If you are coming to Berlin as a busker there are a few things you should know. The Busking culture has suffered some heavy losses in the last few years, but regardless, it is still a great place to busk and you can still get by here if you put out a good vibe and energy.
Mauer Park has been the heaviest casualty with amplified music being banned completely and the karaoke hanging by a thread. There is still some resistance and it looks like they could be shifting on their stance a little as they realise it is a very important place for Berlins music and arts culture. It was a place where musicians could come and express themselves and usually make enough to help them get through the week. It was also a meeting place for all the crazy creative characters Berlin is is abundance in. A nice melting pot of people from all over the world. Perhaps you could still play there acoustic, but say goodbye to that amp.
Warschauer Strasse. With a heavy heart I say that this place has took a major hit from many sources to become a shadow of it's former magical self. 3 years ago there were artists lined up to play there, and it was a great night out and meeting place. Due to a combination of police stoppages, increase in dealers, attacks from the homeless it has become much more of a hard and dark place to play. I implore you to bring back the light there. There are still buskers there now and then, but maybe 20% of what it was. Go and play there and bring a good energy that illuminates the place from the darkness.
"I spent some of the best nights of my life at Warschauer Str. It was such a great meeting place for musicians and a great place to discover new music."
"Here is Warschauer before it became infested with black dealers who are like a dark shadow on its once vibrant streets."
There is always a good flow of people if you play where the S-Bahn meets the U-Bahn. Good examples of this are - Frankfurter Allee, Rathaus Steglitz, Warschauer Strasse and Schonehauser Allee. Playing outside Schleisches Tor was also a great little night spot and just outside the Warshchauer S-Bhan. I've seen people playing at Boxhagenerplatz acoustic and that was a good spot, but you need to go round with the hat as people wont usually get up from sitting, but are happy to give.
East Side Gallery was a great place to play this year also, it is right by the river and the boat departures and has some nice steps for people to sit like a little coliseum. It has lots of passing traffic as it is right by where the wall still stands. Going with the hat is encouraged as people are happy to give but don't want to get up.
There is a huge pedestrianized area in Wilmersdorfer Str. It is mostly commercial buildings and is a good spot to play. If you head over to Museum Island it is filled with good spots outside the museums and by the river. You will need to compete with a lots of Roma brass and accordion gangs, have a walk and find great places to play outside the Bode Museum, on Friedrichsbrucke and many more. Take the train to Hackesher Market and head for the river. Hackesher Market is another great place to play. They have the market on Thursdays and Saturdays and you can even make a nice hat when there is no market but just passing people.
You can also get permission to play in the U-bahns. There are about 50 stations that they allow music in. They are a dark and dingy place to play in the summer, but in the winter, they are a lifeline for the busker. You need to go to Wittenberg Platz Ubahn on Wednesday Mornings at about 06.30 and put your name on a piece of paper. You will know where as it is full of accordions and buskers. Once you put your name down, at 06.45 everyone picks a number. The number you pick is your place in the queue. So if you get number 1, you go first and get a choice of the best stations. If you pick twenty one, it could be a 3 hour wait.
"Here is some footage of me busking in the U-Bahn."
It costs 7.50 a day and you can play there all day from 6am till 10 pm. You are not supposed to use an amp, but if it is low volume you can usually get away with it. The U-bahns have been very good to me and I found the best stations were... Eisenacher Strasse, Friedrich Wilhelmplatz, Walter Schrieber Platz, Bayerischer, Berliner Str. Hallesches Tor, Stadtmitte, Heidelberger Platz. But it's nice to try a station at random and see how you like it. Each station has it's own sound and blend of people. These are just the ones that worked for me.
I have heard of people getting permits to play outside, but it always sounded like a very longwinded and complicated process. But it can be done, you would just need to investigate this a little deeper.
Lots of buskers play on the trains, they jump on and play 2 or 3 songs and then go around with the hat. It seems the S1 line is the best for this.
Markets are usually very welcoming to music, but it's best to find the Markt Meister first and just say "Alles Klaar zu hier spielen fue einen stunde, bitte?" Just google what markets are happening at the weekend and try them out.
Well, that about raps it up. I hope you have great luck with the busking here! If you could give me a like on Facey that would really help me out too!