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You can now tip London buskers without handing over cash

One of London’s more unusual buskers. Farrukh/Flickr

With so many people these days ditching cash for contactless payments, there may be times when they reach into their pocket for a few coins to tip a particularly impressive street performer, only to find nothing there. With some buskers using public performances as their only source of income, that could be valuable revenue lost. But a new scheme in London hopes to offer a lifeline in the form of, you guessed it, contactless payments.

It’s the result of a collaboration between the Mayor of London’s office, the Busk in London organization, and PayPal-owned payments company iZettle, and equips buskers with a reader device so passers-by can simply tap to donate a pre-defined amount using contactless payment cards or NFC-equipped mobile devices with digital wallets. It’s thought to be the first organized scheme in the world where buskers can offer the payment method alongside old-fashioned cash donations. London mayor Sadiq Khan described London as “a powerhouse of music,” with artists such as Adele, Stormzy, The xx, and Dua Lipa emerging from the city in recent years.

“For London to maintain its status as a global capital of music, it’s vitally important that we support the stars of tomorrow,” Khan said. “Busking helps emerging artists to hone their talent and gives them the chance to perform in front of huge numbers of people.” The mayor said the new scheme meant more people would now be able to show their support for the capital city’s many street performers.

Charlotte Campbell is one such busker who’s been helping to trial the project. The musician set her reader so that each transaction results in a payment of two British pounds, equivalent today to about £2.65. Campbell said that if street performers don’t move with the times and embrace modern payment methods, “we’re at risk of becoming a dying art.”

After two weeks of trying out the electronic payments system, she said it’d “already had a significant impact on the contributions I’ve received.”
Campbell said she’s noticed how when one person taps to donate, others who witness the act often follow suit, suggesting people are more than willing to adopt the new way of rewarding buskers.

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