A talented street singer with his sights set on being crowned the world’s best has told of the highs and lows of his fascinating trade.
Sam Brothers lives in Margate and has busked in almost every town in east Kent, as well as more exotic locations such as Barcelona and Amsterdam.
In one county high street he earned just 60p for a day’s work, while in another spot he pocketed £330 in less than four hours.
Thanks to his tireless dedication, the folk artist is now heading to South Korea for the first time to compete alongside 64 other street performers at the coveted Busking World Cup Finals.
His love for music started with learning guitar at just seven years old, and he began playing in public at 13.
The 30-year-old recalled: “I had a job washing cars near Portsmouth, where I grew up, and I realised I could make just a tiny bit more cash if I got the bus and went to Winchester and did a little busking set.
“I only knew four songs, so I had to play them on repeat.”
Sam says singing in high streets as a teenager helped shape who he is today.
“You're sort of confronted with all sorts of interesting people and different kinds of people you may not be aware of at school in that kind of sheltered environment,” he explained.
“I learned quite a lot about the world at quite a young age, really, and about people's troubles, especially homelessness.”
Soon his career took off, and eventually Sam was busking six days a week.
The people he meets day-to-day are among his favourite things about the job.
“I think the great thing about it is it's such a connector of different people - there could be anybody walking past,” he said.
“I love that you've got super rich people, you’ve got people who are just going to work or maybe they're on a lunch break or something.
“You've got tonnes of really eccentric arty people. It's really interesting.”
Sam’s music is very much centred around folk and is a mixture of covers and originals.
The street singer has done a set in every major east Kent town besides Dover, which he has heard “does not have the best vibe in the high street”.
But he said: “I really like Dover. I've got some good friends there and it's an underrated town. I should play there sometime.”
The Thanet resident has previously lived in Gillingham and Canterbury and has also performed in streets further up the county.
He jokes he has now “run out of land - there’s just sea now”.
Sam has found that smaller seaside towns are better than bigger towns or cities.
“I think there’s more cash about in smaller towns,” he said.
“If I go down to Ramsgate, for example, most of the people I speak to and meet now all carry coins.
“I found that I did a lot better in those places. Maybe people are just a little bit happier by the seaside.”
While working for donations can be a tough gig, the musician has had some successful days.
His favourite was playing outside Winchester Cathedral.
“It was around Christmas time some years ago,” Sam recalled.
“I got £330 that day, and that was for about three-and-a-half hours of playing. So very, very good.
“I think the worst I ever had was Sittingbourne.
“I like it as a town, but I went maybe on slightly the wrong day and I went and there were loads of other buskers there.
“I set up outside a charity music shop and it was drizzling a little bit.
“I did it for an hour and I didn't get any money, but someone came up to me and said, ‘Can I buy your guitar pick?’
“I was going to call it a day anyway so I said ‘Go on, why not?’
“Anyway, so I sold him a guitar pick for 60p.
“So I don't know if you can really count that as busking profit, but that was certainly an abysmal day.”
Sam got through to the world championships after his application – which included a video of him singing in Whitstable - deemed him worthy of a place in the finals.
Three other artists from Britain are competing in the event, which will take place between October 3 and October 7 in the city of Gwangju.
All the acts will first perform a 25-minute set, then it will be cut down to 32 competitors and so on until a champion is crowned on Saturday.
The finals - which are in their second year - are set to take place on an open-air stage and will be televised.
Explaining what he will be doing to prepare, Sam said: “I've been playing a lot.
“I've got another four shows this weekend leading up and I’m always trying out new material.
“I’ve got lots of clothes to pack as well. South Koreans are well into their sort of funky fashion so I’m going to be embracing it.
“I've got some pretty cool stuff lurking around and I'm going to sort out exactly what funky stuff to wear.”
Speaking generally about his job, Sam has noticed a shift in the way people pay which is making life harder for town centre singers.
He now plays a lot of gigs in pubs and music venues as well - a more reliable source of income.
“People using cash less and less has affected busking in a massive way,” he said.
“This is right across the board for all street acts.
“What you're seeing now is that a lot of buskers, myself included, provide a digital payment option.
“I've got a QR code you can scan and you don't have to give money but it also gives you a load of information, which is quite nice for people.
“People are slightly mistrusting of it still though. They think ‘What if it's a virus or a scam?’”
Despite the challenges, the musician does not believe the job will die out.
“I think humans are the most adaptable species on earth and I think people will find a way.
“It's culturally significant. It's something that's been happening for thousands of years.
“So I don't think you're ever going to stop people playing on the streets - buskers will find a way.”