Great news! I have recently been appointed to the joint committee of street performers (otherwise known as “Des Amuseurs Publics” here) in Montreal. At a recent city council meeting, the artists themselves select 2 appointees for circle show performers, and 3 for musicians. Let’s be clear, all I had to do was show up to the council meeting and volunteer for the position, but, still, YAY. I am now officially a street rat advocate!
Our job is to communicate with the city counsel when people need to resolve busking community issues. It’s been very difficult for me to understand this system & it’s recently changed again, so I am happy to be helpful for anyone coming into the city to try to explain the way things work. This city’s bureaucratic system is definitely broken in every way, and the busker permit is no different!
Here’s what you need to know:
To be a busker in Montreal, you need to obtain a permit from La Ville Marie on the 17th floor at 800 rue Maisonneuve est. They have recently gotten rid of the audition system, so you can now apply all year long. The license itself costs $160 to renew, and an extra $50 just to open a file if you are new. This is definitely the most expensive busking license in Canada!
To obtain a permit, you must prove to the administration that you are worthy of being a street performer. You can do this by a) be a card carrying member of a professional association b) show that you have a education in the arts c) have another busker who already works on the pitch vouch for you. That’s what I am now at liberty to do so, feel free to contact me if you need someone to vouch for you!
The permit allows you to perform most of the city, with exceptions. Street Performers don’t have the right to perform in the Quartier des Spectacles during the summer (May 15 – September 30), or at any of the street festivals that are happening in all the little neighbourhoods. You must contact the individual business associations (Société de Développement) or event organizers and they will either tell you that you can perform without a permit, or that they will give you a pass & performance times to perform in their festival.
In the old Montreal, and specifically, Place Jacques Cartier & rue St. Paul, is where you will find the circle show and magic buskers. For this area there is an online draw that you have to register for with your permit at MapVilleMarie. The draw for the weekend takes place on Wednesday, and the draw for the weekdays takes place on Sunday. For us circus performers, there are 4 possible places to work in this little tourist area – 2 small pitches for magicians, statues or musicians (without amplification), and 2 large pitches, with amplification for big circle shows. There are also 3 spots for musicians and balloon twisters, but we’re focused on the performers for now!
This is where it gets extra tricky! The circle show buskers who work the one large circle pitch in the middle of the square don’t follow these rules! They have separated from the city pitch by fighting for their rights, and they do a basic draw at 12:30 in a park next to the pitch called Place de la Dauversière. After that draw, you are free to show up to queue for a spot.
There you have it folks! All the information you need to start performing in Montreal as a “amuseur des publics!”. If you are a musician, there are different rules but you can find other blogs about that.
I hope this is helpful!
Wow Dawn, thanks for this. I’ll tag you in a post I made about some difficulties Buskers are experiencing in England.
Good for you Dawn, making it happen!
This is really helpful. The map isn’t clear where buskers can and cannot go. Do we have to remain by the music symbol in the subway stations? Can we randomly pick a spot in a park or on the sidewalk outside of festivals and old Montreal?
Outside of the old port & subway, you are free to choose wherever you want – as long as you aren’t in another festival. You need permission to busk in a festival that’s already there.
I’m thinking about coming there to perform in 2 weeks.
can you tell me if this allows to to play in the METROS AS WELL??
I am a 65-year-old public school teacher soon to be retired and I am also a tap dancer with three years experience. I would like to dance in the Metro as a busker mainly as a means to have a place to practice without disturbing my neighbors. I am just getting to the point where I feel I might have something that people would find entertaining. I would appreciate any advice you might have to offer for someone who is just getting started. Here is a short video of me shuffling my feet for a bit with a friend who was my teacher. We had been dancing for forty-five minutes and he just wanted to video a few seconds at the end. I am on the left.
Hello! Sorry I hadn’t responded sooner. What type of advice are you looking for?
I am interested in busking in Montreal. I am a 65-year-old tap dancer and I plan to start sometime in the next two years after I retire. Any advice you could offer would be appreciated. I am including a short video of myself dancing a year ago with one of my teachers. I take three to six classes per week as well as practice time and I have improved a lot since the video was made.
Do you know if foreigners can obtain that license?
Hello. Nice to meet you. I’m Hwang Byung Hee, a Korean. I have a question. I heard that the busking permitt audition in Montreal, Canada is once a year. April 15th? May 15th? If you know, is there an exact time?
do foreign need a work permit for buskin?
Hi, are there age restrictions to receive the permit? My friends and I are members of a c=competitive breakdancing crew, our ages range from 13-16 and we’re interested in busking throughout most of the year. Would it be possible for us to get a permit?
Hi, are there age restrictions that need to be met to receive a permit? My friends and I are members of a competitive breakdancing crew and are interested in busking, our ages range from 13-16 years old. Would it be possible for us to get a permit?
can you please tell me if this allows to to play in the METROS AS WELL??
Hi Dawn. I’m in the process of plotting my course across Canada for 2020. My plan is to perform in as many busker friendly cities as possible and Montreal is on my list. Can you tell me if I need a permit, how much it costs and how do I get one? Thanks!
Well, shoot! I see how much it cost. I was planning on being in Montreal for only one or two days. $160 + $50 Is waaaaay to much to pay for a two day visit to the city.
Duncan, at this point I’m doubting you’re still considering traveling this summer. But for the future, if you’re just in town a couple days you can go busking downtown or the Plateau (not the Old Port) without a permit: Just be respectful as possible, don’t use a loud amplifier, and if the police ask to see a permit, be friendly with them, apologize and let them know that you’re just traveling through and if they can offer you advice. They most likely won’t issue you a fine (and as you can see, a permit would cost the same or more).
You can also busk in the metro stations without a hassle as it doesn’t require a permit! There are some nice stations downtown to play indoors for tourists (at least there were before the apocalypse).
All the best. 🙂
Hi, I just want to perform on quiet streets in my Montreal Plateau neighbourhood near cafés or grocery stores purely for entertaining passers by, with permission of local shop owners. I do not want to receive any handouts and am not trying to draw a crowd. I will refuse any handouts. Do I need a license? Thanks for the info!
Do you know what the rules are to obtain a busking permit, as a musician, in 2021? Thank you.