Tip Jar

tip jar
Authentic fuzzy Relish tip jug.

The first item in this week’s episode will be a distillation of some thoughts on tipping the band. It’s driven by the experience of nine months at the ABC for my songwriters’ circle, which improved tips considerably.

I apologize in advance if this comes off as ranty and cra$$. I hope you can see it as a way to support all performers who too often pay-to-play. There is a considerable investment in time, talent and hard costs involved in performing (yup, we chose to do this, and we do enjoy playing, but for free?), but more importantly an entertainment service is provided. After all, people pay for many other enjoyable things, so why not live music?

The fact that some people will walk out of a club where live music is performed without dropping anything in the tip jar is more likely due to misunderstanding (and a bit of thoughtlessness occasionally) about how the music scene in clubs now operates.

Let me lay it out for you (musician readers will know this already, but you may choose to inform your attendees at shows).

Payment for live bands/artists generally falls into the following categories.

  1. The club pays the band a full wage for the show. This was common when I started playing in clubs in the 70s, when the Union set scale and agencies handled most bookings, but is essentially no longer happening in smaller venues, or even larger ones, which brings us to…
  2. The club may pay a base honorarium, often far less than minimum wage. This is the reality of budgetary constraints for clubs due to competition and heavy overhead costs. Therefore, artists must either…
  3. …charge a cover at the door. While this is fine for people who have come to see the band, some clubs are restaurants also, and those customers are not there for the band, just a meal which can get awkward.
  4. …collect a small percentage of bar revenues during the performance, usually 10%. This is a safe compromise.
  5. …pass the tip jar. Sometimes, that’s the only option.

The challenge for the audience, even knowledgeable musicians attending a show, is that it can be hard to tell which scenario is in play. That’s why I always try to make it unambiguous for everyone when I perform.

The safest bet for attendees is to think of live musicians like bar and restaurant servers: if you enjoyed the show in any way, leave a tip, just as you would after a meal or a few drinks. Adjust accordingly to your level of enjoyment. Really disliked the music or weren’t there for entertainment anyway? Then $0 is fine, your call.

Finally, if have no cash for the tip jar, try this: leave a slightly larger tip on the payment machine, and ask the server to pass on whatever amount you choose to the band. Worth a shot, right?

Rant over.

Show Report

The band had a blast last night at Relish! Thanks go out to Joanne Clayton for giving a slot once again, the entire staff for making us feel welcome, and to the audience for such a great response.


Thanks as well to Meghan Eleftherios for pictures and videos, one of which is below and features the tail end of Movin’ and Shakin’ the World.

Rumour has it Meghan (aka Bonnie Memphis) may be performing at Tony Oldland‘s Acoustic Open Mic at The Beach House this coming Wednesday, possibly backed by FatCats drummer and birthday boy today Chris Bender!

Our next show is October 2 at the Linsmore as part of a special “Chris and NeMo back everybody” night with Sal Indigo and Fraz Milne. I may be also playing another unusual show in September…more on that as the plot thickens.

Until then, be well!


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