Renaissance Tips

posted Apr 24, 2013, 8:14 PM by Jeremy Fowler-Lindemulder   [ updated Apr 6, 2015, 11:52 AM ]
See Also: What I do at faire?

This was a good attendance year at the 2013 Norman Medieval Fair. The most recent estimations indicate that over a third of a million patrons came through over the three days. Nice weather does help.

It was a good sales year too. I know of a couple of bands that sold out of their CDs. I take that as a good sign of the economy. Yet, even with the good economy, I will not be quitting my day job.

Which brings me to my topic: tip your performers. They are worth it.

Many fair acts pass a hat at the end of a show, almost like they are taking an offering or bringing a check at a restaurant. Personally, if I get tipped during a performance, I find that to be the most encouraging, and I tend to play more. I do take breaks during the day, but as I have pointed out to a few others, downtime during a fair is potential loss, because when I  am not playing, I am not getting tips. I can rest later.

My experience is also that tips tend to flow more readily on the streets than on the stage. Many times I saw people hand money to small children and send them over to my tip cauldron. Thumbs up to them for trying to teach the young to support the arts. Others just toss it in themselves. I was very encouraged on Friday of the fair when school aged children began tipping on a regular basis. I haven’t seen a lot of younger tippers out in droves like that before. Past years have not been so lucrative on a “school day.” My quick analysis from this past fair puts my street tip rate about 5 times higher than my stage rate, so monetarily, I would rather be on the street. (To be fair to the fair, they did pay me more to work on “stage,” and I did not work that into my analysis. Stage tipping usually just seems low in general.)

See, the process of selecting/hiring performers can get complicated. If you book a band for a party or wedding, there is usually an agent involved, who may or may not be a performer. You can ask them a price  (and even possibly haggle with them in some cases). You can hire them, or chose to seek music elsewhere. The thing is, you have to ask and pay the price, and they show up and perform, a done deal. I like simple, but this kind of act also does not typically seek much in tips.

Hiring performers for a big outdoor event like a Renaissance Faire can be very different. Many of the performers actually apply and bid for their position. In doing so, they have to take into account several factors like how much their overhead is: including lodging, transportation, maintenance of materials, instruments, etc. Professionals will have to consider how much they need to live on and how many faires they can perform at and when. This amount needs to be offset by how much they can anticipate as income (and yes, minus taxes).

Potential income comes from many sources. Yes, most faires pay their performers something, but rarely quite enough. There is no minimum wage guarantee. Performers count on patrons purchasing merchandise like CDs, buttons, t-shirts - basically unique items that they can get at a low price and mark up a little higher. They also depend on your tips. The correct anticipation of tip and sales money allows them to bid lower. This in turn benefits both the faire and the patron.

Faires where good tips and sales can be honestly anticipated benefit by receiving more bids by quality acts at more competitive prices. Performers talk, and most know who is on the up and up. This allows the faire to charge less at the gate. Unlike big business where copyrights and trademarks tend to create defacto monopolies, we fully expect this trickle down because those in charge realize that the more patrons that can afford to come in and tip, the more quality acts there will be bidding the next year. Plus, the fair may also be able to afford more quality acts for the patrons to see. There is a lot of potential. (Please note that places like Disneyworld do not allow their performers to accept tips, all merchandise sales are to the corporation, and they pay close to union scale. Then look at their ticket prices at the gate.)

Tip your performers. They are worth it, and it helps to bring more quality live acts to a world where human interaction is becoming less human and less interactive.