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Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?

Uncle_DaveO 10 Jun 01 - 12:27 PM
wysiwyg 10 Jun 01 - 12:50 PM
Clinton Hammond 10 Jun 01 - 12:57 PM
SINSULL 10 Jun 01 - 01:02 PM
Spud Murphy 10 Jun 01 - 02:39 PM
Suffet 10 Jun 01 - 02:57 PM
pattyClink 10 Jun 01 - 03:04 PM
Spud Murphy 10 Jun 01 - 04:10 PM
Dave Swan 10 Jun 01 - 04:19 PM
Uncle_DaveO 10 Jun 01 - 04:52 PM
hesperis 10 Jun 01 - 07:46 PM
GUEST,Phil Cooper 10 Jun 01 - 11:04 PM
GUEST,Phil Cooper 10 Jun 01 - 11:14 PM
mkebenn 10 Jun 01 - 11:34 PM
Sarah2 10 Jun 01 - 11:41 PM
mkebenn 11 Jun 01 - 12:08 AM
Mooh 11 Jun 01 - 09:04 AM
GUEST 11 Jun 01 - 03:05 PM
Jim Dixon 11 Jun 01 - 04:12 PM
Stewart 11 Jun 01 - 04:47 PM
Erica Smith 11 Jun 01 - 04:55 PM
Jenny the T 11 Jun 01 - 05:43 PM
Murray MacLeod 11 Jun 01 - 09:34 PM
Uncle_DaveO 11 Jun 01 - 10:24 PM
Uncle_DaveO 11 Jun 01 - 10:25 PM
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Subject: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 12:27 PM

I have set for June 22nd what will probably be the first of a series of appearances at a new, struggling coffeehouse locally in the Indianapolis area. The singers don't get paid by the coffeehouse; it's playing for tips.

Couple of problems here: The coffeehouse being new, there's not much patronage so far. Also, the few customers haven't been indoctrinated, there's no tradition of tipping, so to speak.

Now I don't expect to get a lot; I know I won't under the best of scenarios, and I won't be TOO put out if there's never a dime. I'm happy to sing for an audience, if only of two or three. BUT if I can pick up a little change here and there I'm all for it.

Any thoughts on how best to encourage tipping, hopefully without looking TOO crass?

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 12:50 PM

The only ones I've been in had waitresses or wiaters and they got the tips. The performer always made a mention, and there was a tip jar at the coutner too for self-service people to tip the house in general. I dunno how the split was done. The gigger got a cover charge.

But we also hold a lot of concerts in our church, secular and religious, and when we do it's somewhere between a house concert and a cover or ticket situation. I think it applies here.

Remember first that the people coming will have some "culture" of tipping and/or covers from other events they have attended, too. They will expect there to be SOME expected thing.

I think the person best suited to make the announcement about payment arrangements for the music is the place's HOST. You can help move this one's host in the right direction by asking them how they plan to handle that... it will get them thinking, and then you can offer guidance if and as it's asked.

You, as the performer, are the best one to make an announcement about donations to support the HOUSE.

Some things to think about--

1. Ask the house to post a word about all this on any publicity or posters, and/or on signage inside the door, AND inside the bathrooms, especially inside the doors of the ladies' stalls!

2. Put together a two-sentence thing the host (and you and other performers) can say easily that summarizes exactly what you said above in your post above.

3. Set out a tip jar next to the CDs, or by the door, and mention it at the close of the set.

4. Consider starting a cover charge now, at least for weekends, and not waiting till there is more business. People like to feel that what they are getting is worth paying for-- what we get for free we often do not value as much. I know that seems silly, but market research proves it.

5. A creative thing would be a sliding cover charge-- you'd ask the person at the door to collect, with the phrase, "Our cover charge is on a sliding scale, fifty cents to five bucks, whatever you think is right for you."

What you can do is help pull business their way whenever you play, by making up a flyer or doing some publicity and being sure people who support you come to the thing.

If you also ask some other musician to share the bill, you will have paved the way to send them some business when they palay alone, as well, especially if they are booked there for a date they can announce. (Your flyer can specify the tip arrangement, too, etc.) If each player, as the place gets started, includes another, pretty soon the place will get a reputation.

Or suggest a Grand Opening Weekend with local players all solicited to come do a short set like a sampler, and ask they they pass out flyers for this Opening at their other local appearances. Make it free but solicit tips or house donations, and let it be known it's the only free event there will be!

I think it's like church-- you want people to have such a satisfying time that they not only come back to repeat the thing they did, you want them to come to more stuff besides that, and to bring friends along as they do.

Also, like church, it is fine to actually pass a basket labeled "Support this place and this performer" during the latter part of the set. Split the take.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 12:57 PM

"Remember folks... clappin's the butter... But I could SUUURRE use the bread!"

