Handy Hints for Booking a Band (and a useful word document)
Booking a band should not be complicated and a good band will make it as easy for you as possible. Don't be afraid to ask loads of questions until you know you are getting exactly what you want. A good band will then take over all the arrangements and will make it all happen as smoothly as they can.
At its most simple level you tell the band when and where, they turn up and everyone has a great time! Below are some of the things the band will be thinking about so if you can know the answers that makes life easier for everyone - if you're not sure then the band will usually be able to help out or even speak to the venue on your behalf.
You'll find musicians are very helpful people who love what they do and want to do the best they can.
Style of music
Do you want something cool and in the background (perhaps piano and vocals), do you want something that people want to listen to or do you want something upbeat that is going to get everyone dancing (in which case consider saxophone and drums)?
Do you want a band that plays a specific type of music, perhaps salsa, funk or swing, or do you want a band that can play a variety of music to suit a range of ages, perhaps mellow stuff to start with and then upbeat stuff to get everyone dancing?
Are there specific songs you would like played? The band will usually have a good list of songs and may even let you pick and choose which ones you would like to hear. They will also often be flexible with what they play by judging the mood of the audience.
Would you like the band to play the first dance at your wedding? You may have a song in mind but think about its speed and whether you want people to join you halfway through the dance. If the song you would like isn't in the band's set list then ask them if they know it - they will often try to help but will also be honest if they feel it is a song they couldn't do well.
Have you heard or seen the band? It is important to hear some of the band's music or to see them on video or live. You may not get the chance to catch them doing exactly what you would like them to do at your event but it is good to see or even speak with them if you can.
Have you got a big room to fill or will it be a more intimate affair? Will you be inside or outside (see 'practicalities')?
How many guests do you have and how many rooms are you using (one room means that you will have to decide on volume levels that suit everyone, two rooms mean that some of your guests may end up in the room where the band are not playing).
Do you know how big the playing area for the band will be, the size of the dancefloor and whether you need or would like extra lighting for the entertainment?
When do you want the live music? During drinks, early in the evening or as a highlight?
How long do want the band to play for? Usually the band will do two one hour sets with thirty minutes between them but this can be changed to suit your needs.
Have you thought about your timings of the day? Think about when people will realistically arrive and/or want to listen or dance to a band. (With the best laid-plans, speeches at weddings always tend to be longer than you expect!)
DJ / MP3
Would you like music played while the band isn't on? Perhaps you have a DJ but another alternative is to use an MP3 player or laptop to play music through the band's PA - this can be very effective and you have complete control. If you would like to use the PA for a longer period than the band will be at your event they will usually charge for this.
Have you told the band how big the venue is and how many people you will have? This is important as they will need an appropriate PA system of the correct size for your venue so that it isn't too big (and loud) or too small (and quiet).
Have you checked that the venue can have live music? Do they have any restrictions on times or noise limits (some venues have a system where if the music is too loud the electricity gets turned off!).
Have you thought about the process of the band setting up and packing away. Bands usually like to give themselves 30 to 40 minutes to set up and pack up. Will there be easy access for the band to do this? If you want them to set up several hours earlier this may be possible but there is likely to be an extra charge and they may be funny about leaving their equipment.
Is your event outside? If so, the band could do with shade and if there is any risk of rain or even late-night dew then the equipment must be under cover and on a completely dry surface. A brisk breeze can also play havoc with music stands and other equipment.
Have you got someone who can liaise with the band on the day, deal with any issues that may arise (volume levels, sorting out drinks, etc) and sort out the money.
Directions. Have you given clear directions to the venue and also to the specific room in the venue? Is there parking for the band close to the entrance?
Making the booking. Make sure both you and the band are clear on all the arrangements, get answers to all of your questions - they don't mind because they want to make sure that your event goes as perfectly as possible. Both you and the band should have something more than a chat on the phone - conversations via email give a good account of what has been arranged.
Cost. This depends on the type of band, the venue, the time and many other things - you should budget for between £200 and £2000 and be aware that all the musicians need to earn a wage and they a have a large amount of valuable equipment and valuable experience.
Paying the band. A typical arrangement is 50% in advance and then the remaining balance at the beginning of the event - make sure the band emails you to confirm the receipt of any deposit.
Is there a dress code? Smart-casual, black tie, etc.
Food and drink. The band will normally feed themselves before or after the gig, however, if there is an opportunity for food (barbecue, buffet, nibbles, etc) it is nice to tell them and ask them if they would like to share in it - this creates a great atmosphere with the guests. In terms of drinks, playing live is thirsty work and most bands will require unlimited complimentary soft drinks and at least one complimentary alcoholic drink - in practice, some bands will drink nothing but water with maybe a beer at the end.
Having a great time
A great band will make this whole process extremely easy, they will know what to expect, be proactive in order to avoid any potential issues and you and your guests will have a fantastic time - it should be, and usually is, that simple!
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