Austria is one of the furthest east countries that we have ever tried busking in. Before we left the UK, we were nervous of how other countries would respond to busking. Now with each new country, we see the differences, but the reaction is always pretty similar. Everyone reacts to our music in almost the same way, which is nice to see that people around the world are not so different when it comes to some things.
Bregenz is right on the edge of Lake Konstanz and on the border with Germany, as well as being close to Switzerland. To this day, we are still unsure about the rules in Bregenz. When we arrived, there was a man playing a full amped guitar at the bottom of the street, so we were hopeful. We played acoustically a few times. On the second day a shopkeeper told us the police would stop us, before walking away. A few minutes later the Police did arrive, but they went into his shop and never bothered us. Confused, we decided not to risk it and keep moving.
The town itself is right on the lake, which is enormous! We drove further up behind the town to get a view and it was stunning. It was also pretty cool to be able to see Austria, Germany and Switzerland in one view.
Feldkirch is a small town, smaller than we realised when we got into the centre. Pokemon Go had just been released when we went there and the town had free WiFi, so it was full of kids running around the streets. We made enough for some food, but decided there was too much entertainment in this town already, so we didn’t stay.
We very rarely play capital cities of the counties we go to. Mainly that’s just because we seem to have terrible luck with them! They are usually hard to get into and the busking is difficult. We decided to give the capital of Austria a try though and caught the train in from a campsite way outside.
Not sure if this was just a coincidence on the day that we picked to play, but Innsbruck was full of human statues. If they hadn’t been there, there would have been some nice spots to play in the old town. We played a little in the wider area, but there were too many other buskers on that afternoon. We also didn’t find out the busking rules in Innsbruck, but we weren’t stopped either. It was strange that there were so many human statues and no other types of busker.
Salzburg is by far the most ridiculous busking experience we have ever had. Looking back, it was quite funny how bad it was, but at the time it was pretty tiring. We found a nice quiet street near to the river to start, with suspiciously no other buskers. Then we were stopped by the Police. They said we needed to get a permit to carry on playing. For a full story of our quest to get a licence, see our upcoming blog post that we dedicated to ridiculous busking laws.
Eventually we found out there was no licence, but there were a few spots we could play. Only one of them was any good, but it was way, way too hot to stay for more than 30 minutes. The sweat on the back of the neck of the busker that we took the spot from was unbelievable! We did quite well, considering how loud the spot was. It was right next to the lock key bridge and the main road. That did mean there was lots of traffic though, both pedestrian and car based.
Busking Rules in Salzburg
- You can play for an hour in each spot
- There are seven specific ones throughout the city – We heard another rumour that you can actually get a permit that allows you to play in a few additional ones, but I’ve no idea what impossible tasks you have to achieve to get this.
- You can only play in Mozartplatz after 5pm
- No amplifiers allowed
We arrived in Linz at the beginning of a street performance festival. Initially, we thought, great this is going to be amazing! Turns out they didn’t want any street performers who were not specific acts in their street performance festival. They also didn’t see the irony in this. We did manage a few songs before we realised anything about the event – we thought the street performers were getting way more attention that they usually do. Unsurprisingly, we did very well in those few songs. But then we had to stop. On a non festival day there looked like quite a few places to play. The Main Street does have a tram running through it, but where the stops are, it wasn’t too loud.
We heard rumours that on actual buskable days that there are red uniformed Rote Teufel (Red Devils) wandering about the town, who can enforce busking. On the day, we saw no evidence of these terrifying officials, but perhaps keep an eye out for anyone in red! We did meet the equivalent in Graz and they were pretty keen on rules – we spent ten minutes arguing about how far 50 meters was. In Linz, apparently the permit costs €30 to let you play once a week in certain spots … Unless you’re stopped anyway. Yay?
The only reason we stopped here was because it seemed like the biggest stop off on the way to Vienna. In the end we didn’t even busk the town. A lot of the main street was being dug up with building works and the rest was quite quiet. The only lively bit was around the shopping centre, but there were people playing music there and people arguing. There was a unfriendly feel to the place on the day we went, so in the end we didn’t busk it at all. Instead, we carried on to Vienna.
Awkwardly we didn’t busk Vienna either. We were dead set on going to, travelling specifically across to try it The reason we didn’t was to do with the permit. To get one you have to apply by email and be in Vienna on the last Monday of every month for a permit that covers the following month. This means that you have to then wait around Vienna for a whole week before you can start to play. We were going to consider this, maybe going into Hungary or the Czech Republic for a week, but once we got into the city, we didn’t think it was worth staying there a week just to get to busk it.
Busking Rules in Vienna
- No amplification allowed
- Have to buy a permit – costs €6.75
- There are some places you can busk without a license. After emailing the Street Music department, they gave us a list of these.
When we got into town though, it was crammed full of people, rushing everywhere. Seen as amps aren’t allowed, we thought it was very unlikely we’d even be noticed in the crowd, let alone listened to. Then a massive storm came in and we kind of took this as a sign and spent the day exploring in the rain instead, still determined to see Vienna, no matter how wet we got!
We had heard that a permit is needed in Graz and also how to get one. That meant we did something pretty unheard of and got a permit before we started to play. The permits are free from the ground floor of the Town Hall.
Busking rules in Graz
- You can play for half an hour in each spot, then you have to move 100m
- Must be 50m away from another busker or church
- Must be 10m from any shop doorways
- Can only play three days in any week
- Can’t start playing until after 11AM and have to stop at 1PM – you can start playing again at 2PM
- A spot has to have been empty for half an hour before you can play there – not quite sure how that one’s enforced
- No amplifiers allowed
- No CD selling – this isn’t actually on the list of rules in Graz, but it is also not allowed.
When you get there first, Graz looks like an inviting place to play. The permit is free, there is a large pink area where you can play inside, you can choose your own spot. But once you start to apply all the rules, the massive pink area decreases down to about three spots that you’d actually want to play in. If you can get them, they can be quite good. Watch out for the ‘undercover’ Police though. I’m not really sure what they are, but they wear normal clothes and carry a badge with a star on it. They like the rules. A lot. In the end it is no worth arguing with them, unless you really like arguing.
Busking in Austria
Austrian busking can be pretty challenging! It is a beautiful country, but there are a lot of places where it can be hard to play. A lot of it depends on whether you get lucky or not. Amplifiers are banned pretty much throughout the whole country, like in Switzerland, so you have to learn to shout if you want to sing here. Either that or become really good at finding natural acoustics. We saw one busker in Graz, who was a opera singer and she had set up in an archway, to give her natural amplification. Pretty cool idea!