Buskers and street performers who accept electronic or digital currency often receive larger sums than they do accepting only cash, according to a recent survey by RMIT, a university in the Australian city of Melbourne. The trend has accelerated following global lockdowns amid Covid-19 as familiarity with QR codes and other technologies grows.

Fast facts

  • Researchers used data from online platform The Busking Project to study payment trends among more than 3,500 buskers across 121 countries, including in Melbourne, which alone was home to nearly one-third of the 263 buskers in Australia who registered with the project.
  • The Busking Project is a global organization seeking to promote the livelihoods and careers of street performers whose services have become more important as Covid-19 sent many cities into lockdowns, severely affecting many performers’ livelihoods. Through the project, registered buskers are able to continue to perform and promote themselves online, and even be paid by audiences.
  • The lead author of the study, Meg Elkins, told Forkast.News there had been “an absolute explosion” of digital payments to street performers both online and in-person since the pandemic began, with the sum of donations received digitally increasing 44-fold. “Digital payments have vastly increased since Covid has come in, and we also know that buskers are signing on because people aren’t carrying cash. [The public is] more primed now, as well, [for digital payments]. We carry our mobile phones around with us and tapping on with a QR code is more familiar to us,” she said.
  • Elkins, a senior lecturer at RMIT’s School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, said: “This is the next step in entrepreneurism for these creative entrepreneurs. They are used to putting themselves out there and trying to elicit donations, [and] this is just another way to get a donation. It’s a really exciting innovation because it’s not just one mechanism that you can use for digital payments, so, it expands the portfolio of what they can accept.”
  • Physical performers were found to have greater success with digital payments than musicians, as their style of performance encouraged interactions with the crowd in which they could promote those payment methods further, the study found.