Musician Laura Comrats reports from Austria
Busking is an important way that particularly young musicians can try out and develop their skills. It is one of the few ways aspiring musicians can earn some money to survive and continue being musicians.
Street music is entertainment. It is an important and natural way to bring culture direct to the public, and in turn creates positive and happy environments.
Busking in Vienna is now a very bureaucratic thing. The Red-Green city council coalition introduced legislation in 2012 making it illegal to play in the street unless you register with the city council. There are special areas where you are allowed to play; in some you just have to register, in others you have to pay and register. Musicians all over Vienna were very unhappy with this system being introduced, and continue to be so.
It shouldn’t be like this! Musicians already suffer super-exploitation from ‘pay to play’ concerts in bars. We shouldn’t also be forced to pay for playing on the street. This bureaucratic barrier now makes it much harder to make public music in Vienna’s car-free zones.
As a musician I have played a lot in the streets in the ten years prior to the new legislation. It was my first stepping stone to practise playing in front of people before I had access to playing in bars or cafés. Now, young musicians don’t have this opportunity. You have to wait a long time before you get a slot, and then they tell you where to play.
One argument for the new system was to keep people who play all the time from monopolising certain popular spaces. There is a point in that. But those who had the time and resources to monopolise those spaces before will have the capacity to overcome bureaucratic obstacles far easier than newer or less well-off performers.
Musicians and local residents should have the power to democratically organise a rota themselves. It should not be organised top-down by the state.
Vienna is said to be a very musical city. This regulation is an obstacle to its creative potential. We must get organised to oppose these regulations, and link up with community groups and trade unions to campaign for ways to develop musical freedom and access, not bureaucratic limiting of the arts. One idea could be to organise a play-in or guitar demonstration – there are many creative possibilities for protesting against the legislation.
Bad Art supporters in Vienna want to help build this fightback. Get in touch with us today if you want to as well: email firstname.lastname@example.org.
End ‘register to play’! End to ‘pay to play’!