On song … busker James Draper performs in Pitt Street Mall. Photo: Janie Barrett
If music be the food of love, play on - unless you are an irksome Sydney busker.
Summer is the peak busking season as performers flock to street corners, shopping strips and train stations to take advantage of the holiday crowds.
But not all Sydneysiders are enamoured of the city's street performers. They have lodged more than 800 complaints over the past two years because of acts that play too loudly or repeat their songs ad nauseam.
Bad crowd management, busking outside hours and offensive behaviour all triggered complaints.
One tourist complained of feeling harassed by a busker who was heckling the audience for money.
The City of Sydney's interim busking policy is to be voted on in the new year. It states that buskers contribute to the colour and life of the city by providing ''entertainment and thought-provoking experiences'', but notes the needs of pedestrians and businesses.
The council knocked back a permit for a juggling clown act on safety grounds, after a review panel found he ''didn't have enough control over the batons … to perform in public, especially around children''.
It has revoked one busking permit over the past two years, prompted by a noise complaint, but the permit was later reinstated.
The lord mayor, Clover Moore, said Sydney's streets ''wouldn't be the same without buskers playing songs, dancing or performing'', but conceded they often provoked a varied response. ''We often see audiences being enthralled by buskers, while other people hurry by having neutral or even hostile reactions … what appeals to some people will be alienating for others,'' Ms Moore said.
Under the interim policy, buskers may receive ''a monetary appreciation'' from their audience, but cannot solicit funds in a way that would make people feel uncomfortable.
They must not unreasonably impede pedestrian flow or use excessive amplifiers.
Leichhardt Council is preparing a busking policy, and will start a trial in March.
A spokeswoman for the City of Sydney said most complaints came from people who lived or worked near popular busking locations.
She said the council could measure noise levels to determine the validity of complaints.
Pitt Street Mall performer James Draper, 18, of Kariong, suspects that a small number of shopkeepers who ''just don't like buskers'' are responsible for the bulk of complaints.
On the whole, busking prompted a ''positive reaction'' and ''adds to the whole culture'', he said.
Amy Estall, who works in the mall, said buskers brought ''a lot of atmosphere'' to the area.
''Sometimes it can be a bit too loud, we have lost a couple of customers due to the buskers, but as soon as you speak to them, they turn it down straight away,'' she said.