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A large majority of people feel that street musicians are a positive part of life in downtown Petaluma, according to pulse0909033an Aug. 27, 2009 online survey.
Most believe that street musicians should not be required to have a permit to play. But they also feel that loud music and use of profanity in lyrics should be prohibited.
Here are some of the comments by those who responded to the survey:
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“Street musicians add color and life to downtown Petalu-ma. Please don’t shut them down.”
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“It’s not great to be a merchant trapped in your place of business and having music blaring in for hours — you’re truly a captive audience.”
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“I think the street musicians are amazing, talented, courageous and underappreciated. I especially love the new dreadlock guy with the amp and the electric guitar. His music is soothing and fantastic. His volume is not overbearing, just loud enough for me to turn my shop music down and enjoy his vibe. I have personally hired a few of the musicians for ‘Blues & Jazz on the Plazz’ where they were prompt, professional and appreciated. They add a charismatic value to our charming downtown. I don’t think they need to be regulated or scrutinized. Just relax and enjoy the ride!”
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“I have been in the shops downtown when the music is so loud from the street that the shop has had to turn off their own music. It would have been fine if the street musician were playing something pleasant to listen to. If these budding musicians need an audience, maybe they should share their talents in front of City Hall, the public library, the police station or in their own neighborhoods to share off-tune lyrics and music. Do not make the downtown merchants the villain here. Don’t forget whose doors we have knocked on to donate to our schools, hospitals, hospice, shelters and churches.”
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“It’s good street music if it blends into the environment. Make it tasteful and use reasonable volume for the area. Be in a strolling mode. Over an hour in one spot wears out any welcome.”
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“Free speech, people, and all a matter of taste. It’s not clear that the business owner has done their due diligence to talk to the individuals directly, and it’s a little too easy to blame soft sales on street performers.”
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“Public music outside and on the streets creates a wonderful sense of a lively downtown. It is a sign of a healthy community. This last Friday evening, when it was so hot, it was fantastic to wander from Peter Welker’s fabulous jazz to Jungle Vibes’ drum circle and then up to Kentucky, where a young musician was playing his fiddle. It made me think of those vibrant cities such as New Orleans and many other cities in South America and Europe where people are out on the streets enjoying themselves chatting, playing and listening to street music. I say let’s have more street musicians, performers and artists.”
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“This should be addressed on a case-by-case level. If street musicians are being disruptive, they should be cited for it, just as any other person would be who was being noisy and using profanity.”
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“Live, local music is a tremendous boon to community! Of course, profanity and loudness are out of place, but offering the locals so much talent free is a huge draw to the downtown area!”
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“I think it should be limited to acoustic. Don’t care about profanity, but obscenity should be off-limits. There’s a difference.”
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“Street music enriches a place. Hopefully, musicians and merchants can be mutually respectful and appreciative.”
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“I love having street music as long as it’s not loud, offensive and if they don’t play in the same spot for too long.”
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“Let the music happen.”
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“Don’t contribute to negativity. Music is a positive thing.”
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“Come on. Downtown retail sales reflect a bunch of factors, kids or Petaluma Pete are not among them. We have free speech in this country. When a musician is good, speak up and slip them a dollar or two. When they aren’t, wince, frown, make a comment and keep the money in your pocket. Downtown Petaluma needs people, we need to see where are young kids are. Some bellyache about the Phoenix and lament their antics; in this instance they are playing acoustic guitars, violins, etc. right where we can hear them and see them. Funny thing is, locals who travel to Europe simply ‘love those street musicians!’ We should be pleased with the opportunity for homegrown music. I recall a night last month when the Boulevard was alive with the happy tones of Pete’s piano and a visitor commented to me, ‘Your town is so alive!’ We need more of that — not less of it. And to be fair, musicians shouldn’t prey on folks going to the commercial area in front of Copperfield’s. Move around, but keep pickin’ — let the fiddle ring. Pay attention to the audience.”
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“Leave them the ‘censored’ alone! If they are not making money from tips, they’ll leave. I’m fairly conservative, but I do believe in the freedom of speech. Music and art are a form of that freedom, even though it may not be your (particular) cup of tea. Yes on Question No. 1 and no on the rest!”
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“Street musicians have added a nice ambiance to downtown.”
