Madrid to license street musicians but bans performing at siesta time

Aspiring performers will have to pass auditions, but successful candidates will still be barred from playing on the loudest streets

A protest by street musicians in Madrid's Retiro park, in April 2011.
A protest by street musicians in Madrid's Retiro park, in April 2011.CLAUDIO ÁLVAREZ

Starting in December, Madrid will oversee the activities of street musicians performing in the downtown area to ensure quality and prevent excess noise.

Aspiring performers will have to pass auditions, and successful candidates will still be barred from playing on the loudest streets; not only that, no music will be allowed during siesta time between 3pm and 5pm, EL PAÍS has learned.

The central district authority published the conditions for obtaining the license last week. Applicants will have a month to produce a basic resume stating the instruments they play and their past experience. "It's not like a conservatory degree will be necessary," notes local councilor David Erguido. But some minimum skills will nevertheless be necessary.

The audition will presumably take place in late November at the Conde Duque cultural center, and the jury will be made up of two municipal workers with some musical education, and one other worker in charge of the paperwork. Successful musicians should have their permits by Christmas.

Erguido defends this system as a way to separate music from just another form of panhandling. "It's not about prohibiting anything," he insists, but about respecting residents' right to peace and quiet in an area of maximum acoustic protection. In fact, even with this permit, musicians will not be allowed to perform on the loudest streets in the city center, chiefly those around Huertas, Cava Alta, Cava Baja, Plaza de San Andrés, La Latina, Chueca, Malasaña, Plaza del Dos de Mayo, Fuencarral and Gran Vía.

Elsewhere, the free one-year license lets holders play their music between 10am and 10pm, extendable to 11pm during the summer months, with a break for siesta between 3pm and 5pm. This schedule was arrived at after consulting with neighborhood associations and with the Madrid Musicians Association.

There are more conditions. Musicians will have to change location every two hours, keep a minimum distance of 75 meters between one another, and avoid narrow streets under seven meters in width, Abc newspaper reports.

Erguido says there will be no limit on the number of licenses issued because "there are lots of musicians who only go out to play occasionally to see how their compositions go down."

Two other restrictions also apply: no percussion or amplifiers will be allowed, either.

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