Canadian Underwriter

Why insurance has street performers singing the blues

October 19, 2022   by Phil

Guitarist playing on a tall building

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Rising costs for busker’s insurance has street performers singing the blues.

To hear them tell it, sky high insurance rates cut so far into their profits that it often makes more sense to just stay home. And, depending on the busker’s talent level, that might be music to the ears of local retailers and shoppers.

“The amount of insurance that has to be purchased nowadays is a lot more than it used to [be, and] usually the areas that buskers entertain in are licenced by the city,” said Gary Hirst, president and CEO of Ches Special Risk. “And the city requires higher and higher liability limits nowadays. This impacts premiums, as the high limits do need the right sort of premium to be paid.”

What’s more, said Hirst, the period of a policy also impacts the price: minimum premiums are charged for shorter periods, and many buskers don’t go out to entertain every day.

Coverage requirements usually stem from a city or town’s concern about pedestrians tripping over things like instrument cases or microphone cables, or possible misuse of or damage to a public facility. The insurance requirement, two other sources said, is to make sure liability coverage is in place to compensate for any damage.

Sometimes, although not always, municipalities will require buskers or those doing similar activities to obtain their own insurance coverage, sources say. And the policies can be structurally similar to those purchased by clubs or other groups of users that rent private or public facilities like gyms, community centres or outdoor areas like fairgrounds.

Hirst notes other factors behind the coverage requirements include incidents like assault, robbery, damage to instruments, tripping up of members of the public, or a busker’s dog biting a passerby. Plus, libel and slander risk might arise from a song that someone finds offensive.

“Add to that, the amount of foot traffic in the areas where buskers entertain has reduced, and so has their revenue as a consequence,” says Hirst. The emerging cashless society means fewer people have coins to drop in a busker’s hat.

“All in all, the poor busker is under threat – higher prices, lower income, it’s a tough one,” he says. “And trying to make a book of business for this class is tough as the number of policies being purchased is less and less.”


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