I don’t normally put tip jars on my pianos or ask for tips when I do a corporate gig. I think it’s generally inappropriate to charge thousands of dollars to a client and pedal tips from their guests. And we are quite capable of putting on an engaging show without using the tip mechanism. But…tips do add a very interesting element to the dueling piano format, as you can see on some of our demos. Let’s say someone gives us a request for Piano Man along with $5. If someone hates that song, they can stop it immediately with $6 and have us play their song instead. The original requester may choose to “re-start” Piano Man by giving us $7. It can get into a hilarious battle. Dueling shows use these types of “tip battles” with College Fight Songs, North-South duels, Male-Female duels, etc. to great effect.
A professional event planner that understood the “dueling” aspect of Dueling Pianos recently suggested giving the guests “play money” to use as “tips” to drive the content of our request-based show. I don’t like the idea of play money, because it’s not going to cause the same crowd response since the crowd will know that the person tipping doesn’t have skin in the game. And if anything, it will make the show more chaotic without adding the fun factor you’re trying to achieve.
Here’s a suggestion…rather than using “play money”, give each guest an envelope containing $3 or $5 or $20 (or more depending upon how extravagant you want to get). Seal the envelope so they can’t see what’s inside (a dark colored envelope or manila should do the trick), and put the guests name on it. Under their name have written instructions not to open the envelope until instructed to do so.
Then when the dueling pianists begin the show, they tell everyone to open their envelope. The duelers explain what the money is for, but tell them that they are permitted to pocket the money and keep it as a gift (cool, right?) OR use it in song battles. They can also pool their money, to have more power in choosing the direction of the show.
How many events do you know that have given cash as a door prize? It’s a unique gift, and it’s memorable. But far more memorable is the fun they will have pooling it, and stopping songs, and starting songs…kind of like a really fun team building exercise. And depending upon how much money the client wants to put in the envelopes the dueling piano entertainers may be willing to lower their entertainment fee.