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Counter to conventional wisdom- go figure


BlueStrat
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So I played a place this weekend I've played for two years. Crowds are usually fair to good, as it's a restaurant, bar and has a section for private parties. I usually average 15 bucks a night in tips on th low end to 30-35 on the high end.

 

This weekend was dismal- there was a huge 3 day blues festival in town and a big bluegrass show Saturday night as well. Friday night I had about 15 people. Last night I had about 8 in the bar area all night, and a birthday party way in the back with about 20 people. Yet on both nights when I counted my tips I was surprised- Friday night I got 46 dollars, Saturday night 62. Combined with my pay, that's not a bad weekend. One would think the bigger the crowds the better the tips, but my experience has been the opposite.The bigger the crowd, the more "background wallpaper" I become and the less they listen to me if they consider me at all. My worst nights for tips have been on the nights with huge crowds.

 

Its a dilemma for sure-, I want tip money, but we need crowds to keep the gigs coming. I'll take the gigs over the tips, but I just thought it weird to be that way.

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I'll take crowds over tips just for my own sanity. I absolutely HATE when I don't get people participating or the venue has a light night. If I had 8 people in a bar on any given night I would have packed up and went home with a reduced amount. I'll NEVER let the venue lose money on me. That line of thinking has always guaranteed that I get return gigs.

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I prefer a big crowd but will take whatever comes by. I've had good and bad tip nights on quiet nights but usually have more fun with a full room.

 

When the crowd is small, I seem to have more difficulty calling the next song. That is unless there is a table or two that are actively engaged with the band. When the dance floor is full, I can usually tell by their faces and postures when it's time to play another fast one or slow it down, or do something else.

 

It's not the crowd's fault, it's a personal thing with me.

 

Notes

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I never look at it as the venue losing money on me. It's not a watering hole or a dance club. Its a restaurant. Even the bar is set up like a dining room. Clearly, by the amount of tips I got, I'm able to hold the crowd that shows up and they like what they're hearing. But if the venue is relying on the guy in the corner with a guitar to bring their customers, then they have some serious problem in the kitchen or with their service. A quick trip to Yelp confirms that their customers only give them 2-1/2 stars. Some reviews are stellar, and others are awful. This has been their problem- inconsistency in product and service. They're trying to turn things around, but once you get a bad rep its hard to overcome. I'm doing my job, and I'm not going to take a cut in pay because their chef or waitresses aren't up to the job.

Edited by BlueStrat
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As a patron, I find I'm more likely to tip a musician on a slow night. A), I usually feel like we're getting more 'personal attention' from the music and B), I probably at least subconsciously figure that nobody else is going to tip the guy, so I should. If the place is busy, I figure everybody else is tipping, so I'm less likely to do so.

 

I never thought about it, but it's possible that a lot of other people have the same attitude.

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I'm with Potts--I will take a pay cut. It doesn't reallly matter if you are doing your job or not, if you refuse to play ball with certain places you will eventually lose the gig. I am only doing 4-5 a week right now. One place I have been at 7 years and one 6 years---all year long including off months--and its because I adjust accordingly when it comes to getting paid less when they arent making much money.

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Well, that's your prerogative, and I won't fault you for it. I just don't see it the same way. If their crappy food or service costs me money, then I want a say in how the place is run. They don't ask my opinion and I don't give it. Should the beer or wine vendor cut their price because the guy's business is inconsistent? Should the janitorial service or the electric company cut their rates because the food isn't up to par?

 

I'm not "refusing to play ball" with the owner. I'm playing ball by the rules he established, as a contract entertainer hired to perform for a set rate he offered and I agreed upon beforehand for his customers' dining enjoyment. That's what I do. and I do it well. It's worked that way with this place for two years so far. And so far, the guy has never indicated that he regrets paying me what he pays me, so I'm not going to offer to take less because of his other problems, He may offer me less in the future and I will decide then if I want it or not.

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I always say, "If the crowd is good, it's the band ..... if the crowd is bad, it's the food."

 

I dislike places that hire a band in the hopes that the band is going to draw a crowd. Too much pressure on one item in the total picture.

 

I've always felt it's the band's job to entertain the patrons so they have a good time, stay a little longer, and feel like they want to return -- and not to draw them in in the first place.

 

Some gigs I don't even put out a tip cup, other gigs I rely on the tips. It depends.

 

Even in the best places, some nights are going to be crowded and other nights are going to be dull.

 

If I make great tips on a slow night, I appreciate it. If I make great tips on a better night I still appreciate it. And I can't figure out why and when people tip.

 

Although I do know certain songs when requested pull better tips better than others.

 

The Saxophonist's most requested song over the years has been "Yakety Sax." This song seldom brings in a tip, and when it does, it's usually $1 and sometimes $2 -- I've never received more than $2 for playing this one.. The tip is appreciated but not required.

