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Live Music for Your Reception 2806 views
Nothing beats the thrill of having live music at the evening reception, says Dave Smith of party band Pop of Ages. With 20 years’ experience in the music profession, Dave shares his advice on ensuring your musical entertainment is memorable for all the right reasons.
What type of music?
Your first big decision is what type of music to go for. If you’re looking for a lively band for dancing, choose one that plays songs suitable for your all guests. A safe bet is a band that plays a broad range of pop covers and styles, from the 60s to the present day. An Irish, barndance or salsa band are other possibilities. For something smoother, go for a jazz or swing combo. Tribute bands can be a good idea, but be aware that many only play for around an hour – and, of course, if your guests don’t like the tribute you’ve chosen, they’ll just leave the room! It’s well worth asking your friends and family in advance what type of music would appeal to them.
Allocate a budget
Always hire a band composed of professional musicians – their livelihood depends on the quality of their performance and reputation. Most professional bands are experts in their field and offer excellent value for money. As a guide, they will charge a minimum of £200 per musician. If your budget is limited or you have between 50 and 150 guests, a three-to-four-piece band would be perfect. Expect to pay premium prices for larger soul, funk, tribute or swing bands – typically around £1,200-2,000. Some bands will charge upwards of £5,000. If you’re prepared to pay this, make sure they are value for money – you don’t always get what you pay for! Also take into account travelling expenses, early-arrival fees, and late finish times, all of which are likely to incur extra charges. Professional band fees should always include a quality sound system (PA), stage and dancefloor lighting and CD music for breaks, so beware if you start being charged for these ‘extras’!
Finding a band
If you are fortunate enough to see a band you like at a friend or relative’s function, approach them and ask for a business card. If you’re definitely interested, call them soon – it’s no coincidence that the best bands get booked up quickly (often six to 12 months ahead).
Alternatively, a quick internet search will uncover hundreds of bands. Narrow down your choices by listening to MP3 files provided on their websites – and, while it’s not the whole story, a simple, well-constructed website containing references, availability, prices, playlist and live pictures will give you a good ‘vibe’ about the band. As with all internet businesses, avoid bands that only provide a mobile-phone number as their contact details.
You could also opt to go to an entertainment agencies. They offer a broad range of acts, but you’ll usually have to pay a booking fee of around 15% plus VAT. As the agent is acting as a middle man, they are unlikely to let you discuss anything with the band directly prior to your event, but when the contract is issued, it’s likely to be between you and the band, so the agency is usually not liable if anything goes wrong. Agents can be a good idea for bookings at short notice, but make sure you choose a reputable one.
Questions to ask
A professional band will always have a leader, so only speak with him/her during the booking process to avoid confusion. The type of questions you should ask are the following:
- Repertoire – what songs do the band play?
- How long do they play for? Industry standard is 2 hours of live music
- How much do they charge and what is included in the fee?
- How often and where do they perform? Less than twice a month or only at pubs and clubs is not a good sign – you’re looking for reassurance that they are experienced at playing for weddings, and have knowledge of wedding etiquette.
- Can you see them play live? Bear in mind that most professional bands only perform at private and corporate events, so if they tell you they can’t invite you to see them play, this isn’t necessarily a bad sign.
- Ask for recommendations and a demo CD. A good band will freely offer contact numbers of previous clients and provide a free demo.
- What happens if one of the band members is ill? A pro band will always have competent deputy replacements for every band member and won’t let you down.
- Always insist on a contract signed between the band leader and yourself.
Firstly, check with your reception venue that live music is permitted. Next, you must check the size of the room you're hiring and the area the band will be playing in. Most venues will specify where the band should play, so once you have these details and know your budget, you'll know what size band you can hire.
Most wedding bands have between three and six members and will be suitable for most venue sizes. However, certain styles of music, such as soul/R&B, Latin/salsa and swing bands can feature much larger bands that need more space.
Check if the venue has any restrictions on arrival and set-up times for the band. Set-up time ranges from 60 to 120 minutes, depending on the size of the band and how far the equipment needs to be moved. Setting up involves not only carrying the equipment into the room but setting it up and running through a few songs to get a good sound. It’s best if this happens before your guests arrive or while they’re in a different room.
A good band will always play at a volume suitable for the room and adjust levels according to your requirements. Most bands are by nature louder than a disco and the natural sound of a live drum kit is the quietest volume a band can play at. If you think there might be an issue with volume or space, consider hiring a band that use drum tracks rather than a live drum kit.
Keeping your band happy
A few simple steps will ensure the band are keen to put on a terrific performance for you.
- On the day, allocate one person from the wedding party to act as liaison with the band leader, bride and groom and the venue.
- Provide a private and secure changing room.
- Keep the band fed and watered – you don’t need to go to great expense, but a hungry and thirsty band will not perform at its best (bear in mind their working day is often over 12 hours long)
- Ensure that the area in which the band performs has adequate power requirements.
- Agree a length of time for the band to set up, soundcheck & get changed. If things are running late, don’t rush the band – just revise the timings a little.
- If required, allow extra time for hotel staff to clear the room before the band set up (if possible, try and get the band to set up before the wedding breakfast)
- Ensure the venue manager is aware of the requirements of the band and ask him/her to treat the band as if they were your own guests
Top photo by kind permission of GT Photography.
Posted in category: Wedding Talk