Houston musicians can now legally busk in the streets

Some musicians love sharing their music with those walking the street and buskin was a way for them to do what they loved while also making some extra money.

What is busking? Busking is when an artist could perform in the streets and receive tips from people walking by watching and enjoying their work. However, previous Houston laws banned busking, so many artists were unable to make some extra money.

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One Houston accordion player, Tony Barilla, was disappointed to learn about the law but was happy at least the city made an exception for the Theater District. That excitement didn't last long as he reportedly had to obtain a permit to do so and permit approval is said to require written permission from property owners next to the site where performers intend to play.

According to Barilla, the process needed to change as busking is an old, valued tradition in cities around the world. He felt Houston was hindering musicians' free expression and discouraging entrepreneurship. 

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"[I]t’s going to take someone other than me to make this happen," he wrote to the Pacific Legal Foundation. "I’m certainly not self-confident enough to think I can change public policy… I’m no hero. I’m just an accordionist."

Four years later, Pacific Legal Foundation said with their help, Barilla was able to change Houston's busking policy on Tuesday.

Under the First Amendment, the government cannot restrict Tony’s freedom of expression by eliminating his financial incentive to perform Pacific Legal said. The government also couldn't restrict speech based on content meaning people can’t use the government to shut down speech on public property they simply don’t like.


Joshua Polk, one of the Pacific Legal Foundation's attorneys who worked on Barilla's case, said, "With this win, buskers are now able to pursue their passion for music, practice their craft, and earn tips free of Houston’s unconstitutional restrictions on protected expression."

To read more on Barilla's win against the City and busking becoming legal, click here.