LOL!!

Works from time to time for me...


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: SINSULL
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 01:02 PM

Dave,
I would not be above placing a shill or two in the audience to make a show of tipping after a favorite song and then passing the hat. Mention in your patter that you are playing for tips and appreciate their support - not like those annoying people on Public Television, but simply and straightforward. Then enjoy your own music. Wish I lived closer. I would be there in a minute. Is "Don't Go In The Lion's Den Tonight" on the agenda?


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Spud Murphy
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 02:39 PM

My dad had a pretty effective way of inducing tipping back in the depression when I was eight or nine years old. He had a wooden recepticle cut out and painted like a cat. (except, as I remember it, it was green.) Then he'd put the thing right in front of me. I played the fiddle with the orchestra whenever my mom would let me. (One time when she didn't check it out too close, we had an engagement at the American Legion Hall when the featured entertainment was a stripper. She did a tap dance right in front of my chair as she was finishing up.) We made a lot of tips that way. I noticed that they never cut me in for any, though.

If you haven't got a eight or nine year old kid, maybe you could borrow one from a friend of yours.

Spud


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Suffet
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 02:57 PM

Back in the 1960s we had places in New York City, mostly in Greenwich Village, called "basket houses." They were coffee houses where the performers passed a basket at the end of each set. We weren't shy about it. We simply made an announcement that went like this: "The management does not pay us to perform. So if you like what you heard, could you please put whatever you think is appropriate in the basket when it comes around. Thank you." $5 for a 40-minute set was considered a decent take, as the typical contributions were 25c or 50c each. If the waitress liked you, you might get free soda and cookies.

To be sure, these were "no cover" places where the management depended on whatever talent showed up. They made their money on the coffee, the soda, and the soft drinks made by mixing plain water with imported Italian syrups. Also on the pastries. Espresso and an eclair were a pretty exotic combo back then. Those basket houses were, however, good places for young, unknown musicians to hone their skills. Bob Dylan started off playing in them, but he soon graduated to bigger and better things.

Best of luck.

--- Steve


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: pattyClink
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 03:04 PM

At gospel concerts the basket is passed and it is mentioned, anywhere from subtly to ton-of-bricks, that they are having a 'free will offering', always thought that was a charming phrase.


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Spud Murphy
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 04:10 PM

Dave:

Forgot to say that the kid should probably wear a pair of kinda old raggedy blue-jeans with a little tear across the knee for effect.

Spud


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Dave Swan
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 04:19 PM

It's probably not appropriate for your situation, but I've got to mention the best tip generator I ever saw. In the dim past I worked near a guy who had a slack rope act, and he was GOOD. Juggling, sword tricks, dance moves, the whole thing, on slack rope. Not easy. The crowds ate him up. At the blow off he would send out his mostly terrier mutt who carried a basket in her mouth and would work the crowd. She'd wait patiently for a tip, or come when called to another member of the crowd. Of course, folks couldn't wait to put money in the basket of the cute little dog who worked with the rope walker. He'd adopted her as a wet shivering puppy on the street and told her that she would have to work for her living. It took him a long time to teach her to hold the basket and work the crowd, but once she had learned, his take more than doubled.

D


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 04:52 PM

SINSULL:

Yes, "Don't go in the Lion's Cage Tonight" is in my setlist, and so is "She's Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage."

For a certain amount of variation, I'll do say two banjo songs, then two or three guitar songs, maybe an unaccompanied, then back to a couple banjo songs, etc. That puts my required banjo retuning at a natural break, as well.

DAve Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: hesperis
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 07:46 PM

I think I went to a coffeehouse once where the OWNER of the coffeehouse took a jar around to people for the performers.

I've been to several where the owner or host mentioned that there was a jar for the performer's tips on the counter. He said it several times in the evening. As a listener, I didn't consider it an interruption. People come and go in coffeehouses, too, so don't wait till the end of the set if it's busy at intermission.

But I've never played a coffeehouse...


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: GUEST,Phil Cooper
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 11:04 PM

I usually haven't played tip places with my usual group. I always feel like a dork asking for money and I figured that if the owners of a place couldn't at least do a cover charge, that I was better off staying home, watching trashy movies. My significant other, however did play a lot of them, and on nights when I wasn't booked otherwise, I would come along and we'd do a guitar pull. She brought along little paper cups with a note in each one stating that she was not getting any compensation but what was left in the tip jar, or the cups. She would write thanks at the bottom of the note and leave one at every table. That worked fairly well. Most of the tip places in Chicago have closed up. Some of the stories I heard about management not being sympathetic to musician's needs led me to believe that I was right in generally not playing for tips.


