What To Tip The Band – The “Goldilocks” Gratuity Gradient

Posted by Dave

When dining out, I tip a good waiter 20%. Being a notorious softie, I even tip not-so-attentive wait-staff between 10 and 15%. Culturally, we have come to expect that restaurant employees who serve us should receive a gratuity. But most of us have no idea what – if anything – is an appropriate tip for a band or deejay. 10%, 20% – what’s the right amount?

To me, the answer depends on two factors.

1. Did you receive any extra services, not included in your contract?

Most bands and deejays offer a standard price which includes 4 hours of music. Any time which they devote to you over and above that is a bonus. Folks who hire me also get an extra hour of cocktail piano music (if they want it), a couple of hours of dance instruction (if they need it), and my guarantee to learn their favorite song (if I don’t already know it.) Because these “extras” are not standard within my industry, some of my clients consider them to be in the realm of Exceptional Service, and tip me accordingly.

However, because these services are standard for me, any client is perfectly within their rights to assume that their cost was factored into the purchase price, and is therefore not – technically – an extra which merits a tip. I can only say that – in general – if you are paying premium prices, premium service better be part of the package.

2. Did you request any extra services, not included in your contract?

Some clients ask their bandleader or deejay for a meeting in their home to go over schedules and songs. Other may have a “guest vocalist” from their family whose performance at the party requires a rehearsal. A special wardrobe request, an especially early or difficult set-up, or a hard-to-find musical selection may cost your band or deejay time and/or money. In such cases, you should definitely offer compensation.

As for what exactly constitutes the “correct” amount for a tip, my guidelines would be: (a.) any out-of-pocket expenses (CDs you requested, for example) ought to be re-paid in full, and (b.) non-contracted time should be compensated based on the number of hours expended. Anything over those amounts should be based solely – just as they would be at a restaurant – on what this vendor’s service meant to you personally. There is no single correct amount.

I call it the “Goldilocks Gratuity Gradient.” You give only what you feel is “just right.”


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