The below was written by Wacky Chad, an award-winning street performer who’s been entertaining crowds for over a decade. You can see his website here, and if you’d like to see his tipping site (and practice giving, say, a $5 cashless tip), check this out.

No Cash? No Problem! Welcome to the Future of Busking.

Make no mistake, an increasing number of people do not carry cash. This does not mean they are without money!

As a street performer, I’ve been learning some of the best (and worst) ways to accept not just credit cards, but cashless tips of many kinds. I’m sharing what I’ve learned, as it helps if we all adapt together. The more we do, the faster our audiences will accept it as “normal” – just like it is now normal to tip a waiter with a credit card.

Not sure if this is important? How much do you think a waiter would lose annually if they could only accept tips in cash? If you owned an ice cream store in a touristic location, how much would lose out on if you couldn’t accept credit cards?

My suggestion is that this is what we are doing at the moment – we are simply losing out on income, because none of us have properly adapted.

Just look at the stats (from 2 years ago):

In the USA, only one in twenty people carry $100 bills.

The average person has $22 in cash (less in many other countries).

10% of people are entirely have no cash on them at all.

45% percent of transactions are cashless.

If you’re a fan of cash, these stats aren’t getting better for you. And if the average is that people have $22 in their pockets, that means a lot of them have less than $20, $10, or even $5. Look at the UK; ⅓ of people there have less than £5 on them. That means fully ⅓ of people in the UK are physically unable to drop a note in your hat!

 

 

Change will help your audience: they want to tip us

People do want to tip us, right? If it’s difficult and slow, they won’t go out of their way. Let’s make it easier for them, by normalising tipping us with simple and quick cashless donations. Only then can we break this logistical barrier together.

Credit cards have been around since the 1950s, card swipe machines since the 1980s, contactless card payments since the 1990s and contactless phone payments since 2011. Today, how do you feel when you enter a restaurant and find out that they still don’t accept cards? How much money are we leaving on the streets by sticking only to cash? It’s time we catch up.

People are ready for it, why aren’t you?

Remember the first time you realised that a website might be a good thing to get extra business? What about a promo video? Or when you switched to a headset microphone? Your act might not changed a huge amount in the last 4 years, but you’ve probably let modern technology to help you in every other way. Why not in this one too?

You may think some of the methods listed below are useless. But those 10% of people who don’t have cash in their pockets – those are the people who are most used to using credit cards and all types of cashless payment methods.

The argument against digital

Maybe you don’t want to create a paper trail of your earnings. Maybe you like the way money feels. There’s a physical back-and-forth between you and your audience. It’s “real”. And sure, a cash drop is super fast, easy and people know how to do it. But it’s not like cash is without fault…

The argument against cash

With cash you have a bunch of bills to unfold and heavy coins in your bag to count, convert and travel home with. Currency exchange fees, coin counters, heavy backpacks, loss & theft – Oh My!

People also seem to tip in a coin or bill amount that’s not actually based on the value of your show, but rather the denominations they have to hand ($0.25, $5, $10). They may not tip with a larger bill if they feel uncomfortable asking for change. But with a cashless tip they can choose the exact amount – $3 or $18 is now just as easy as dropping a $1 or $10.

So, what’s out there that’s quick, efficient, user/tourist friendly, safe, mobile, worldwide, easy-to-use and with little to no fees?

Methods discussed below for getting Cashless Tips

 


 

Dipjar for buskers

DipJar (USA Only)

GOOD:

Income: It’s my first choice and best money maker, by far. Highly recommended!
Speed: It’s the quickest of all the options on this list – getting close to as fast as a cash drop!
Trust: The user handles the card, not the performer. This builds trust.
Familiarity: People are already used to dipping/swiping their cards.