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“If I whistle outside of a store for more than five minutes, will I need a permit?”
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“Why can’t the business owners just talk to the musicians rather then calling the police? What can’t they just get along? I always enjoy the musicians downtown.”
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“Street musicians in San Francisco are interesting and add to the ambiance of the City. They seem to be present mainly at Fisherman’s Wharf which is a tourist area. To have street musicians in Petaluma seems odd, since the downtown is so small and mainly locals make up the pedestrian traffic. Maybe having an ‘open mic’ night for aspiring musicians or bands would be entertaining in Walnut Park (stage).”
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“Some great talent here.”
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“A country’s public art is a sort of reflection of its culture. I have heard that American culture is a dead culture. The more we muzzle free expression of artists the closer we get. Ever noticed that cities with much public/street art and performance also have hordes of tourists? We need it. Encourage it. Loudness should be connected to a city noise ordinance, not specifically for musicians.”
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“More music in the streets, please. Life is music.”
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“The downtown merchants should support the musicians, work something out with the musicians regarding volume, times of performance, etc. Then, the musicians could promote their street gigs, get their friends to come to the performances, the friends would frequent the merchants’ shops, maybe even buy something. The result? Musicians practicing their art unmolested by merchants, the people happy listening to the musicians, the merchants getting an increase in traffic to their stores. Geez Louise, if everyone would just cooperate with each other, you know, support each other, they’d all win. What a concept!”
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“Musicians add color and life to the street scene. If a musician is swearing or playing too loud, aren’t there rules about that that apply to everyone?”
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“There’s no need for a special ban. Noise laws and accosting laws already have it covered.”
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“While I believe permits should be required, I do not believe that there should be a fee for the permit.”
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“Petaluma Pete is the only one I find irritating, but I’ll defend his right to play.”
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“Why not have the downtown merchants jury the musicians who want play and they can pick the ones they want.”
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“The perpetrator of this non-issue is an uptight owner of iLeoni who is rude. The street musicians bother no one at Copperfield’s. I love hearing them jamming and singing. It makes it a draw for me to venture downtown.”
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“Please don’t take the acoustic musicians away. They are wonderful, a joy to have on the street, especially the young violin player and the flutists. On the other hand, please, please lower the volume, or pull the plugs of the loud amps. Thank you for allowing me to voice my opinion.”
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“Keep it clean, or keep it out.”
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“Please, musicians, let’s ‘police’ ourselves and use common sense.”
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“The people in Putnam Plaza are driving away business from downtown due to their obnoxious behavior. Get rid of them. Keep Peter Welker, etc. They are terrific and are a draw to the downtown businesses.”
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“What is ‘loud’ is totally a matter of opinion. I have heard the iLeoni employee complaints browsing through the store … and as it may seem frustrating to hear ‘all day’, I think the merchants should be happy that customers are walking the streets of town! Be more creative in coaxing them to take a break or move to another part of the block. Come on, this is a community, work together!”
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“We love the music. Petaluma Pete was playing in between restaurants on Friday dressed in old-time getup. What fun this makes for a downtown area. Maybe have designated areas for these musicians to play so that it is not distracting to businesses. This adds charm to a city.”
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“Guess we are running out of blog questions.”
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“They liven up downtown. Unlike the homeless, they don’t pester for a donation — they are working for one, and it’s up to the passerby to donate or not. We have a great downtown and musicians attract people by providing atmosphere.”
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“Our sidewalks are already overcrowded with signs and overflow from stores. It can be difficult just walk downtown sometimes. I am all for live music, but it needs to be in the right place.”
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“Musicians should be getting the permission of local businesses and residences first. If they ask them to move, that should be the end of the story. If a violinist set up in front of my house, I might enjoy it too for a few hours. If a rude guitarist playing rock ’n’ roll did the same I would make his life very uncomfortable until he left. A real musician would never inflict their music on anyone.”
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“Next we’ll elect Pinochet to council to ban pan pipes! Let the music live! ¡Viva la Música!”
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“Some of these musicians are mostly pandering for money and annoying.”
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“Petaluma Pete is a street musician — do you want to close him down? Street musicians keep Petaluma ‘eggcentric’ and eclectic. I agree that playing too late into the night is not appropriate, or using profanity. But as long as they are not harassing anyone, let them be.”

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