Mandoliniment wrote:But I think as a small-pond band there is something we have to sell, which is a sense of connection and community - something no national touring act can compete with.
A couple of thoughts...Firstly, to respond to the above, there are plenty of national touring acts that provide a sense of community and connection. The first example that comes to mind is the Grateful Dead. The jam bands that followed in their footsteps have inspired and maintain similar kinds of kinship among their fans.
As to the tip issue, I played full time for a number of years and felt pretty frustrated at bands playing for free or for gratuities. After awhile though, I got less uptight when I came to realize that those bands were not really competing with my ability to get a good payday for the outfit I was booking and playing with. For better or worse, the bands that were playing for free or for tips were not skilled enough to offer competition for the good paying jobs.
As to Madison itself, I rarely had first class paying jobs there but they are out there. Was also fun to play the occasional gig in town purely for fun.
As an aside, Ken mentioned world class players picking for tips on Lower Broadway in Nashville. That is true to a certain extent but the popular clubs with the best musicians do offer base pay and tips. The tips can be good but the work is pretty brutal. Those bands play loooooooooong sets.
There are a fair number of musicians who make a significant portion of their income playing "for tips" at places like Robert's. It can be tough to land a steady gig playing on Lower Broad. There is lots of competition.
Anyhoo...good luck out there mandoliniment. Write if you find work!