BAD:

Location: This works in the USA only.
Price Fixing: You set an amount before the tip collecting process, so all “dips” are the value you set it at, not the value the tipper has chosen.
Fees:$400 to buy the dipjar, +$39 annual rate, + 17c +3% per transaction
Weight: Device to carry. Also requires 2.4v USB battery or plugin.
Extra weight: Works best set on table.
Trust issue: Some people are wary of dipping their cards (but lots of people DO trust it).
Physical Issue: Hard to see the amount it’s set to if the LED display is in the sun (but this problem can be fixed by adding a sticker with an amount on it).
Functionality issues: Cards only go in one way. Also, sometimes the card doesn’t swipe, and you have to make sure it worked; I’ve lost a good number of tips because of this.
Payouts: You get paid out weekly/bi-weekly or monthly.

IMPROVEMENTS NEEDED:

  • A sound for when a card goes in the wrong way
  • A built-in rechargeable battery
  • A button to change tip amount ($5, $10 $20) before they swipe.
  • Brighter LED & Louder SFX.

NOTE:

You can set it from $1-$25. It takes a minute to change the amount online using internet on my smart phone. I may buy two, because I could then have one set to $5 and the other set to $10, and display them both at the same time – people can always dip twice!

You should make sure to have clear, simple instructions both on your sign and in your tip speech. I made the most dips when I had a volunteer demo it in the show with the test card that comes with it. Interestingly, the amount I set on the machine seems to set the bar for cash tips as well; if I set the DipJar to $10 my average cash donations were higher than when I set it to $5.

The bottom line is I’ve made $833 in just credit tips this year. $100 in one day! I average about 2-5 swipes per show and I’m just getting started with knowing how to use it with my crowd.

Every street performer that has seen me use this in person has realized how simple, efficient and easy it is. At first everyone is wary due to the initial cost. But, you could pay for the machine in a single week from tips from people who couldn’t otherwise donate to you.

Oh, and the machine is also great if you sell merchandise (t-shirts, CDs, fridge magnets etc).

DISCOUNT CODE:

I’ve been telling so many performers to get one, the company gave me a promo code: WACKYCHAD

 


 

Busk.co (worldwide)

busk.co/wackychad

GOOD:

Speed: You can be set up in no time to accept Credit Card and PayPal Tips.
Free (ish): The Busking Project does not take a commission. However, you will pay 2.4-10% in bank fees.
Convenience: Has simple, useful tools.
Speed in the Street: Quickest widget for entering credit/debit card number.
Speed to set up: If you don’t have your own website, this can work just like one, and it’s as easy as making a facebook page.
Networking: Can be used to network with other buskers. It’s like a busker Facebook (people can even become your “fan”, and you can message them through the site), or an updated performers.net.
Convenience: Walk away/anytime payments.
Company: Busker Friendly non-profit.
Benefits: You can also get hired through the website.

BAD:

Distraction: The site does so much else, your audience could get distracted with all the other options.
Fees: You lose 2.4-10% (see the pricing explained)
Confusing issues: The site has a pop up asking users to donate to the site, with a “no, I do not want to tip” option, which is confusing if that comes up first to users. But, that pop up does not appear when users are viewing your profile. (Note: they’re fixing this)
Familiarity: Although it works with cards/PayPal, people don’t know what “busk.co” is.

NOTE:

Even if people don’t tip you in the street on busk.co, it’s worth making a profile as many buskers get hired through the site (and for this there’s no fee taken by busk.co). It also has a smart, fun ,optional app that works great at street performer festivals.

 


 

Paypal for buskers

PayPal (worldwide)

GOOD:

Convenience: Walk away/anytime payments.
Familiarity: Most people either have PayPal or know what it is.
Versatility: Can accept Credit/Debit Cards without being a registered member.
Speed: Simple and quick for PayPal users.
Trust: People trust PayPal.
Price Fixing: You can set the base amount, but the user can also enter the amount to tip.
Physical ease: No device needed if you use just link/donate button.

BAD:

No Guarantee: May give people an excuse to tip later and then end up not doing it.
Functionality Issues: Not great for non-users
Fees: High Transaction fees: $0.50 per $5 and $0.69 cents for $10.

