Buskers hit pause as performances are suspended
For buskers, earnings from street performances have abruptly fallen to zero as busking activities were suspended by the National Arts Council (NAC) due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Jonathan Goh, a familiar face to shoppers at Orchard Road who would see him juggling and performing circus acts, said his earnings fell from the usual hundreds to just $30 a day just before the suspension.
Said Mr Goh, 24: “I agreed with NAC’s decision. As buskers, we draw crowds so we have a responsibility for the sake of people’s health.”
Besides busking, which makes around 70 per cent of his income, Mr Goh said his corporate gigs and coaching sessions have also been cancelled.
The full-time busker has turned to food delivery to supplement his income.
Some buskers have collaborated online to hold ticketed performances via video conferencing platform Zoom from April 17 to 21, partnered with Circles Life.
Full-time busker Cliff Lee, 32, has been streaming performances online daily, with mobile payment options for viewers to send a tip.
Although he does not earn as much, he can reach up to 600 people each session online.
Mr Lee said: “It is not really for income, but just something I can do to share my songs and connect with followers for now.”
Mr Lee said he earned almost two times the amount of tips than usual in February.
“People seem to appreciate music on the streets more during this time, and I hope to keep bringing music to people.”
Some buskers, including Mr Goh and Mr Lee, have applied for financial relief schemes offered by the Government.
Deputy director of access and social participation at NAC Edwina Tang said there are close to 300 endorsed buskers under NAC’s busking scheme, with less than 10 who are identified as full-time buskers.
Ms Tang said buskers can check their eligibility for income support.
The NAC also offers training programmes for self-employed persons.
She said: “Our buskers play an important role in our arts ecosystem as they enliven our city’s streets with their creative expressions.
“We strongly encourage the busking community to tap on this support to broaden their capabilities so that they have new work opportunities when we emerge from the current Covid-19 situation.”