 

In my career the second most requested sax song has been "Night Train". This usually gets a tip that typically ranges from $5 to $10 and I've gotten $50 a couple of times and $60 once.

 

The best night was back in the 1980s when I was doing the cruise ships. We had a request to learn "All My Ex's Live in Texas" so we bought a copy while in port to learn. The very next week the entire cruise ship was rented by an insurance company for all the people in Texas and Oklahoma that wrote over a million dollars in insurance that year. First night we had a request for "All My Ex's" and I told them I didn't know it but would learn it by Thursday (figuring the days I could get to the stage in the day to sequence and practice it). Night after night the same thing.

 

We cranked it out on Thursday, and that night we made over $400 in tips. The Texans were a party bunch and appreciated the special attention. I didn't tell them we planned to learn it that week anyway. Why spoil the party?

 

Notes

 

 

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I wouldn't willingly take a reduction in pay. When I book a date, I often turn down offers for the same day, so I'm not going to lose money just because I am honouring the slower gig. The other reason I don't take pay cuts, is that when business is really good, I get a pat on the back, but no extra money - so it's clear to me that I don't share in the profit or loss. The third reason I don't offer to take a cut is that I often can't - literally. Many of my solo gigs are booked by an agency. I don't have the right or power to bargain prices, and in fact all of my agent booked gigs are paid through the agency. I never get paid from the venue on an agency gig.

 

On a side note; last week I got a call from an agent around 3:00 pm, three hours before a gig. She said the room had blocked booked the date, and didn't need me. Now sometimes when this happens, the venue just says they will "make it up to me", which is what they wanted to do this time as well. However the agent said she wasn't going to let this one slide and was going to charge them full price, because it was such late notice. So again, I had no say in the money end of the deal, and if the venue says something to me, I can just play stupid - not a hard thing to do :)

 

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Should the beer or wine vendor cut their price because the guy's business is inconsistent? Should the janitorial service or the electric company cut their rates because the food isn't up to par?[/quote

 

Hey I igree with you but (for my situation) it doesn't work like that. The music is the first thing to go when it's slow

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Should the beer or wine vendor cut their price because the guy's business is inconsistent? Should the janitorial service or the electric company cut their rates because the food isn't up to par?[/quote

 

Hey I igree with you but (for my situation) it doesn't work like that. The music is the first thing to go when it's slow

It may well be, but like I said, this isn't a bar or dance club where the music is the attraction. It's a restaurant where the food is what brings people. Thus, I can't take a cut in pay because they have management issues.The music in restaurants doesn't make them much money except in keeping diners there longer than normal. In fact, when it's busy, they often ask me to take more breaks so people will get up and leave so they can turn the tables over. Why? because the money is in food for them. And if that's he case, then like I said, if they can't get people, in the door, it's a kitchen problem, not the guy in the corner with the guitar, and my taking a cut in pay won't make a bit of difference if they make it or not.

 

I agree if it's a bar or a dance club, I might be more inclined to assume more responsibility for their turnout. But not a restaurant.

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I never said the venue's problems are associated with the guy playing guitar. For me though, why in God's name would I want to play to 8 people? Cut the night early, let the venue owner think you're awesome by saving him a few bucks and it always works out. I'm WELL past the guessing thing as to how solo/restaurant gigs work. Show respect for the venue and it always comes back. Lost $25 now and gain $$$$ for future bookings.

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It may well be, but like I said, this isn't a bar or dance club where the music is the attraction. It's a restaurant where the food is what brings people. Thus, I can't take a cut in pay because they have management issues.The music in restaurants doesn't make them much money except in keeping diners there longer than normal. In fact, when it's busy, they often ask me to take more breaks so people will get up and leave so they can turn the tables over. Why? because the money is in food for them. And if that's he case, then like I said, if they can't get people, in the door, it's a kitchen problem, not the guy in the corner with the guitar, and my taking a cut in pay won't make a bit of difference if they make it or not.

 

I agree if it's a bar or a dance club, I might be more inclined to assume more responsibility for their turnout. But not a restaurant.

 

No offense but yeah we know... It's the sam with any restaurant in the entire country. I'd imagine that where many of our gigs aree

 

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I never said the venue's problems are associated with the guy playing guitar. For me though, why in God's name would I want to play to 8 people? Cut the night early, let the venue owner think you're awesome by saving him a few bucks and it always works out. I'm WELL past the guessing thing as to how solo/restaurant gigs work. Show respect for the venue and it always comes back. Lost $25 now and gain $$$$ for future bookings.

 

I guess you and are different. I have learned to play for 10 or 10,000 people with the same energy. I like playing, and don't view "only" 8 people as a chore but rather people who are paying money for dinner and might like entertainment too. I don't care if here's only one person. Its up to the venue owner to call it a night, not me. I'm hired to play for the clientele, no matter who or how many show up. I'm not saying your viewpoint is wrong and i get it. But that's how I look at it and always have. it comes form all those years of playing six nights a week to mostly empty rooms Mon-Thursday. I'm not worried about future booking there. I'm already booked two nights a month there through July.

