When was the last time you hired a band? Unless you’re an events professional, a music promoter or keen to throw flamboyant birthday parties, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve never been responsible for booking live musical entertainment before. As such, you may be looking around and wondering wildly where to start and how to choose a wedding band that will be appropriate for your wedding, keep your dance floor packed and play that strange request for Hanson that you want.
Well, we know that great musical entertainment is often what wedding guests remember from a wedding reception – nobody wants their wedding remembered because of a particularly bad DJ who played Brown Eyed Girl on repeat for 20 minutes! We also know that musical entertainment is one of the many underestimated areas of a wedding budget, so we want to manage your expectations.
We went straight to the top of the musical entertainment wedding business and contacted Sternberg Clarke – TWIA judge Adam Sternberg’s entertainment agency – to help get you some answers.
There’s usually no greater endorsement for a wedding supplier than a personal recommendation, so do make sure you ask around friends, relatives and colleagues to see if they know of any particular standout wedding acts. However, do bear in mind that musical taste differs wildly, so the Tom Jones tribute act that your Nana loved might not be your cup of tea at all.
The internet is definitely your friend and you’ll find that most live musical acts will now have examples of their work on their websites, so that you can actually listen to demos and hear what they’re like. A recorded song might be greatly different from a live performance though, so when you’ve drawn up a shortlist you might want to try and catch a gig to see if the band of choice are just as good when playing live.
It might seem obvious, but it’s really important to pick the right act for your own musical preferences and your music choices on the day. It’s surprising how many clients expect an act to play a song that’s completely out of their comfort zone. You wouldn’t ask Frank Sinatra to play a Black Eyed Peas song, would you?
It’s a good idea to ask for a sample repertoire list or a set list if your musical act or entertainment agency haven’t already sent one. This will give you an idea of what type of songs they generally perform before you confirm your booking, so there won’t be any surprises later down the line.
“Couples can always ask acts for specific song requests,” says Alice Chorley, from entertainment company Sternberg Clarke. “But if an act has to learn a new piece of music they may ask for a little more money to cover rehearsal time and the costs of arranging music.”
“If a couple is talking to an entertainment agency, naming specific songs and artists is enormously helpful in giving suggestions, so it’s important not to be shy about what you want from the start. Similarly, it’s also good to allow the performer the freedom to choose certain songs and the order of songs, as they know what works well and for when. For bands and DJs in particular they can also work with what your guests are really responding to on the night.”
There’s no point in beating around the bush in terms of what you can and can’t afford to spend.
“It’s always good to be upfront about budget from the very beginning,” said Alice. “If you’re open about your price range from the start, an entertainment supplier is able to suggest the acts that’ll make the most impact whilst staying within budget.”
To give you an idea about how musical bookings are usually arranged, Sternberg Clarke tend to quote prices based on a maximum of 3 x 45 minute sets for most bands/ensembles and a maximum of 5 hours for DJs.
Although these sets often vary from act to act, Alice advises, “Timings are crucial to getting the most out of an act – using acts at the right points in the day will maximise their impact and make their performances memorable.”
And what about the age old question regarding whether having a big band will cost you more in the long run?
Well, as you’ve seen musical acts are usually booked on duration and will have a flat rate fee for a certain period of time. Nonetheless, food is a big consideration with bands.
“When a band plays at a wedding, many brides and grooms don’t consider the hours they’re on site beyond their performing time,” explains Alice. “A band needs to set up, sound check and change, often hours before they’ll get down to the business of actually playing – then they’ll need to pack down once the whole wedding is finished (often hours later) so it’s nice if they’re offered something to eat and drink before they perform. If you’ve booked that 18 piece Swing Band for the evening, you’ve potentially got 18 mouths – plus possible sound engineers – to feed, so it’s good to bear in mind in advance.”
“There are different benefits to having different sizes and line-ups of bands,” Alice advises. “Larger bands obviously allow for more flexibility and are able to perform a wider range of music. Some larger band line-ups are also able to do things like perform background music as a jazz band and then move into a full function band set, so that’s always worth discussing when picking a band.”
“Smaller bands, on the other hand, come with their own benefits. Naturally they take up less space, which allows more flexibility when it comes to choosing a spot in a venue for them to play.”
“It’s not just bodies on stage that you need to consider, but also all of the equipment each performer comes with – instruments, mics, amps, PA and their respective wires and cables all take up valuable space at smaller venues. Less equipment also means that smaller ensembles can play sets in different places with less hassle provided this is planned out in advance.”