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: GUEST,Phil Cooper
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 11:14 PM

Dave, by the way, I was not trying to discourage you from playing the new coffeehouse. My significant other and a couple other performers have done fairly well with tip coffeehouses. There were quite a few in Chicago a few years ago. They were not there when Margaret and I started playing (if they were, we probably would have played at as many as would have us), we started by playing house concerts and folklore societies will to take a chance on us. I think public performance ought to be encouraged and wish the new coffeehouse luck. May you draw a good crowd that likes to drink coffee (that's what they're in business for after all).


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: mkebenn
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 11:34 PM

Dave, recently went to see an old friend I hadn't seen in many years, and he had one of those five gallon pickle jars with a big sign over it saying " Please tip the bald guy" Laughed my arse off, and dropped in $20. Mike


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Sarah2
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 11:41 PM

That's what we'd do, Mike, but we always used either a giant brandy snifter or a fishbowl, available at garage sales for $1.00 or less, and our sign just said "Attorney's Fees." Worked like a charm.

Sarah


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: mkebenn
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 12:08 AM

Sarah, I like it, I'm thinking of "Jeep Payment" Mike


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Mooh
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 09:04 AM

...or, please help keep my guitar in the manner to which it is accustomed... Saw this recently, don't know where, but I think it was taped on the inside of the guitar case lid which when standing open encouraged people to tip into the case. Another sign I've seen in the same way said "Will play for food, but my landlord prefers cash."


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 03:05 PM

Take a break (half time) and have whoever is "host" do the commercial just before you go back on-stage.

There's nothing wrong with doing it yourself.

The plain implication should be clear that the dough-in-the-hat will be directly proportional to whatever would constitute an absolutely terrific second half show.

Harry Chapin put on four hour plus concerts for audiences that went "above and beyond" buying his World Hunger T-Shirts during the break.

He simply made his objective clear.

That's all any crowd wants.


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 04:12 PM

My wife and her music partner wrote an extra verse for one of the sea chanteys they frequently sing, in which they make a blatant plea for donations. It's kind of hokey, but it never fails to get a laugh.

I once heard two performers do it this way: Between songs, one turned to the other and said, in a pathetic voice, "Do you think they'll give us enough tips so grandma can have that operation?" That got a good laugh, too. Everyone knew it was hokum.

Doing it with humor can at least diminish the embarrassment you feel at asking for tips.

However, I once saw a busker with a sign taped in his guitar case that said, "Saving up for a hooker." It prompted my 8-year-old son to ask, "What's a hooker?" I did NOT appreciate that.

Coffeehouses in this area usually also sell coffee beans in bulk, and are willing to "tip" each performer with a free pound of coffee beans. When the performer's family comes along, they sometimes get free coffee, ice cream cones, or whatever is available.

Once at an arts festival, I wheedled free T-shirts for all of us. They had given them to the volunteer workers, who had been there since morning, but hadn't thought of giving them to musicians, who showed up later. This was in addition to the agreed-upon fee. Moral: various freebies are often available, but you may have to ask for them.


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Stewart
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 04:47 PM

At a neighborhood Greek restaurant here, a favorite couple of mine play music twice a month. About 15 min into their set she holds up the tip jar and says "and now a word from our sponsor." It seems to work.

S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Erica Smith
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 04:55 PM

hmmmm, i'm in favor of 2 things:

1. decide, with the coffeehouse, a 'suggested donation' that's realistic -- $5 is generally accepted -- and then appoint a cohort (preferably female, yes it's gross, but it works) to politely walk the tip jar from table to table once per hour.

2. take requests. (most traddies do . . . but *not* most folkies in general these days, which puts us at a distinct financial advantage :). i've gotten some mighty fine tips for playing things i would't usually play, but love, like L. Cohen's Joan of Arc or Joni Mitchell stuff. If someone requests a song i hate, or simply is not my vibe, i gently nudge them toward something more middle of the road. If someone calls out for Ani DiFranco, for example, we could meet halfway at American Pie.

e


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Jenny the T
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 05:43 PM

Which coffeehouse in Indy is it?


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 09:34 PM

If you want money in the tip jar you have to hustle it yourself, about which I kave no qualms whatsoever. I don't suppose playing a coffee-house is so very different from playing a bar in that respect.

I usually mention every fourth song that we are playing for tips only. I also add that I am trying to make enough to pay my way through college, which is my equivalent of "granny's operation".

There is some really good advice in this thread.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 10:24 PM

Jenny The T

This is the Fishers Coffee Company, at 116th Street and Allisonville Road, behind the GasAmerica.

I'll be singing from 7 to 9 pm on Friday, June 22nd.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Playing coffeehouse: How encourage tips?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 10:25 PM

I'm 70 years young, so I guess I could say I'm trying to work my way through school!

Dave Oesterreich


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