What amps do people use when busking?

Street music in and around Germany: rules, permits, requirements and special features

We are heading straight for the warmest time of the year. In addition to the festival season, the time of urban cabaret begins in lively German cities. We clarify which peculiarities and rules a street musician has to adhere to in public places.

It is no longer a secret that the street - or rather the pedestrian zone - is a delightful place for your music if you manage to pull a passing audience under the spell of your performances. But…

  • Which requirements do you have to observe?
  • Can you earn more than a few euros with it, and if so, how do you do it?
  • In which cities does it work best and how is it going in neighboring countries?
  • Which equiment should you bet on?

You will find answers to these questions in our four-part series of articles "Art for Change".

Art for change, part 1

Whether pop songs with the Schrammel guitar, virtuoso gypsy swing à la Django Reinhardt, Russian folklore or transcendental didgeridoo sounds - inside the cities diversity celebrates high culture. But street music is not only a phenomenon in the big metropolises. Music is also played in public in smaller places with corresponding through traffic and places that invite you to linger.

If you BuskingIf you try the international term yourself for the first time, you will undoubtedly have a lot of fun and certainly earn various amounts of change. But there are also some pitfalls and brakes on fun that can really spoil the tour for even the most talented little artist.

Street vs. club gigs

Let's briefly deal with the special features of making music in public places and the differences to concerts in the classic "club context":

In principle, nobody is excluded from performing their arts in public places as long as they act within the legal framework. After all, it is Artistic freedom (Article 5, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law) one of the most heavily protected fundamental rights in Germany.

The search for venues in which you can also play as an unknown act is no longer necessary. For artists who are still at the beginning of their careers, the city center is not only a great place to try out themselves. The attempt is also worthwhile because of the direct feedback from people passing by.

If you compare the perspectives of passers-by and concert-goers, it becomes clear that the former more or less involuntarily enjoy your music when they go about their daily routine or just want to spend a few nice hours outside of cafes, pubs and bars. The common passer-by, unlike the concert-goer, has no previous expectations when confronted with your music. He may or may not like it. He is free to move on or to reward you for your performance. The decisive factor for this, however, is that you really something to offer and are loud enough to be heard. The latter can be quite exhausting in the long run and go to the material, but more on that later.

A great side effect is that you can leave a lasting impression on the owners of local restaurants with street music. Not infrequently come like this Follow-up concerts or gigs at private garden parties. So it's no wonder that many artists use public spaces to promote their concerts or to get a foot in the door in a new city.

In the stimulating setting of a city, your music is just one of many attractions. Accordingly, you are usually dealing with an audience that stops for a moment and then moves on at some point. The good thing about it: that's how you come with one relatively small repertoire from what you can repeat from round to round. In the worst case scenario, if you play the same song twenty times in a day, you'll just bore yourself.

Depending on how flexible you are with your equipment, the spontaneity a big advantage here over club gigs. You can decide at any time when and where to perform your songs for the best. You will also be spared the depressing experience of empty clubs. If things go bad, you can just move on and look for a better place or a more grateful audience.

Rules and prohibitions

But it's not as free and non-binding as the whole thing sounds. Because many artists know about the advantages of music in public places. As a result of the increase in street art in recent years, there has been more or less strict regulation in many places. As is so often the case, the municipalities and sometimes even individual parts of the city cook their own soup, so that there are no rules with which you can play on the safe side throughout Germany!

In any case, it is best to drive if you current information to the local regulations in the offices of the city administration or on their websites. If you don't have the opportunity or want to try guerrilla mode, it is only an advantage if you are familiar with the most common restrictions when making music on the street. In this way, you avoid stepping into faux pas or attracting the resentment of passers-by and the public order office.

In most cases, the specifications of the cities refer to

  • Permits,
  • the maximum playing time,
  • the distance between performance locations,
  • allowed instruments
  • and commercial acts.

Let's take a closer look at these points and their implementation:

Permits:

In official German, making music from public places is a form of "special use" and is tolerated in some cities such as Stuttgart, Cologne, Leipzig or Erfurt without the need for registration or permission to play. In other places, a "special use permit" is required, which can be obtained from the city administration.

Even if the fees for the License acquisition (usually around 10 € / day) are not particularly high, they are limited in number and their acquisition is a bit cumbersome. They are issued early in the morning and only during the opening hours of the authorities. An annoying circumstance, especially for artists who travel through several cities and cannot predict exactly when they will be where. In some cities, you will not be able to avoid adequate planning of your performances.

In this context, the city of Munich undoubtedly shoots the bird off the roof. Here you have to play in advance in the town hall. Only 10 licenses are issued a day, provided you meet the tastes of individual people. Officially, the quality of the music in the cityscape should be increased by this process. For street musicians this means strong competition and a spoiled audience at the same time. Even if Munich is the prime example of somewhat stricter requirements, you shouldn't let that discourage you. They still exist, the cities that don't see music-making in public that close.

Playing time:

Each city also has its own requirements for how long and at what time of day the game can be played. A change of location is usually due after 20, 30 or a maximum of 60 minutes. In some cities, performances are only allowed to start on the hour, which allows for more objective controls.

Game timed out can be quite annoying, not only for other musicians who are waiting for their opportunity in the same place. In cities without the "full-time rule", there is not necessarily an opportunity to prove that you have adhered to the time limit in the event of complaints or controls. Just in case, the stopwatch or the countdown on your smartphone will help. If you like it analog, you can also use a kitchen clock.

At certain times of the day, mostly between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. and after 10 p.m., music cannot be played autonomously in some inner cities. If you still feel like it, you can try to be hired by a local. This is especially promising if you were able to convince the owner of your music during the day.

Venues:

In most cases, each musician can make the decision about where to play. Every now and then there are areas that need to be avoided. In addition to the city's requirements, the interests of the business must also be taken into account. Trouble is usually inevitable if you stand too close to large shop windows, block entrances or let your art run free in front of office buildings. Inside department stores you will also run into problems after just a few steps, as these are not public spaces but commercial areas. To play here you need an individual agreement with the management.

If the game time has passed, a new seat must be found. For this purpose, the cities stipulate a minimum distance that can be between 100 and 200 meters. Also out of fairness to other artists, make sure that the old and new venues are not within earshot. After all, there is nothing more annoying for everyone involved than two musicians fighting over semitones and beats.

Instruments:

There are many instruments, but not all of them are allowed to be used on the street. It hits particularly hard ...

  • Brass,
  • drummer
  • and instrumentalists who have to play electrically amplified.

Again, Munich - but also Stuttgart - can be mentioned, because here the following instruments are not even allowed or "approved": trumpet, saxophone, bagpipes and percussion-like instruments.

Electric amplifiers are now banned in many places, even if you wouldn't be audible without them, like with the electric guitar. That's not entirely fair - especially when you compare the basic volume of different instruments. In Berlin Mitte, a maximum volume regulation is planned for the coming year, which is to be implemented through controls with measuring devices and thus at least equally restricts all artists.

Commercial acts:

Other bans relate to the sale of CDs, merchandise or concert tickets. Strictly speaking, these are commercial activities for which business taxes would also be due to the respective city.

A small "workaround" on the subject of CD sales in street music as well as further practical tips and a little street musician vodoo you will receive in the second part of "Art for Change"who will also show you how you can make the spontaneous contributions in the pedestrian zone of your choice even more successful.

... to be continued!

What makes a successful street music performance? How do you find the best spots and when are the best seasons? Are there any other success factors besides the actual performance?

In the second part of "Art for Change" we present some factors of successful street performances and give you a few useful practical tips with which you can not only increase your income, but also endurance and the fun factor when busking.

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