AUSTIN (KXAN) — We’ve all been there — listening to live music, you see a tip jar go around, but you feel bad because you don’t have any cash. 

The City of Austin is now testing out a new program to solve that problem. It is accepting applications during the month of May for ‘Tip the Band,’ a new digital tipping program. 

“Who carries cash these days?” said Karen Jantsch, Programming Consultant at the Music and Entertainment Division in the Economic Development Department. “We really wanted to take any barrier out of the ability to support our musicians.”

The city will give 10 local musicians or bands devices called Dip Jars.

“It really couldn’t be more simple,” said Jantsch. “It’s completely secure. These are WiFi enabled devices, so no credit card information is staying in the device.”

Each musician can set the tip amount. If they set it to be $3, each swipe of a debit or credit card will deduct $3 from your account. 

Jantsch said the city will collect data from the bands from July to December to study the impact of Dip Jars. The bands will be able to keep the devices after the testing period. 

The city said in a news release, “The intended outcome of the ‘Tip the Band’ program is to increase musician compensation to help address affordability pressures experienced by our creative class; to elevate the practice of tipping our local musicians, reinforcing Austin as a community that cares about the vitality of its artists and creatives; and, to determine the effectiveness of this type of technology as a solution for increasing revenue among Austin musicians.”

Important dates to know for the pilot program:

  • May 1: Application opens
  • May 31: Deadline to apply
  • June 14: 10 selected artists announced
  • July 1: Program launches

“Nowadays, people feel bad they don’t carry cash. Definitely, people come up to me and say things like that at shows,” said Austin musician Walker Lukens. 

The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, or HAAM, told KXAN it has already been using Dip Jars for about six months at its community events. 

“We’re staying up with technology and the way people are using money because we want to make it easier for people to donate,” said Reenie Collins, Executive Director of HAAM said. “When the tip jar goes around, it’s not that they don’t want to tip, they literally don’t have money to tip.”

Lukens said he likes the idea, but added if the city wanted to make a significant impact, “They should…give the pilot program over to the venues. They could give it to instead of 10 musicians, give it to 100 musicians.”

The Tip the Band program follows last year’s Street Performance Program Pilot. It was the city’s effort to help local musicians get paid and bring live music to downtown.

Jantsch said the city paid more than 220 bands $30,000. Each band earned $150 for one-hour sets. 

Musician Dickie Lee Erwin participated last year.

“It would be nice to continue on with that program. It would be really cool,” Erwin said.

Jantsch said the city’s goal for programs like these is to help bands maximize their earnings, so they can continue to live here and play shows here even when the cost of living is skyrocketing. 

While the Street Performance pilot yielded positive feedback, Jantsch said this year’s Tip the Band pilot will result in data the city can analyze.

“We’ll able to say okay, this is how much you’re getting in tips now, and this is how much you’ve been able to grow that income stream with the introduction of the dip jar,” Jantsch said.

Erwin said, “We can play music all day long, but it’s great to make a living doing what you love.”