Ferry Building, street musicians not in harmony

Street musicians are not in tune with the Ferry Building’s recent crackdown on where they can play during Saturday farmers markets.

For the past two weeks Ferry Building managers say they’ve been less accommodating to musicians who play for tips at the market because vendors have complained they can be loud and drive away customers.

Musicians say customers adore them and managers are listening too closely to certain crabby vendors that dislike their brand of music.

Property manager Jane Connors said some of the performers are known to block fire lanes and pathways. A few vendors told The San Francisco Examiner certain musicians play the same song over and over for hours.

The crackdown began after a tasting booth that typically sees 400 customers saw only 51 due to a bothersome musician, Connors said.

A main problem area of the market is a crowded section with food vendors located at the southern side of the building, vendors said.

“People are standing in long lines and [musicians] are playing accordion and all this other stuff, all loud and boisterous,” farmer Curt Lucero of Lucero Organic Farms said. “It can get a little obnoxious after a while.”

Connors said they’ve begun asking problem musicians to relocate, though one musician fears managers want to ban them altogether.

The Ferry Building can regulate where musicians play in the back and sides of the building, Connors said. They cannot ask musicians that play in front of the building to move, as that area is under Port of San Francisco jurisdiction, she said.

Musicians have been playing in the area long before the farmers market began seven years ago, said Jazzman Woods, a longtime street performer. The crackdown is robbing them of their livelihoods, he said.

A performer can make between $20 and $75 in tips during a five-hour period, Woods said.

“We’re not near the merchants,” Woods said.

Managers are not trying to rid the farmers market of music, Connors said. The Ferry Building brings in tango dancers, classical musicians and choral groups from local high schools to perform, she said.

For now, Connors said, the market is handling the musicians on a case-by-case basis.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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