By David Schout
Ever heard a brilliant busker playing on the CBD streets, reached into your pocket to give a tip, and realise there’s nothing there?
As we move deeper into a cashless society, wallets void of coins and notes are slowly becoming the norm.
And while contactless payment has made transactions hugely convenient for most, it has left some more niche industries – like street performers – behind.
But that could be about to change. A pilot program between tap-and-go enabler Quest Payment Systems and up to 20 local street performers has launched on the CBD streets in an Australian-first.
Passers-by now have the chance to tip buskers by “tapping” a two or five dollar tip with their bankcard or, if they wish, a larger sum. It will also allow onlookers the chance to buy merchandise using tap-and-go. The technology will be piloted in the next month, before a potential nationwide release.
Talented didgeridoo performer Dan Richardson is one of the few who will trial the new payment system, and naturally hopes it will be good for business.
“When things are new, you just never know what’s going to work,” he told CBD News.
“I’ve definitely had it multiple times over the years that people say that they want to pay, but don’t have any cash.”
Mr Richardson said it could even change the quantities onlookers choose to give.
“It might be a thing where people would give 50 and 20 cent coins, but if they’re going to bother with the card, they might give five bucks. You might get fewer people just chucking in their change. When they pay it might be more substantial.”
He said, however, tap-and-go payments represented a shift in audience behaviour.
“If you’re under 50, you don’t carry cash. It is really happening. But I still think it (paying a busker with a card) is a barrier… giving cash is part of the experience for an audience,” Mr Richardson said.
He also queried the level of trust some less technologically-aware bystanders may have with the system, such as “whether it’s going to zap 20 bucks or two”.
Alongside the tap-and-go option, the selected buskers are also trialling the China-based Alipay app-payment system in a move to allow Chinese tourists the opportunity to pay with a familiar system.
A week into the trial, however, he was yet to receive any payment through Alipay. Mr Richardson was optimistic, however, with the local payment option.
“As you can see, it’s going to happen. In 10 years’ time we’ll be having a very different conversation, I’ve got no doubt about that.”
Another Burke Street Mall performer, singer-songwriter Simon Paparo, similarly embraced the change.
“Yeah it’s definitely a positive thing,” he said. “It’s more frequent that people don’t carry money with them these days. Everything’s ‘pay-pass’, so it makes a lot of sense.”
“I think it’s going to take a while before people actually know what it is. Like implementing anything, it takes a while before the public are aware. But once that takes place I think it’ll be a really positive thing for the future of busking.”
Luke Fuller, head of SME and alternative payments at Quest, said his company was optimistic about the pilot program.
“While many businesses are thriving with the shift to digital payments, there are pockets of society that have been left behind and the busking community is one of them. This program is about levelling the playing field for buskers and giving them every opportunity to continue doing what they love, entertaining,” Mr Fuller said.