THE ARTIST: Anonymous:


THE QUESTION: I have a tap house gig coming up this weekend. Full two hours of solo stuff and tons of peeps are coming.  There will be regulars there hanging out and chatting, but also a section where people will be sitting and listening. Wondering if you had any tips on playing that kind of an environment? Also, I was going to set up a small area with some stickers, burned CD’s, and maybe a tip jar? Any advice on how to do the whole tip jar/donations thing well? Don’t want to miss a chance to make some extra cash to help with my tour! But also want to go about it the right way. Thanks!


THE ANSWER: Great question! Playing to this type of room can be tricky.  Here are our suggestions for capitalizing on this type of gig.

1. Play to the listeners

The talkers are there to talk and most likely won’t be (or become) die-hard fans. Focus on the listeners and play to them. Treat the evening as you would if you were playing for a listening audience.The listeners are there specifically for YOU. You can get away with doing just covers in a bar; but when part of the audience is listening attentively, it offers the opportunity to play originals, tell stories, and engage in a more thoughtful way.

2. Attempt to pull in the talkers

Sometimes you can convert audience members. Attempt to pull the talkers in by doing a songs that involve crowd participation. Work in a handful of covers as well. Songs that are recognizable or songs that require the audience member to be part of the show can do wonders to hush a crowd, get everyone laughing together, or connect everyone by singing .

3. Keep it Upbeat

No matter what, try to keep the songs on the upbeat side of things. If you’re gonna do slower stuff, try to make those the covers. But for the most part you want to stick with mid-tempo or faster material in this type of setting.

4. Put your merch table in the most trafficked spot

Stick it next to door or wherever makes most sense in the space. Don’t put it next to you on stage. Most people feel awkward about coming up to the front to buy a CD or tip in the middle of your set. It’s really awkward. Since it’s a bar, people will be coming and going. Give them the opportunity to peruse on their way in or out. The less intimidating of a spot, the more likely they are to pick up a business card, leave their email address, or buy a CD.

5. Give the Pay-What-You-Want method a try

If you`re doing a 2-hour gig that doesn’t quite allow for a breaks, this is a perfect opportunity to sell your albums with the Pay What You Want method. Read “Pay What You Want?” Does That Really Work? Tell people they can pay-what-they-want and leave with a copy of your music. Mention it a couple times throughout your set and put a sign on the merch table.  Some people will give more than the music is worth and some will give less. But it will probably increase the likelihood of more people stopping by your table and leaving with something. It will also relieve of the stress of trying to sell stuff when you can’t physically break away from the stage.

6. Wet the tip jar

Put a few bucks in. You can even try a larger $20 bill. Sometimes it takes a few bucks being in the jar in order for people to realize ”Oh duh! That’s a tip jar! I should tip this person!”  A tip beneficial when playing for transient crowds. You always want to capitalize on the people who are coming in and out even if they’re only staying for 15 or 20 minutes. If they like the music and the tip jar is accessible, they will tip. Oh…and make sure you’re tip jar is see-through!!!

7. Don’t forget your Newsletter Signup sheet

Pass it around or put it on the merch table. Whatever you do, just make sure you have it. Those emails are your livelihood. Watch Why an Email Mailing List Beats Selling CDs at Shows.

8. Mention your Social Media throughout the night

Last but not least, dont forget to mention your Facebook. Its still the #1 spot for music fans to follow their favorite artists.  Instagram has become a close second. Because people are always documenting things and snapping photos, Instagram has become one of the primary ways audience members capture an event. Dont forget to mention your Instagram handle, ask audience members to tag you in any photos they take. At the least you’ll get a new photo or video clip of your set from the audience’s perspective. Great for Regramming.  At best, you’ll get a new follower!    Of course mentioning Twitter and all other social media sites is fair game.


Good luck with your bar gig. Let us know if any of these tips help you down the line. If you have additional suggestions, please leave them in the comments section.