Buskers change their tune with digital payments and promotion

Musicians increasingly use busking as a career springboard

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By Emma Shular

Piotr Jaskiewicz printed out a QR code on an 18-inch-square placard, set it next to the Vancouver Art Gallery steps, picked up his guitar and hoped for the best.

Jaskiewicz, who started busking in Vancouver a year before the pandemic, realized during the lockdown that he would have to embrace the digital economy.

Fewer people were using cash, and he didn’t have a digital tip option.

“I would say the bulk of my income has always been cash, but you know I see the trend going digital,” Jaskiewicz said. “I think overall digital is a good way to go now.”

Digitalization of tipping

In an increasingly cashless world, buskers are beginning to diversify their streams of revenue.

Jaskiewicz said the more options he has as a busker the better, which is why he set up the QR code through The Busking Project, a platform committed to promoting street performers.

According to a report by Payments Canada, electronic transactions have risen by more than 20 per cent since the pandemic started.

Public busking programs like TransLink’s and Granville Island’s were temporarily suspended due to safety concerns during the lockdown.

With bills and coins being possible carriers of disease, the tap-to-pay option seemed safer.

When busking meets livestreaming

Jonny Tobin, a professional musician, who shifted to digital performances when COVID-19 hit, continues to busk as a side hobby.

“I taught myself how to do live streaming. Got all these apps and figured things out, figured out a good setup,” Tobin said, adding that he set up a PayPal account as a “virtual tip jar.”

Musician David Morin said while digital tips are good to have set up, he prefers accepting cash tips while busking on the streets.

“When people see an open guitar case, they just put money in it and it’s faster and more streamlined,” he said. “And there’s, like, a certain nostalgia, I think that goes along with that.”

Morin began busking to jumpstart his career until the pandemic motivated his shift to livestreaming on portals like Reddit and Twitch.

“You kind of have to be tapped in and know what platform is doing what,” Morin said. “It’s really frustrating because I just want to make tunes, you know.”

1 Comment
  1. April Leigh Shular says

    That was very interesting. We don’t have buskers here. I had wondered what became of them , in the cities, during the pandemic.

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