The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

Warning: This post is about money. You have been notified.

Last night, after the contra dance, I decided to go back out for a double-shift of busking on concertina. In the short time that I was out, I received a mystery $100 tip. If I get one more $100 tip this year, I will have beaten last years record of "Four". So I’m left with the question, "What does this mean?". Over this last year, I’ve been opposed to posting this topic, for fear of risking offending someone, as I have before. So I apologize in advance, but my curiosity is peaked.

When I started playing music full-time, I had never received a $100 tip before. I think the record at the time was $40. So I never expected to receive anything more, ever. I think the first time I received a $100 tip was from a gentleman who requested "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" on fiddle. If I recall correctly, he actually bet me to play it. I was so taken aback when he pulled out a hundred dollar bill, I asked him if he was sober and he assured me that he was completely fine.

I’ve gotten several others since, for different known reasons. Of the eight that I’ve gotten since last year, only two of them have been mysteries. I’ve also received at least one for each of my instruments. So I don’t think it’s fair for me to say that these are all accidents, or people with questionable judgment. This must mean something, but what?

I’m not trying to brag or show off, I sincerely want to know what would prompt this kind of generosity. Are people watching me? Is my audience waiting on me? Am I actually appreciated, desired even? Or is it simply just that some people are that generous and kind? Or maybe some people are just so moved by music in general?

I don’t know, all I know is I’m doing everything in my power that I can to create something and give back. Thank you for any insights, and thank you for indulging me.

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

Maybe it’s a case of ‘should have been to SpecSavers’? 🙂

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Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

Lol, I had to look up what SpecSavers was but when I saw I immediately got it xD. Very funny Kilcash ;)

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

Perhaps it just means you’re good! Naturally, once you started playing full time, your playing would have improved - eve if not perceptibly to you. If it were solely down to generosity and kindness, why would people have people become kinder and more generous since you started busking? Why would they be kinder and more generous to you than they are to me? The most I’ve ever had was 40 euros, in a small town in Portugal on New Year’s Eve. (I was probably the best busker in town that day - but, as far as I remember, the *only* one.) Other than that, I get the occasional £5 here in the UK, very rarely £10 - and mostly 20p to £1 per drop. I’ve been busking part-time for over 20 years.

It probably means you could be getting some well paid bookings. Depending on where you are, busking might still work out more lucrative for you overall, but you wouldn’t need to do as many hours.

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

Maybe you’re overthinking this? Perhaps you just crossed paths with generous and/or knowledgeable people.

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One of the sad things about starting busking in Nashville was that I soon learned that the bar musicians don’t get paid, and if they do, it’s very little. We all work off tips. And since I don’t even specialize in popular music(I know enough of it, but I don’t have the required "4 hours of songs" the bars are looking for) I’m a bit lost on bookings. The world is bigger than bars and clubs though, so I wonder what other kinds of opportunities there may be.

I do play at one restaurant/bar in my hometown, but only during the week because they have bands come for the weekends and open mic nights on Thursdays. I’m joining a street perfomers guild in Chattanooga, and I play at an ice cream shop there. The bar at home and the ice cream shop in Chattanooga have patios, so they’re perfect.

I’m working at it though, and getting things figured out slowly. Thanks for your input Creadur! I also took note of your "depending on where you are" bit, because Nashville is not an easy city, at all.

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

Aaron, I overthink everything lol. I’ve grown to accept it and run with it, it’s fun for me to pick apart things like this to see what’s up.

I think one reason why this is so fun for me to pick apart is because I’ve doubted myself my entire life, and this shatters my excuses to continue to doubt myself. It’s like, "dude, chill, you’re good, and you don’t have much of a reason to believe that you’re not good; people love you, stop being a wimp".

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

FWIW, I’m not saying you’re not good. I’m just thinking that the giver has to be inclined to be generous before they run across someone that tips the scales, so to speak.

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Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

Aaron, I completely agree. I may not have verbalized it properly, but I wanted to ask where that inclination would come from, because it’s not something that people just do for no reason. I actually had the opportunity to ask one older lady about her generous tip($60, I knew it was her because I hadn’t gotten many tips yet) and she told me a story about how her and her brother use to come out to [that] park and play and visit the shops around the square many many years ago. She said the piano brought back some very fond memories for her and she was delighted.

This is one reason why I’m a volunteer, and refuse to ask for money. You never know what recesses you’re opening up in other people’s minds. I can only hope to take them to a place they’re fond of.

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

It may depend on the setting you play in. As you suggested people may be lubricated by alcohol. Or a desire to impress their friends. Or maybe to the patron sincerely feels your talent is worth such generosity. I say accept it graciously. A $100 is still a $100 regardless of the motivation.

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

It’s likely that they were rich too and $100 was not an issue for them but still considered very generous. The average joe could never afford that. If I really liked a performer I would tip $5 and that would be very generous by my standards, but then I am poor..

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

Was it a whole bill, or multiple bills of different denominations? Sometimes tables, or the owner, will make a quiet collection for the performers and drop it in your jar. Or, as you may have surmised, someone just put a hundred dollars on your band because they liked you. At any rate, congratulations. FWIW, while I was busking, we always hit the sidewalks along the bars on weekends because someone (always male) would drop a tip larger than $50 in the case.

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

"It may depend on the setting you play in."

I misread that as "…the setting you play."

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Maybe somebody helped him/herself to change for the bus when you weren’t looking 🙂 ?

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Gravelwalks, I’m a solo act and don’t play in bands, or in bars. The bar that I play for at home, I play on their patio during the week. And they’ve come in different denominations, and in different places.

