Playing for just tips?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by bassbully, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Anyone doing it? I am in a new side band all originals with a very good singer/songwriter and a drummer. We play his originals which are very good, americana, roots rock,alt country. I am still playing electric bass since no accoustic bass guitar types sound good IMO, i just turn down and EQ to get a woody tone with a P bass.
    We have just started and offered a coffee shop gig for tips until we can get an opening in the spring for dates which pay. I think why not? anything to get us playing and get the music out. Any Tbers doing this?
  2. Sparkdog


    Sep 18, 2006
    Burbank, CA
    I'm not, but I would with a brand new band trying to get off the ground.

    You have to rehearse of course, but nothing gets a group up to speed like playing live for an audience. And the fact that the house is not paying you takes the pressure off in some ways. My personal feeling is if you're being paid to play you owe the house and the audience the best performance you can deliver, something that takes time to develop.

    If you play for tips and still end up making money you know you're on the right track...people don't feed the kitty if you suck :)
  3. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI

    We got us a winner right here!!
  4. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    I agree. The music is good, already laid out and ready to go. We just want to start slow and build. Also my area is really a tough market and being all original means we will be playing some gigs even in clubs for free or very little pay for promotion etc as we try to get this thing going. I feel if we make gas money we are doing ok.
    I am kinda relieved in a way of not having to chase the almighty gig buck. The band wants to do well and we would like to make some money but its not our goal and we understand its going to be little to no pay for a while. We plan on getting out and then very soon recording a 5-6 song CD to gig behind locally and maybe regionally.
  5. ForSix

    ForSix Guest

    Jul 22, 2008
    Problem with doing that is that the customers think that the house is paying the band and don't tip you. You are then faced with doing the strip-club DJ thing, "Remember men, these girls work for tips and tips alone, so show them your love."

    I played for awhile in a piano bar where the patrons were informed by the bartender that they were expected to tip the piano player. I worked with a singer and in two hours we'd get maybe $50 each in tips, but that is the exception, and it was only because the audience was all regulars who knew the deal.
  6. smogg


    Mar 27, 2007
    NPR, Florida
    I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell
    Never have, never will. No pay, no play. Just ask the owner if he/she will sell their services for "tips only" and see what response you get.
  7. AlembicPlayer

    AlembicPlayer Im not wearing shorts

    Aug 15, 2004
    Pacific Northwet, USA
    oh come on now, look at this craig's list ad..maybe this doc got a free high quality open heart gig!
    Docs should have tip jars too!

    Wanted: Heart Surgeon for 1/2 Day Gig - No Pay

    I need a triple bypass surgery and want to have it done ASAP.
    We don't have any funds at the moment, but I'll have a friend videotape the whole procedure, and you can have a copy of the DV tape. We're also planning to pitch the idea to some honchos at HBO, so you'll be in on the Ground Floor!

    It shouldn't take more than 6-7 hours.
    No amateurs - Experienced Heart Surgeons ONLY!

  8. ric stave

    ric stave

    May 6, 2006
    Buffalo, NY
    I've heard of certain religous leaders who perform circumcisions just for the tips....
  9. denhou1974


    Mar 6, 2008
    If it's an original band - yes.
    If it's a venue that usually has cover bands or usually pays their bands - no.
  10. Eilif

    Eilif Grooving under the MDW runway.

    Oct 1, 2001
    It's all relative. If the venue has a natural draw, and there is a tradition of tipping the performers, then do it. We've played a few gigs for tips. Mostly for-fun stuff to keep us in the groove when we don't have other gigs scheduled. We don't do it often though.

    There are some places in the USA where it's the norm however, bands on the main strip in Nashville play for tips exclusively. There are no cover charges, and everyone knows (and the bartenders and musicians will remind you) that tipping is part of the experience.
  11. spectorbass83


    Jun 6, 2005
    Do it.
    For a band just starting out and playing original music, you're lucky to get paid anything at all. Man, I did so many shows for free with my old original band at first.

    We would play for free, opening for local bands on crappy nights of the week for pitchers of beer, a small portion of what the bar brings in, or for nothing at all. It wasn't until we put out a good EP, marketed ourselves in the city, had a few successfull sell-out shows at a hotspot in town which made the bar TONS of money that we started to see some cash. And even then it wasn't that much - anywhere from $300-$500. After paying the opening bands, you're lucky to be left with $200.

    Until you get some recognition, create some buzz and prove yourself, its going to be tough at first. Such is being in an original rock band :bassist:
  12. Sparkdog


    Sep 18, 2006
    Burbank, CA
    I hear this a lot from musicians.