NOTE:

PayPal has 4 options worth trying:

  1. A donate button for your website.
    • This will take Credit/Debit for non-users & PayPal transfers for users.
    • If the user is registered on PayPal it has very few steps – amount, login, Password then send.
    • If not, it takes a second to enter card + billing (which most people won’t enter).
  2. paypal.me link (i.e. paypal.me/wackychad).
    • This only works with PayPal users.
    • paypal.me/wackychad/10CAD will enter a $10 amount in CAD.
    • Pre-setting an amount means the user has one less step – but they can still change the amount if they wish.
    • Paypal.me/wackychad looks clean and easy to use. However, only registered users can use it. The donate button can me made for non-users to enter their cards.
  3. PayPal Here (Device):
    • All types of payments: Swipe, Chip, NFC- Apple/Android Pay
    • I bought the reader for $80.
    • To use it you also need a bluetooth-enabled smartphone.
    • The smartphone app is really fast for apple pay.
    • I prefer this over square reader as it has one less step to donate.
    • Just run your finger on the line to sign, and if you get a dispute then just refund.
  4. Text MSG Powered by PayPal, To: 729-725 “send 10 to chad@wackychad.com”
    • I’ve only tested this out, I haven’t made a sign or anything. It worked.
    • But, it seemed to be confusing for my friends trying it out for me.

 


 

Venmo for buskers

Venmo (USA Only)

(@WackyChad)

GOOD:

Fees: Little or no fees
Speed: Super quick (for registered Venmo users)
Convenience: Simple for registered users
Familiarity: The people that do have it, use it all the time, know how and are very comfortable using it.
Feedback: User can send comments to you too.
Convenience: Walk away/anytime payments.

BAD:

Familiarity: Not everyone has it or knows about it.
Functionality issues: Takes a day to transfer funds to your bank account.
Location: Only works in the US

NOTE:

Venmo is a social payment app. That allows users to send a quick message with payment. Example: “Payback for pizza”, “gas $” The message and payment is set to public unless you change it to private.

 


 

Square for buskers

Square Cash (limited countries)

$wackychad
Also has a “Square Reader” for card swipes.

GOOD:

Convenience: The Square “Cashtag” is super mobile friendly and easy to use, if you’re already signed up.
Speed: Just like Venmo, if you’re a Square user and have square cash it’s really pretty fast once you give them your link (cash.me/$wackychad). (no device)
Familiarity: Can also accept credit/debit cards, Apple/Android pay, & chip cards. (device)

BAD:

Location: USA Only.
Convenience: My friend went to finalize a credit card payment, and needed to type his email in so it could give him an email confirmation. He had to get a number from the email, then go back to the site to enter the number, making him want to give up if that don’t have square cash themselves. Square reader has one extra step to get a tip.

NOTE:

One thing I thought was cool, if you use safari on your phone you can “scan”/take a picture of your credit card instead of typing it. Now all you have to do is type your email, get email code, then type that it.

 


 

Bitcoin for buskers

Bitcoin (worldwide)

GOOD:

Preference: My absolute favorite way to get tipped!
Convenience, speed: Quick, efficient, user friendly, safe, mobile, easy-to-use
Location: Worldwide
Fees: Little fees
Interest: At the moment, the value of bitcoins is rising. So, if you get paid with Bitcoin and keep it in your Bitcoin wallet, you could end up making more than the tip amount.
Digital: Think Digital Cash! Just like cash, but you don’t have to carry anything. Perfect for storing, and traveling with your cash.
Convenience: If this ends up being the currency of the future it’s actually the easiest, quickest and very simple cashless tip.
Modern: Used also as a joke, “of course I’m able to accept credit cards, I’m a step ahead and I accept bitcoin”.

BAD:

Familiarity: Not that many people use it, and people seem to take a few days to understand it. Well worth learning about.
Liquidity: Or people don’t pay with Bitcoin, even if they have it, as some use Bitcoin as an investment because the value of the currency is (generally) rising.
Trust: It’s in the early adoption phase.
Risk: You are you own bank with this (so remember your password or you might lose your coins).
Fees: The transaction fees are getting higher.

