Question: Should you tip musicians?
Is It Customary to Tip Musicians?:
Definitely! Just like you would tip the wait staff in a restaurant, it is customary to tip your musicians. Yes, even if you have already paid the full amount required in the contract, most of our clients add a cash tip at the end of each event.
How Much Is Appropriate?:
Tip amounts vary based on the number of musicians hired and how long they were needed. For a soloist playing acoustic violin or singing while playing guitar and keyboard, most clients hand the musician an additional hundred dollar bill minimum at the end of a show. Bands sometimes receive tips of over a thousand dollars, especially during major holidays.
Most musicians who ever perform as soloists have a tip jar and love to see it get filled while they perform. This is a perfect way for an audience to demonstrate their appreciation for the music. There are some types of events where a tip jar might not be appropriate like black tie events. Some guests will still find a way to sneak some cash to the bandleader.
To make sure having a tip jar on display is appropriate, our contracts have a section where you can indicate whether or not we should. Private parties like birthdays and backyard BBQ hosts will often tell their guests to bring cash to tip the musicians.
If you see and enjoy a live musician's performance and don't see a tip jar, it is still appropriate to hand them some cash between songs or put money in their case or table next to them. The use of coins is rare these days so bills are preferred as long as you make sure they won't blow away or get easily swiped or knocked over.
Online Tip Jars:
Many modern musicians and bands have online tip jars. Look for a QR code that you can scan with your smart phone that will open an application on your device where you can send them a digital tip. Their band logo may have it on stage or on their tip jar. Most bands have this on their website as well. QR codes and online tipping will likely become the sole form of gratuity for musicians within the next several years.
Who to Tip:
Please tip the bandleader. That is likely the person with whom you've done all of the planning and communicating with leading up to your event. They are likely the one who pays all of the musicians and all of the other band expenses like for the sound system, lighting, writing the music the musicians play, advertising, and everything else it takes to run the business. When you want to give different amounts or individual tips to specific musicians, an envelope with a label is helpful and you can hand it directly to those people individually during a break or at the end of the performance.
When to Tip:
We have had clients say they want to tip the band in person at the gig and request a lower rate in advance so that they can afford to do that within their budget. What they don't realize is that most of the band's expenses occur either upfront getting to and from the gig. The crew have already paid for the fuel, reeds, rosin, strings, batteries, cables, advertising, picks and other accessories they might need for your event. Just like everyone else, our utilities, student loans, car payments and other bills have to be paid on time so we charge specific rates that need to be paid in advance.
Full payment is required in advance but a tip is something extra given in addition to that afterwards. It is fine to mail a tip later to the same address listed in our contract.
What is Not a Tip:
If you are behind on payments and still owe your entertainment money, making that payment at the gig is not a tip. This sometimes happens when clients decide to add options like lighting at the last minute, or if you engage the overtime clause of your contract. Paying what you owe is not a tip, it is a late payment. It is customary to add a more abundant tip in lieu of a late fee.