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Berlin Street Music e.V. - Manifesto

What are we? What are our ideals?

  • We are an online and offline platform dedicated to creating/maintaining/promoting a sustainable street music scene in Berlin.

  • By developing and maintaining connections between street musicians, local businesses, public, policy makers, and law enforcement officers, we aim to achieve a thriving, functioning, sustainable, street music scene which allows musicians to thrive, while at the same time respecting and responding to the concerns of local residents and businesses.

  • Our goal is to offer the street musicians of Berlin an organised and united front in order to offer a forum to voice concerns and to be heard by those who are in charge of developing the policies that affect them.

  • We also aim to provide policy makers and authority figures the information necessary in order to make informed decisions, and to facilitate effective consultation with the people who their policies affect.


Why are we here? What are the problems?

Berlin is known for it’s cultural identity. Growing out of its oppressive history, Berlin has become a global mecca for artists and creatives alike. The thriving street scene is one of the pillars of this cultural identity, but it is being threatened by overly restrictive permit systems and ill-informed policies made behind closed doors without any form of consultation.  There are a number of problems with the current status quo:

  • Confusion: in Berlin there currently exists a permit system for musicians wanting to play with amplification. This system has recently been changed which means now a musician must have a separate permit for each individual Bezirk in order to play there. Therefore, it is up to the individual Bezirks to administer and police permits. The information is therefore not centralised anywhere and rules change between areas, resulting in confusion on behalf of not only the musicians, but the police, and Ordnungsamt themselves.

  • Complication: although the main permit needed to play is the amplification permit, there are currently a number of different permits available to street musicians, none of which were designed specifically for street musicians. These permits include; amplification, amplification in parks, merchandise sales, playing in U-Bahn stations, and allowance to place equipment on the ground. There is no one busking permit.

  • Lack of information: since there is no one person, or even one specific department responsible for street performance, the information as to what is and isn’t allowed is extremely difficult to find, especially for non German speaking residents or travelers. This makes it almost impossible to find the correct permit in the first place. There is almost no online information, and the information that is there is often incomplete or only specific to one single Bezirk. Also, often the only person who knows anything about the system is the one person with the power to give the permit in the first place, making them incredibly hard to find in a large bureaucratic department.

  • Inconsistency: Some authority figures know the rules, but others don’t. Some don’t understand the rules, some make up their own on the spot, and others just simply don’t care. For many musicians this makes it incredibly difficult to find out what the rules actually are, as many musicians rely on the word of authority figures to know what the rules are. This means musicians quickly get fed up asking for information and knowingly or unknowingly break the rules as they don’t know what the actual restrictions are. This also applies to individual pitches where the use of amplification is banned, and yet many people are allowed to play one week and not the next, adding to the confusion of what is and isn’t allowed.

  • Based on a complaint system: the current permit system is based on a complaints system, in that if one person complains to the police, they have to attend and ask the musician to stop. This means that one person can have the power to override somebody acting completely within their rights and playing perfectly legally.

  • Lack of transparency, communication and consultancy: as far as we can tell, there has been no form of consultation with buskers or other street performers in developing the new permit system or any other regulations. With a proper consultation process, many potential problems can be solved or at the very least mitigated. As it stands we can see many problems that can arise from the implementation of these new laws, not least decentralizing regulation.


What do we want to do about it? What are our specific aims?

We strongly believe that by developing a community of musicians, public, businesses, government, and other interested parties, we can work through many of the problems facing street musicians and create a sustainable street scene that is not only effective in fostering the development of the arts, but also creates a flow of communication between the people who develop policies and the people those policies affect. Our specific aims through the continual development of Berlin Street Music are:

  • To present an organised and united front for like-minded street musicians through the development of an active social media presence, official website, official offline events, official documents such as this outlining our goals and course of action, and through affiliations with other like minded organisations and interest groups

    • It is important to note that we will only continue to pursue this initiative if ‘like minded’ street musicians are obviously the vast majority. We have developed this project with the best interest of ‘all’ street musicians in mind, not for personal gain.

  • To conduct regular meetings/forums for street musicians to come together in order to voice personal concerns and to constantly ensure we are representing the majority of street musicians in the city

  • To validate our existence in the eyes of policy makers by becoming a Kulturverein or through other legal avenues

  • To take the concerns of performers and present them to policy makers in order to make them better aware of the problems faced each day

  • To collect any information/statistics that may be available in order to convince policy makers of the importance of street music and street art in Berlin, and make them aware of the impact their policies have on this segment of the population

  • To develop a new system, with the input of all parties involved, that will better represent musicians and help the street scene in Berlin to thrive

  • To act as the intermediary between policy makers and street musicians to develop the new system and to make the implementation as smooth as possible

  • To centralise any system that is implemented and to make available any information that might be needed by street performers so they know how they are able to play within the law

  • To create connections with larger organisations such as the Berlin Tourism Board or other large, well established organisations that have a vested interest in the street scene in Berlin to increase our standing and validity in the political environment

  • To continue to grow our presence online through our social media channels and to continue to run campaigns such as our ‘Ich bin für Straßenmusik’ photo campaign

  • To continue to set up and support events for street musicians, such as our partner event rows, or winter events for when many musicians can no longer perform due to the weather

  • To continue to build networks with other like minded organisations, festivals, and other resources for street musicians in order to offer performers in Berlin opportunities to travel and play elsewhere

  • To continue to support social projects with which our beliefs are closely aligned (such as supporting projects related to music and refugees)

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What do we need to overcome? What are our challenges?

As with any initiative involving so many interested parties, there are a number of challenges we must overcome. These include:

  • Representing the musicians: we need to make sure, at every step of the way, we are representing the musicians of Berlin and not acting for personal gain. As street musicians ourselves, we obviously have our own ideas as to how the system would work, but we must constantly check our ideals against those of the majority.

  • Buskers will be against us: There will be a number of buskers for which any form of permit system goes against their beliefs. We must take these concerns seriously and not simply ignore them. Developing a new system is not going to be easy. There will be people who will fight it, even from the inside. We need to know what we stand for, and why.

  • Unquantifiable: much of what street musicians do and make is not reported and therefore unquantifiable. That makes our job incredibly hard when it comes to convincing policy makers that we are important. For this reason we need to use our networks and the resources that are in place to create a coherent argument and to present our case.

  • A big job: Berlin Street Music is a non-profit organization managed by people who donate their time. We do not get paid and as such can only spend so much time on the initiatives. That means everything takes time.

  • Busking is not seen as important: We are facing an uphill battle, as policy makers simply do not see street musicians as that important. Our goal is to change that, and with good reason, because street performers are important in Berlin. Very important.

  • We need to be ready to kick a Hornet’s nest: We need to be solid in our beliefs and know what we are fighting for. At the moment, we are not important, but that means the policies are fairly relaxed, even the bad ones. By fighting for something better we are going to bring attention to ourselves, which can also be a bad thing. We need to be ready, and stand united!


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