility of the new ideas and gather their views on the design and implementation," said Tong.

Top photo via Edwin Tong/Facebook and Unsplash