 

In addition, those 8 people, along with a few in the back from the birthday party, put 62 dollars in my tip jar. Apparently they enjoyed it, and I liked earning the money.

Edited by BlueStrat
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I'm also in the "deals a deal" camp. They are paying for the most valuable thing any of us have- time. I might look at it differently if it was my only income. Then I'd be dependent on that gig, or others like it. Everyone knows it can be difficult to land a good gig, and for most of us, there are only so many suitable rooms to play in a given area. But that is not my situation, so if a guy hires me to play in his place and promises "X" amount, that's what I expect to earn, no matter if not a soul shows up, he books the wrong day, his electricity goes out, whatever. I'm there, ready to play, they have to pay the fee.

By expecting someone to discount their performance, they are essentially devaluing your time. It 's like saying " Not many people here, but you didn't have anything else to do, so it's really not hurting you to leave and take a cut" I get that your "helping" but if they don't pay you extra when the room is full, then you are getting hosed out of fear of losing the gig.

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By expecting someone to discount their performance, they are essentially devaluing your time. It 's like saying " Not many people here, but you didn't have anything else to do, so it's really not hurting you to leave and take a cut" I get that your "helping" but if they don't pay you extra when the room is full, then you are getting hosed out of fear of losing the gig.

 

Obvioulsy there's no right or wrong answer but this is not what I'm talking about. Being a fulltimer my time is wasted and devalued by playing to an empty room. I have plenty to do other than playing music to nobody. So when it's dead I'm out. They get pro-rated for the amount of time I was there plus setup. If I get $175 for three hours and I play for two, I charge them $140 and I just made $70 an hour and I'm home with my family earlier. No harm no foul.

 

BTW I get tipped by the venue AT LEAST 50% of the time for good nights. St Patricks day I made an extra $150 from the bar because of the relationships I keep throughout the year. You can't base gigging and professional relationships just on the night you're there. It's not about the fear of losing a gig...It's about building relationships. I know I've used the word three times but that's what's made me successful and I wouldn't change a thing. I have 60 gigs in the next 120 days with 6 Friday nights off for myself.

 

 

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"Being a fulltimer my time is wasted and devalued by playing to an empty room."

 

How, exactly, if you're being paid the same amount for it? I was a fulltimer for many years and never, ever felt that way. I never felt 8 people, or 4 or 2, was "an empty room." You seem to be saying that those people don't matter, and the crowd had better be there for you or you won't play. How many is enough for you to perform? 10? 12? 16? is there a 20 person minimum? I dunno, seems backwards to me. My father told me when I first started out to never take people who spend money on me for granted, and that if I couldn't deliver for 2 people, I couldn't do it for 20,000. But he was an old cowboy, so wtf did he know? Or wtf do I know, for that matter? :-D

 

By the way, I played 13-17 nights a month for the past year until this this month, and I still don't consider that full time. Maybe I was and didn't know it! LOL

Edited by BlueStrat
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I can see that for you Potts, that works, and it works for me too, in my day gig. I've got clients that I will overlook stuff I could charge for. It's about taking care of the client, developing a relationship, and doing what's best for the client. In return, their support makes a real difference in my life, and my ability to support my family. But as a very part time performer, that is a different kettle of fish. I don't do clubs anymore where I'm there once or twice a week for a year or two, trying to support their efforts and make fans. I'm doing corporates through an agent, and it's almost always one and done. I will work with my agent, but he's also on the same page as me, in that if he credits a client for a last minute cancellation, he also loses. So, he never does that. He gets us the cancellation fee if that happens and there is never a reduction for the event ending early,

The fact that you do get extra compensation for a good night shows that what you are doing is working. And I like the fact that you are looking at it as your time being wasted playing for a small crowd as opposed to you helping the venue. You're the one pulling the strings. That's one of the benefits of doing your own thing. One of the few.

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"Being a fulltimer my time is wasted and devalued by playing to an empty room." How, exactly, if you're being paid the same amount for it? I was a fulltimer for many years and never, ever felt that way. I never felt 8 people, or 4 or 2, was "an empty room." You seem to be saying that those people don't matter, and the crowd had better be there for you or you won't play. How many is enough for you to perform? 10? 12? 16? is there a 20 person minimum? I dunno, seems backwards to me. My father told me when I first started out to never take people who spend money on me for granted, and that if I couldn't deliver for 2 people, I couldn't do it for 20,000. But he was an old cowboy, so wtf did he know? Or wtf do I know, for that matter? :-D By the way, I played 13-17 nights a month for the past year until this this month, and I still don't consider that full time. Maybe I was and didn't know it! LOL
lol.. If you don't consider 13-17 gigs a month full time, I don't know what is. As far as how many people will I play for? Its simple... Its either dead, slow,or busy. Its the same language that the venues use. I seldom play when its dead.
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