Only 150 buskers signed up for the 50th Tamworth Historic Country Music Festival, despite being offered the carrot of paid concerts for this year’s top performers as part of a brand new program.
Tamworth Country Music Festival director Barry Harley said they expected between 50 and 100 more registrations as the event nears, but that’s still just the average.
“The number of early bookings for busking is similar to previous years,” he said.
“When there is positive news at a border, there is an increase in the number. When there is negative news, there is a slight decrease. Overall, it probably looks similar to the last few years.
“I think the reality we have to apply this year is that yes it’s a big festival and under normal circumstances it stands to reason that there would probably be more numbers. But given COVID and border issues, I think if we can maintain the status quo, we’re probably doing extremely well. ”
The average turnout is in stark contrast to other indicators that the historic event will be one of the biggest community events since the start of the pandemic.
The motels report that every bed in Tamworth is reserved for the entire festival, suggesting that the number of attendees will be high.
But the population of buskers is not ready to approach the good old days, when no less than 300 singers lined up for a chance to stand out.
Many A-List festival goers will be traveling to see their careers begin as simple street musicians on Peel Street, including international superstar Keith Urban, festival favorite Troy Cassar-Daly and Adam Harvey.
Mr Harley said festival organizers have developed a new incentive for buskers, part of the regular buskers battle on Sunday, January 23.
“We’re probably going to improve the competitive side a bit more,” he said.
“The judgment of the top ten is done during the week, then on Sunday 23, there is a battle of street musicians in the park, but because it’s just at the end of the last day and the evening, that tends to go a bit unnoticed, ”he said.
“But there are several thousand dollars in prize money being offered. This year we have added a few paid concerts for the following year.
“The top three winners will actually get guaranteed paid concerts for the following year. It promotes them from their busting character to that of an emerging artist, so the stepping stones happen.”
About half of the busting population are from NSW and half are newcomers to an average festival, Mr Harley said.