Editor’s Page – March 2024

Tipping Musicians

I admit to being a lurker. I read through the topics on Facebook to give me ideas of what the people here at Lakeside like to read, and what they want to know about.

Tipping, known as a propina, is a topic that comes up frequently – wait staff, hairdressers, taxi drivers and the like. But in all my readings, I see no advice about tipping musicians.

We have a multitude of music-making entities, for instance, individual wandering minstrels in the plazas and malecons. Some restaurants allow them to ply the diners inside their establishment. They play requests for your tip, typically 20P per song. There are full mariachi bands who wander through restaurants playing the same way. If one table requests and pays, several or all of the near tables either enjoy the music or not, and tip accordingly.

But what about the bands – the musicians who play at venues while you eat, and where you get up to dance to their music? There is no shortage of bands here, from single singers with Bluetooth and a speaker to full bands playing everything from American pop music, classic rock, blues, jazz, to salsa/cumbia. We even have a local death metal band, called Lake of Death, if that suits your fancy. Many local bands/singers play regularly, every week at venues, sometimes for years, and have become very popular.

Most of our musicians live here in Lakeside and most are professional musicians; they do not have a regular job. Venues that cater to foreigners know that their target market doesn’t like to drive after dark, so musicians cannot juggle a regular job with gigs that start at 3PM.

Sharon Stavroff, the curator of her Live Entertainment Facebook page, Ajijic and Lakeside Entertainment Group, consisting of more than 4,000 members shares:

We are incredibly fortunate to have a large number of restaurants and bars lakeside serving such a wide variety of foods. We are even more fortunate to be able to go out to dinner, enjoy some musical entertainment and dance if we like for a few hours.

Our lakeside musicians are very talented. Many have years of experience under their belts and are highly respected locally, in their hometowns, and even abroad.

Our musicians love their art, spend hours practicing and learning new songs, and negotiate gigs with restaurants, bars and other venues. They spend time mentoring other musicians and giving back to the community by performing charity events several times throughout the year.

A musician’s life is one of love and passion for their art and the joy they give to their audience.

But musicians have a tough job. Many have been playing music since they were children, then attending music school to learn technicalities, purchasing and upgrading their instruments and equipment over the years, rehearsing untold hours, and playing many, many dive bars to hone their craft. They arrive early and stay late and sometimes they have to limp their old cars home. Busy times have to carry them through the lows – like when it rains, or is cold, or there is a Covid scare somewhere or whatever causes a low turnout. So, yes, calculate the amount of the covers when the venue is full, but also figure out when they play to four or six people.

It will take a long time for them to recover from the Covid years; complete shutdown and then years of low turnout; playing for covers and tips. And they have to perform the exact same job as when the place is busy.

They play their hearts out for you.

A few musicians play more than one gig a day in the high season. That income has to keep them as gigs/turnout in the low season dwindles. Some venues charge a cover charge; an amount usually added to your dinner/drink tab. Some venues take the band pay out of their revenue for the night. Pay and tips must be divided amongst the band members, sometimes unevenly. And there is usually a tip jar for patrons to leave something for a job well done, especially if there is no cover charge.

This is a difficult way to earn a living. Many do it as a hobby, some have a safe foreign pension. Mexicans do it as a way to make a living and support their families. Like so many other Mexicans, they work hard for the money.

Some people say they came for dinner – not for the music. That’s fine. But if you enjoy the music, please do not forget to leave a propina for the musicians.

[Correction: In the March issue an error was made in the spelling of the author Johanna van Zanten. We apologize for the inconvenience.]

For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com

Victoria Schmidt
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1 thought on “Editor’s Page – March 2024”

  1. Christy Wiseman
    Christy Wiseman

    Dear Victoria,

    Thank you for putting in the good word for our wonderful musicians. Those propinas mean a lot to the musicians, not just for the financial help it gives them, which is little enough, especially in today’s increased prices, but equally important, it tells the musicians that what they have to share (their wonderful ability and effort and the pleasure they receive in playing ) is shared and appreciated by those for whom they give it. It means a lot to them. I do remember Beau’s coming home from playing at Adelina’s or wherever when the tips have been generous. It is a validation of their importance and aren’t each of us pleased when we get that?!

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