From time to time, I’ve had a tip jar on this website. None of the instances were especially successful, but I’m thinking of adding it again. While the website carries no ads (I tried them for a while too but found them too distracting and not successful at all) I do try to monetize it in other ways (all Amazon links are affiliate links, for example).
The always interesting Christopher Breen has written an excellent article about this sort of thing, “Busking in the age of the internet.” Breen conducted an experiment recently where he tweeted three times that he would match (up to US$200) donations to John Moltz’s effort to transition from full-time corporate work to full-time freelance writer. Breen’s results were interesting: His initial US$200 donation was matched—but barely more—in less than 24 hours. The twelve people who donated, surprisingly, were almost all strangers to both Breen and Moltz.
Breen goes on to analyze what lessons can be drawn from his experiment. Most notably, he references the 2007 Washington Post experiment where Joshua Bell busked in street clothes at a Washington Metro station for 45 minutes. The distinguished violinist raised only about US$32. “Like the people hurtling past Bell and his violin, the free nature of the web has blinded us to the notion that free doesn’t mean without worth,” writes Breen.
Project incubators like Kickstarter work, according to Breen’s analysis, at least partially because there’s some reward—early access to a product, a small gift, or something else. With busking there’s no reward except the talent which is being busked. Sadly, if you’re self-employed in this new normal economy, more than likely you’re a busker now.