Some buskers working Vancouver’s transit system say they’re unhappy they’re being asked to pay more for song royalties just before the Olympics.

Rene Hugo, who has been performing in transit stations since 1992, said he wants TransLink to settle on how much more buskers would have to pay with the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (Socan).

“I don’t know if I could afford to pay more,” Hugo said yesterday. “If it were to cost more than $300 a year, I think it’s too much. If they called and told me that, I wouldn’t be here for the Olympics, no way.”

Buskers currently pay $75 a year. Hugo says he can make about $50 per weekend.

Socan, which acts on behalf of 95,000 composers, authors and music publishers and covers more than three million compositions, has a deal with the Toronto Transit Commission that sees artists pay $150 per year. The TTC absorbs the rest of the cost — $23,000 annually — and Socan wants a similar deal here.

At a time when TransLink is forecasting deficits, if it doesn’t agree to the extra expenditure, all costs would be passed on to buskers or the program would be cancelled.

“The TTC operates a successful music program and pays Socan a licence fee…” Jeff King, Socan’s vice president of licencing, said in a release. “TransLink is also required to pay a licence fee. However, the decision about whether to pass any of that cost along to the buskers is TransLink’s alone.”

Ken Hardie, TransLink spokersperson, said a deal is in the works.

“We want music for those long queues,” he said. “There will be more meetings this week.”

Hugo said TransLink has always been fair with him.

“I love sharing my art with the people, so I hope I can stay,” Hugo added.

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