Putting it Together – Tipping
I’ve been thinking a lot about tipping as The Dregs have been performing at Siouxland Festival this weekend.
Every act that asks for tips has to figure out a way to convince the audience to dig into their pocket. Every theater that produces shows has to convince the audience to not only buy a ticket but to hopefully support the theater in other ways because it is almost impossible to meet your budget with ticket sales alone.
Asking for money feels unnatural and it can be difficult but when it comes to tipping a server, most of us do it without even giving it a second thought.
I’ve been a server and I’ve been a performer and here’s what I know: being a performer takes more time and is a lot more difficult.
Serving is a hard job and I completely support tipping a server 15 percent or better. It is completely fair. I usually tip 20 percent.
It startles me, though, that people who will almost unconsciously give a server $10 will have difficulty reaching into their pocket to give a musician a dollar.
Contemplate that for a moment. Think about the amount of work it took someone to learn how to play that instrument. And then the amount of time it took them to learn to play that song. In the case of The Dregs, we often wrote the song ourselves.
And someone will watch a musician (or a juggler or a dancer) and find that their effort isn’t worth a dollar.
I don’t resent people who don’t tip performers. I simply don’t understand them. I don’t think they get it.
It could be argued that they don’t enjoy the performance and if they didn’t, I can at least understand why they wouldn’t tip. I believe that most of them, however, feel that the performer is paid “well enough” by whoever has hired them.
No, they never are.
Almost every performer is making less than a dollar per hour for their time. Some of them might be making $3 or $4 per hour if they are very lucky.
If you like what they are doing, you should tip them. Period. If a musician performs a thirty minute set and you liked one song, you should tip them.
Unlike a server in a restaurant, however, if the performer doesn’t ask, very few members of the audience will volunteer money on their own.
A performer is not entitled to your tip. They have to earn it. They have to do something that puts a smile on your face or brings a tear to your eye or truly amazes you because how the fuck did they do that?
If a performer does any of those things, they shouldn’t have to ask for money. You should want to give it to them because they shared their talent with you.
The advice I give to every young performer is to remember that if you want your tips to increase, you have to make it crystal clear to the audience that you welcome their money. When The Dregs get a request from the audience, I automatically respond “five bucks” and if they don’t pay it, we don’t perform it.
It may sound mercenary but the fact is if you don’t value yourself, your audience won’t value you either.
You have to tell your audience that you are worth more than just their time. They have not been trained to know it themselves.
As a performer, I don’t watch a street act unless I’m prepared to tip them. When my kids go to watch a show at the Renaissance Festival, I send them with cash and make sure they know that cash goes in the hat at the end of the show. I’m training my kids to understand that tipping is the way you tell a performer you appreciate their performance.
As an audience member, I never resent someone asking me for money and neither should anyone else. Everyone’s time is valuable. A juggler may not have kept your water glass filled or made sure there were no onions on your burger but what they do is deserving of the same kind of consideration as the server you had at dinner last night.