Thursday, January 22, 2009

where selling your own music is a crime

Manchester England has won its case against a local rap musician who was prosecuted for selling his CDs on the street, the Lancashire Evening Post reports. Elavi Dowie, 31, must pay an £80 fine and £220 costs for selling his CDs in a shopping street in Manchester.

"Because of the way the music industry is at the moment, especially for urban music. People are selling their music on the streets in the absence of a record deal. We aren't harming anyone," Dowie told the paper. "The council has this initiative to promote black and ethnic minority music but on the other hand are trying to destroy someone like me."

The article also reports this ominous fact: "Various councils throughout the country are pursuing a private Bill through Parliament, aimed at cracking down on illegal street traders."

Why are these communities so afraid of street traders? Can anybody enlighten me here?


Daveybot said...

I suspect it has to do with beaurocracy and the endless fear of 'meeting standards'. This would - sort of - make sense with regard to selling anything related to food, say, but I can't believe there's any potential health risk ot risk of litigation to the council in listening to music.

You probably need a license to sell anything on the streets in the UK - partly as a revenue earner for local councils so they can maintain the streets on which you are selling, and partly so they can 'uphold a certain standard' of street commerce - I remember a few years ago there were five (I think it was five - my girlfriend at the time worked in the planning department there) alloted positions in Oxford in which you could sell things, and they were fiercely fought over by traders when it came time to apply for licenses. You had to meet all sorts of restricted criteria for how you went about selling your wares.

rn said...

A sane response, DB. Thanks.

I'd ask, though, whether it wouldn't be simpler, not to mention more democratic, to let people do this without a license. Or, at the least, whether the city could uphold that desirable standard of street commerce with a more open approach.

Oh, and...if people sell food, it's reasonable to ask that they meet health and sanitation standards. No license guarantees this, which is why municipalities still inspect restaurants regularly, though most of them have licenses.

Yakima said...

Indeed, licensing is a function of required expertise. I am in the restaurant trade and we welcome food handler's licensing and random health inspections. The prospect of sickened customers far outweighs any cost or inconvenience (bearing in mind my local officials are not corrupt, at least not in their dealings with me).

The main reason I can see to require retail licensing for traders without a premises would be insurance liability. I suspect that the individual musician cited in the article may have intruded on another retailers premises in order to attempt his sales. To be honest, as a small businessperson I have no trouble with these fellows selling their own produce, but if they annoy my customers or impact on the ambiance I have struggled to create for them, then I will ask them to leave. Only if they refuse does it then become a simple trespass issue.

I wholeheartedly agree that there is no need for police to harass traders without premises, and if licensing is required for some legitimate reason, then make it easily available. If there needs to be clear delineation of areas where such traders can or cannot operate or standards of behaviour they must adhere to (e.g. stay five meters away from the doors to established businesses, don't follow passersby more than 20m trying to make a sale, etc.), then so be it.

Simply trying to shut them out of the market because they are struggling will not help them to make a living and no longer be struggling. Keep up the good work!