1st : Nashville, Broadway street, Fiddle: Guy bet me to play "Devil Went Down to Georgia". Whole bill

2nd: Home, The Bar patio, Piano: Mystery tip. Five 20’s stacked on top of each other

3rd: Nashville, Pedestrian Bridge, Piano: $100 in Evangelical pamphlet. Whole bill.

4th: Nashville, Pedestrian Bridge, Piano: Someone was having the worst night of their life. I played therapeutic music for them and talked with them and let them pour out to me until they felt safe. Whole Bill. They found me a few weeks later to thank me for helping them and to tell me that they were doing much better.

5th/6th: Home, The Square(Downtown Park), Piano. Young evangelical man and his fiancé who said they were deeply moved. Ten 20’s.

7th: Home, The Bar, Piano/Concertina: Couple who lives on the Square that has been listening to me since last year. Whole bill. I see them every shift and they still tip me here and there.

8th: Nashville, Pedestrian Bridge, Concertina: Mystery tip. Whole Bill.

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

Jerone, you deserve it. Since music is full time for you it’s good to know you are a fine musician who cares about the music and the people who come to hear you play.

Johnny Jay, more likely they are helping themselves to change for an uber ride. (Nashville) MTA is most likely exact change only… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdjN8gZYi9w

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Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

It’s simple. Donor had more money than he needed and a streak of generosity. As a musician, I wish I had enough to dole.

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Your music touched something special for them, and $100 was an amount that they could afford that expressed that specialness.

I think it’ll usually be that. A variation on the older lady’s $60.

Occasionally you may be in the right place at the right time for a caballero who’s looking to impress someone…..

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

Or he /she had the hots for you….

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

Jerome: At the risk of sounding goopy and sentimental, it looks to me like you have been put on the Good Karma Payback Plan; for all you do for people - through your music, through connecting with them in discussion, through simply being a musician - it’s the Universe’s way of saying "thank you." So, in a way, dear friend, the tip is from ALL of us, to you. Enjoy!

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

I once saw such a tip delivered. In Victoria B.C. in the square in front of Government House. A piper in full kit was playing (busking) during the National Remembrance day. An extremely well dressed older lady placed such a large tip in the piper’s box.

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

What makes me curious now is - why in the world would someone be offended by someone else having good fortune? I mean, people get offended by just about anything these days, but still…

I think there are simply people for whom $100 isn’t that much money, especially if they’re in a good mood and see a musician whom they enjoy listening to… I think the overthinkingmeter is indeed showing relatively large values here 🙂

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Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

Damn, looks like Nashville is the place to play, then!

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"Nashville, Pedestrian Bridge, Piano: $100 in Evangelical pamphlet."

Wow I wish the proselytizers around here were stuffing Bens in their pamphlets!

I’ve very rarely got big tips like that in my 40 years playing. (Maybe that should tell me something…)

The one that sticks out in memory is when I was piping at a wedding reception and a well-lubricated Uncle comes up to me and sticks a roll of notes in one of my drones. Later I unrolled it and found it was layers of $1 bills… with two $100 bills in the middle. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, as they say.

Then there’s the time I was piping out in front of a pub on St Patrick’s Day and passers-by started stuffing my pockets with money. Soon I was festooned with money, like the dance at weddings. But when I counted it came to around $20!

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Nashville is ok if you’re not a guitar player. Actually, I figure most places are fine if you’re not a guitar player. People tell me all the time, especially in Nashville, that they’re glad I’m not playing guitar, or country music. So the novelty rating for my instruments are all high, concertina being the highest. And since I busk consistently, locals know who I am and know that I practice a handful of instruments and styles.

But there are so many limitations. None of us can play "downtown" downtown, on Broadway, with the crowds, and it’s too noisy and busy anyway. The cops don’t bother me most times in the spots I play in, but you never know. I’ve been kicked out of my spots for certain events and things. Hopefully it never happens during a Titans home game D: But I hear from travelers and other street performers that Nashville is a hard city, compared to places like New York or Las Vegas, or cities in other countries.

All in all it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve met great people from all over the world, including Ireland and Scotland. I get to talk to people about why I play music of different cultures and I get to talk about how wonderful instruments are. And I’ve even made some friends. I’m honored to be welcomed.

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

I don’t busk anymore, but when i did a £5 note was the best tip I ever had. These days if I hear someone playing well in my nearest city [Canterbury] 25p is the best I can do, it might sound mean but I’m living on a pension and the occasional gig, so its what I can afford. I am somewhat dispirited by the indifference of 90%
of the people who walk by oblivious that someone is actually playing live music - its such a devalued commodity these days, with smart phones, car stereos, store muzak etc etc…………………

Re: The Meaning of a "Very Generous Tip"?

I’ve noticed big tippers in a couple of situations:
- Doing it to impress their friends, or maybe a lady friend.
- Just being generous: Some (wealthy) people will drop a $100, the way I might drop a $10.

I’ll drop a big tip, let’s say $10, to the staff at our session because (1) I have a job that pays more than waiting tables, and (2) I’ve just received a free beer or two from the establishment. I’d be spending $10 or $15 without the musician tab, so I’m not out any more than a normal night-on-the-town.

I guess I’m not so generous with buskers. I’m more in the $1 bracket under the idea that if everybody gave a buck, the busker would have an okay night, and I can drop $1 in several baskets.

I did it!

Yesterday evening, a couple was getting married at the pedestrian bridge. A gentleman, who I am assuming was the Best Man, approached me, with the bill in hand, and asked if I could play a set of romantic love songs for the ceremony and the picture taking. I obliged and told him that his tip will break my last years’ record, and he gave me a proud smile and a high five. Even better, a few hours later, their photographer came back and offered me a position to work with her and the "officiator"(?) as a musician, because currently, it is just the two of them.

Who knew that humble street performing could lead to such great opportunities!