Riffing On the Tradition: The Bucket's Got a Hole (part II)
The tradition of “tipping” musicians in New Orleans is as old as live music in the city. The colorful oral histories of the earliest “jazz” musicians who worked in Storyville parlors or nearby saloons are replete with anecdotes about how significant tips were to their music income. Marie Lavaux encouraged donations from spectators who witnessed her voodoo rituals on Bayou St. John. And, until recently, New Orleans was known among street performers as a very “busking-friendly” city.
Last week, I discussed “Digital Tip Jar,” a web-app developed to encourage tipping using smart phones, digital QR codes, and Paypal or Stripe. I advised caution in letting this practice evolve to the point that tipping becomes accepted as compensation for live music, and not just something extra. But, this week, I want to elaborate on the app’s origins as well as its potential to truly revolutionize how New Orleans musicians interact with the world and monetize their performances.
The simple concept came out of "UX for Good's" 48 hour challenge during Jazz Fest 2012. This network of "user experience" professionals came to New Orleans to address the needs of our music community. One of their proposals sought to leverage the prevalence of tipping and suggested integrating technology with social network platforms to drive fan engagement through voluntary tipping.
The idea became a reality when music and tech entrepreneur Travis Laurendine of Volnado.com (also a sponsor of UX For Good) and the Louisiana Technology Council in conjunction with the SuperBowl Host Committee entered the CODEMKRS Super Challenge, a 48 hour “hack-a-thon" where local programmers developed NOLA-centric web-applications in advance of Superbowl. The team who developed the web-app called “Digital Tip Jar,” led by Patrick Crilly from Livemusicnola.com, was the Bronze Medal winner.
DTJ generates a free QR code for each musician and/or band who registers. The code is displayed at their performances and listeners with code-scanning technology on a smartphone or tablet can scan the code and pledge financial support for the artist or band of their choice via PayPal, or another option using "Stripe."
Regardless of one’s philosophy about tipping, the possibilities are boundless. Eventually, DTJ will include integration of social media network, other forms of payment, and even integration with live-streaming sites that will make it so fans from all over the world can support performances by tipping virtually.
But, in order to move forward, DTJ’s team needs data, and as much as they can get. Feedback from fans and musicians using the app to learn, for example, what encourages tipping, how to best maintain and engage active fans, how to maximize the efficiency of the website, and other creative ways this service can be used.
To amass the needed data, DTJ is preparing a 48-hour campaign (the same amount of time provided to develop the app) on Wednesday and Thursday, Jan 30 and 31, to register as many musicians as possible and provide them with any information they need to start using DTJ in time for Superbowl. The team will also be selecting musicians and bands to test it out.
Here is the link to register. If you are a local musician, sign up, then spread the word. Don't forget to remind other musicians you talk to that this service is free. Besides signing up, you will need to update or register your account with PayPal.
Lastly, write to Patrick Crilly with any questions about the app, your QR code, your profile, any suggestions or experiences you want to share. This app can only evolve with feedback and insights from people who use it.
Evan Christopher is a noted member of the New Orleans music community and a founding member of Nola Art House Music. Click here for his holiday performance schedule. He writes “Riffing on the Tradition” for NolaVie.