    I understand it, but I think it boils down to how much you want to play and why you do it.

    No disrespect intended to anyone, but if your primary reason for playing music is to make money, you are likely in one of these camps:

    1. A hired session guy who is versatile enough to read and play anything thrown at you and willing to work the referral network for gigs.

    2. Highly delusional!

    The reason is simple supply and demand. There are so damn many musicians that at the club level they don't have to pay you decently (if they pay at all) because somebody will always be willing and available to do it if you don't.

    I'm not talking about QUALITY here. I honestly don't think your average club owner gives a rat's ass about musicianship. All he cares about is selling alcohol. If your band does that, however good or bad they may be, he's happy.

    There are about a million ways to make money that are easier and more lucrative than playing music. If you want to make MUSIC do it, but realize that some gigs pay, some don't, and if you love it you do it regardless.

    If you want to make're in the wrong business!

    It only took me 13 years of playing full time to come to that conclusion :)

    I could be completely wrong of course.
  13. modulusman

    modulusman Inactive

    Jan 18, 2004
    Musicians are terrible at business. Thats why most don't make any money. Hey lets play for free! Next time we will get paid. Once you start playing for free you have set the value of your band. If you are not worth any money then you should stay in the garage where you belong.
  14. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    First off i have played for over 3 years in gigging money making bands. My current band is the most successfull. This NYE i played for free food, a buck per beer and made $300.00 for 2.5 of country tunes. My average gig is around $100.000 for the same time great guys cool tunes and show.

    But my first love has always been original music and although my country band does its share we do alot of covers too. This group i get the chance to do pure originals ..good ones too. I doubt as others said here money will be an issue for a while so why worry. I'm am sorry but the "I dont play for free" idea is wrong in my book. I am about the music first and i have a full time job. I love making music and dont want it to become another job. If my new band does some stress free gigs for tips for awhile...yep... We are going for it. BTW its an very nice coffee bar who books original acoustic or small acts. Fridays bands play for tips only and its known. Saturdays bookings which are not open till april get 50.00 :rolleyes: no big bucks boys just gas money :D
  15. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    I could not disagree more.
  16. murphy

    murphy Supporting Member

    May 5, 2004
    AAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHH :bawl: :D :p :help::)
  17. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    I wouldn't do it, but then Ive got myself to the point where I can fill my schedule with paying dates so I have that luxury. I played for basically free a couple times when I was starting out. Looking back on it, I think that I maybe shouldn't have done that from an ethical stand point.

    Depends on the venue as to whether or not this would bother me ethically. If this coffee house doesn't normally have music, then go for it. If they do, then they need to be paying something. Otherwise, people are getting accustomed to having musicians play for free. I know people that feed their kids with gig money. People who devalue the work of other musicians by offering it up for free makes it harder for the people who do it for a living. So if the coffee house normally doesn't do the live music thing, knock it out. Maybe they'll realize that live music could benefit them, and then they'll start hiring musicians. If they do normally have musicians, then it irks me that they wouldn't pay at least a nominal amount to those musicians.

    Alternate suggestion. Find another band that is playing a paying gig and offer to open up for them for free or as close to as to make yourself attractive to them. That way you avoid the whole "music isn't worth pay" thing. Plus that way you will get exposed to a larger number of people.
    Just a thought...
  18. markbailey

    markbailey Guest

    Oct 5, 2008
    I have a close friend that is an outstanding DJ, best in the area, and turns down work all the time. He also runs the sound for our band. He can make 500 - 600 on most weekend nights and split it with NO ONE. He runs the sound for us for a buttload less than that, sometimes nothing :), but will turn down a DJ gig in a heartbeat to play with us, so I guess its not about the money. To me, money is great, but it has absolutely nothing to do with my decision to play. I'd rather have a really good time, and just make gas money, than make good and have a crappy evening playing, but thats just me.

    All us guys have day jobs though, so that may have something to do with my position. I'll play for free in a heartbeat if its something that looks like it will be a good time, but thats just me.
  19. 2x4strgkramers

    2x4strgkramers Guest

    Dec 15, 2008
    I will give you some solid advice. Play covers. Get paid and slip in a original here and there. As you become established and you build a draw then you can go to playing originals for money.

    While you heart is in the right place your bussiness model is a proven fialure.

  20. jschall84


    Mar 14, 2007
    fort wayne, in
    Bad MammaJamma
    it's warmer than busking.