5 Best Tip Jar Ideas for Musicians To Earn More Money [Updated 2020]

As a musician, earning money for playing music is one of the best things that could happen.

If you are in a band or a singer/songwriter, chances are, you have been struggling to catch a break and start making a living out of playing clubs.

Not too long ago, people would even play for free.

I don’t blame musicians who perform without getting compensated, because it shows their passion.

Whether you play your own songs or play covers at birthdays or weddings, you can earn extra money if with these tip jar ideas.

Putting a tip jar out while performing is an excellent way to earn tips, but you and your band should receive them by establishing a connection with the audience.

Remember, the audience went to the venue to relax and escape, so it is our job as entertainers to give them a memorable experience.

To earn tips, you have to get the audience hooked, which means you have to practice social skills along with practicing your singing and instrument playing.

Sometimes if the audience does not show interest, it is challenging to get their attention.

In some venues, the band is only there as background music, which makes it a lot harder to make the audience feel your presence.

My Experience With Getting Tips

my experience with tipping jar culture - ideas, tips, tricks, psychology advice

When I play some gigs at events, I often put out a tip jar and put my own money to start rolling.

At this one gig, I did a while back, I was already playing for 30 minutes, but the audience did not seem to mind me.

They were talking amongst themselves while sipping their drinks.

I started to think I will never get tipped until I played one song that caught their attention.

You will only have to play one song and catch the attention of one person in the crowd to get starting.

The guy left $5 in the tip jar, and the rest was history.

People started clapping, and I was on a roll.

If I were told what kind of music the people liked, I would have opened it up with that song selection sooner.

After that, I was confident enough to do spiels and talk to the audience.

I earned over $50 in tips that night, and after that, I have developed some systems to earn tips on my next gigs.

Some of these tips worked well with me, and I hope it would work for you too.

Here are 5 Tip Jar Ideas for Musicians:

Learn How to Play Cover Songs

tip jar tactics - choose the right tip jar

“Hey! Play something we can dance to.”

As a gigging musician, you will hear this phrase a lot, depending on the venue you are playing.

When I started playing and writing music, I never wanted to cover pop songs and mainstream hits.

It just felt kind of lame, but when I discovered that I could earn money and make a living out of it, I started to learn how to play covers.

Getting ready and learning songs that will be requested at gigs is one of the best ways to earn tips.

Some people even make a songbook so the audience can pick from which songs you can play.

Some of the most talented musicians just know almost every song.

Make sure you are updated with the latest hits.

Ask People To Sing With You On Stage

tip jar etiquette for musicians - tip jar psychology

Another effective way to get the crowd’s attention is to ask for people to jam with you on stage.

I know you don’t play at a karaoke or piano dueling stage, but trust me, people like to channel their inner performers and jam on stage.

Make sure you ask someone who is willing and knows the song you are playing by heart.

You can always guide them through the performance by singing with them if they don’t have the lyrics locked down.

I have played a lot of gigs where people tipped me because I let them sing on stage with me.

Make sure you do these jam sessions towards the end of your set.

You should already have established a connection with the audience before going into the jam session section of the performance.

You don’t want them to sing for you all night, as you still want to show your talent.

A good number of people you can call up to the stage is around one to three people depending on how long your set is.

Talk To People

tip jar questions - mic stand tip jar ideas

Even if you are a top-notch singer and musician, it still takes time to get used to talking to the crowd in between songs and performances.

At first, you have to read the crowd and figure out a way to break the ice.

The people that came and saw you perform are looking for a good time, so make sure you do that by getting them involved.

However, make sure you do the right combination of song performances and talking.

Adding too many fillers might make your performance look like a stand-up comedy act instead.

Engaging your audience is one of the best ways to earn tips.

Once the audience is entertained, they will gladly tip you for the excellent time they had.

You can also ask your friends to support you in your first performances.

If you know some people in the crowd, it will be easier to get more comfortable talking to everyone in the crowd.

Soon after a few gigs, you will meet some regulars, especially if you gave an excellent performance the first time they saw you play.

Here are some questions you can start asking people to get the ball rolling:

  • Ask them what they do for a living
  • Ask them who are they with this evening
  • Find some connections between you and that audience member
  • Ask them what kind of music they are into

In some instances, you only have to talk to one person or one table, and the whole crowd will follow.

Learning how to speak to the audience will take some getting used to, especially if you are not that much of a talker.

Most musicians are introverted people who don’t have great people’s skills, but you can always learn.  

Once you get the tips coming, you will get motivated to on your next gigs.

Let Them Know About Your Tip Jar

Thank People Who Leave Tips - band tip bucket

A lot of people are willing to give tips, especially if they enjoyed a type of service.

In your case, if they had a good time listening to you play, I am sure they will want to tip you.

However, people are sometimes shy about these things, which is why it is best to let them know about your tip jar.

Make sure people know that you have a tip jar.

Also, let them know how much you would appreciate their help by putting a sign or telling them while you’re on stage.

Thank People Who Leave Tips

tip jar ideas for musicians at restaurants pubs bars clubs

Always thank people who leave tips.

You can thank the people you see leaving tips in between songs, or even while playing if the person who left a tip is about to leave.

People appreciate being acknowledged, and it sometimes encourages others to tip you as well.


If the basic pay for your gigs cannot cover rent or is not enough to buy new gear, you can always use a tip jar.

Depending on the event and venue, you can probably make as much with tips alone.

Make sure you follow these steps that I learned from experience.

Don’t be afraid of the audience, and always establish rapport with them.

It is all about how you connect with them and demand their attention.

I hope you learned how to earn more tips with these tip ideas I shared with you.

Don’t give up on your passion for music, and don’t stop playing.

We play not because of tips, but because we like it.

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