NOTE:

Nicknamed “Gold 2.0”, Bitcoin is a decentralized cryptocurrency used worldwide. Smart people use it, stupid people can use it.

Bitcoin is well worth learning about (there are Ted Talks, documentaries & YouTube videos to explore). I got audiobooks, watched almost everything I can about it – I’m addicted to how this stuff can change the way money/currency is used.

Bitcoin is beginning the process of changing how we use money, like how the internet changed how we interact. It is known by some for buying drugs on the deep web. Cash, of course, is also used to buy drugs (and sponsor terrorism), but that only makes the headlines when countries consider banning their biggest notes.

I remember hearing about bitcoin a few years back and immediately I thought it was a great way to get tipped. People still use physical gold & silver as currency, but there have been many historical upgrades – paper money, then fiat, then credit cards, and now cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

 


 

Others to try out yourself:

Facebook payments

It was easy to pay a friend and set up though. If you don’t accept the payment soon it cancels automatically. That’s all I know.

Bravo Tips

Looks simple, and cool. Don’t forget to “check in!” Try it out.
Be sure to type “Bravo Tips” when getting yet another smart phone app.

My Current Setup:

  1. My main source of cashless income is a DipJar with a stand. My DipJar is primarily set to take card tips of $10. (Can be changed to $1-$25)
  2. TipWackyChad.com – A simple, easy-loading, mobile-friendly website with my payment options. I mention it in my tip speech.
  3. My site has 5 cashless options:
    • Credit/Debit – which links to: busk.co/wackychad#tips – this opens my profile on busk.co with the “tips” window already opened and ready to take donations.
    • PayPal.me/wackychad
    • Venmo @wackychad
    • Square Cash $wackychad
    • Bitcoin
    • Email, a link to my main website, social media and my T-Shirt Store Links
  4. I hand out paper money/fake credit cards with info on them
  5. And sometimes I bring out a PayPal Here Reader for Apple/Android Pay
  6. And I display a sign

SUMMARY

Money Maker: $$$ DipJar $$$
Favorite Income: bitcoin (also a great way to store cash)
Easiest setup for Credit/Debit Card: busk.co (also has PayPal option)
Super Simple & User Friendly: Venmo & Square Cash (if users are registered)
Most Options & Most Known: PayPal
Worldwide: busk.co, PayPal, Bitcoin

Suggested Simple Setup to get Started:

Step 1: If you’re in the USA, buy a DipJar (physical device)
Step 2: Sign up to busk.co, with a sign and/or handout with a QR code link and URL (e.g. busk.co/wackychad)
Step 3: Edit your personal website to add a tip button that directs people to the cashless payment provider of your choice (i.e. to your busk.co profile or paypal etc)
Step 4: Test your hat pitches to see what works

Final Thoughts:

I’ve been performing for over 13 years now, but didn’t start doing busking-style shows until I was 5 years in. I’ve learned a lot by doing, and a lot from my fellow buskers. These past years, I started doing less busking and starting booking gigs because of this cashless epidemic. But now I can’t wait to get back in the streets from learning all these options and ideas.

Busking is paid stage time, and can even pay more then some gigs. Which, in turn, can bring your price up when booking gigs. With Busking, you have to entertain the whole crowd – individually, couples, groups, families – as you get tipped from each one. You also have to have good crowd control skill and “anything can happen” improv skills.

The more you get people to see and hear you the better your show is for each person, which results in a better time from each group of people watching, which can turn a grateful crowd into a generous one. It makes your show incredibly stronger.

I’m now at the point where I can filter my audience, or change their psychology into a person that wants to watch my show. I don’t just get anyone to watch if they don’t want to watch. 100 future fans and tippers watching is always a better show than 500 non-clappers that don’t move to a rope. If they don’t want to move to a rope to watch you, do you think they want to fill in their billing address to tip you?

If you have a good logistics, a strong show and a strong tip speech you can easily make money as a busker, even once card payments entirely take over. A credit card machine or a cashless tip approach will invite people that want to tip you a good tip, and that may not have (enough) cash.

Have questions?

Get in touch with Chad here: chad@wackychad.com