Performing in Deutschland?
January 21, 2012 2:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm an American, planning to visit Germany for the first time in a few months; I'll be there for about a week, mostly in Berlin. I'm a musician (I do electronic pop -- I had a track on MeFiComp!), and I know my music has at least a handful of fans in Germany. So I'm thinking about trying to book myself a gig. I'm fairly confident that I can find a place to play, and transport my gear over there. What I haven't been able to figure out from my internet research is the legal side of things. Do I need to get a special visa if I'm going to do a paid performance? What about an unpaid performance? Will customs give me a hard time if I show up with music gear and no paperwork to explain what I plan to do with it? If so, how would I go about getting the necessary permit(s)?
posted by Artifice_Eternity to Travel & Transportation around Germany (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Note that my experience is somewhat out of date (almost ten years), but most of these things are pretty slow to change.

Technically you'll need a work visa or work permit if you're going to work. And bringing equipment will, if nothing else, make for headaches at customs. You'll need to get a receipt on your way out of the US (meaning you either need to talk to customs on your way out or bring receipts), into Germany, and then show them when heading the other direction, lest you get charged with extra duty on the gear.

Bringing as little gear as possible would be best, if only for the customs hassle. Not sure what your rig is, but the more professional it looks, the more likely you're going to get hassled if you don't have a work permit. Think of it as a continuum. It'll be easier to come off as a tourist if you don't have multiple anvil cases of equipment.

Performing for free without permits, especially with borrowed equipment, will be highly unlikely to cause you any problems unless you're performing in an illegal venue. You're not even technically breaking the law that way, you're just playing with or for some friends.

Doing a highly promoted show for big pay at a club with a truckload of equipment is the other end of the scale. The closer you are to this end of the continuum, the more likely you are to need various permits or encounter problems if you don't have them.
posted by DaveP at 2:57 PM on January 21, 2012

Have you considered renting a rig once you're there?
posted by Ardiril at 3:14 PM on January 21, 2012

DaveP: Thanks for your advice!

I think I can travel pretty light: the only gear I would plan to take is stuff that I can physically carry with me (e.g., a keyboard, a couple of effects units, some cables, my laptop).

I'm wondering if correspondence with a venue, documenting the plans for the performance, perhaps including a stipulation that I am not being paid, would satisfy German customs.

Also wondering if it would be feasible/practical to just ship a box of gear over in advance (to my brother, who is studying there for a semester), and then ship it back afterward.

The idea of borrowing gear while over there is a good one. Could be the simplest route, if it's feasible.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:16 PM on January 21, 2012

Ardiril: Renting gear could work too, but I think it would depend on whether I was being paid. I'm OK with possibly not making money on this show, but I don't want to go into the red (at least not significantly).
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:18 PM on January 21, 2012

I can't speak to customs, but on the gig side - you might technically need a visa but realistically you're not likely to be asked to present it. I'm Canadian and spent the winter there three years ago, playing with a band I met there. Played roughly twenty shows at various large bars/small live venues around Berlin and was never asked to show my visa.

Oh and for what it's worth, not many of my shows paid very well in terms of $$, but damn were they generous with free beer and food.
posted by mannequito at 5:07 PM on January 21, 2012

mannequito: Cool... I'd be happy with that kind of arrangement.

Did you take your own instrument(s) with you when went over? Or did you acquire gear after you got there?
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 6:38 PM on January 21, 2012

Oh yeah, if you've got enough lead-time, shipping things over and back will be way easier, since UPS or FedEx can help you with a lot of the details. You might need to pay a duty one direction, but you should get it back when you ship the same stuff home.

Correspondence with the club won't make a difference to customs. They're concerned with you selling your gear there. If you've not carrying gear, customs will be a breeze.

There's also immigration, who are concerned with you, not with your gear, other than as an indication that maybe you're going to try and stay there (a lot of gear makes them suspect you might be trying to stay long-term) - if you're not carrying gear, I'd recommend just telling 'em you're a tourist visiting your brother and skip worrying about the correspondence. Take pay for the show in beer and food as mannequito suggests, and you'll be fine.
posted by DaveP at 12:03 PM on January 22, 2012

No, I'm a drummer so I used a kit those guys already owned. I did have a bass guitar with me when I went over and nobody asked me if I intended to play for money, although I had a basic work visa so it wouldn't have mattered. But nobody ever asked us for visas at the gigs, and the rest of the people I was playing with were from Indonesia.
posted by mannequito at 2:07 PM on January 22, 2012

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