Questions Clients Ask
- What role should music fill for my event?
- Does it make sense to pay more for a band when I can hire a DJ?
- We want to add an element of classical music to one phase of our function. Is that possible?
- How can I be certain that the band I hire can meet my needs regarding such things as timing and energy levels to be generated during the course of my event?
- How can I be certain that a band will be professional and work with me to meet my expectations for my event?
- Do I really need a contract with a band?
- What should be included in a contract with a band?
- What non-contract items are important for me to resolve with the band if my event is to be successful?
What role should music fill for my event?
Music should bring an energy level (not to be confused with loud music) appropriate to each of the different stages of your event. Music, whether live or canned, will affect your attendees throughout the course of your event. Carefully determining your objectives for each stage of your event, and then articulating them to your band’s manager will allow him or her to select the repertoire and style of music to create the right energy level for each stage of the event.
For example, do you want:
- Quiet, somewhat formal background music for a reception receiving line, or something quiet but more up-tempo to help get the line moving at a faster pace?
- Soothing slow-tempo music that doesn’t disrupt table conversations during dinner, or a program that starts slowly and soothingly and then builds to an energetic conclusion at the end of the dinner period, setting the stage for an auction or audience bidding of some sort?
- Continued high energy music to initiate and then sustain an up-beat celebration, or music of varying energy levels that reflect some more solemn stages of your event?
- Accompaniment for a performance by other professional singers, dancers, or musicians, or do you wish for the band to provide a floor show of its own?
- Any combination of the above at various times during your event?
Does it make sense to pay more for a band when I can hire a DJ?
Actually, hiring a DJ may be the right choice. We’ve attended functions where a live band was so inappropriate (i.e., too loud, playing out of tune, inappropriate dance tempo, unprofessional conduct, etc.) that the client’s money would have been better spent on a DJ. We’ve also played functions where we’ve provided background music for a receiving line, then more “subdued” dancing until later when a DJ was brought in to play Top 50 music for the remainder of the evening. Here are some major pitfalls to avoid when considering a live band:
- Make sure you hire a band that has built its reputation playing the style of music you want for your event. All good bands can play some tunes from a variety of styles (i.e., blues, Latin, country, jazz, swing, rock, hard rock, etc.) but you should no more hire a known country-style band to feature swing/jazz as you should hire a known swing/jazz-style band to feature country style or rock music.
- Don’t make your decision primarily on what you hear on a demo CD. Even the most mediocre band can sound wonderful after the recording studio performs its magic. Seeing the band perform live in a venue similar to the one you will be using is a good idea, as is viewing a video of a live performance.
- Ask for references, both from people who have attended a previous performance and from people who have had hiring responsibility.
- Use common sense. If you are having a house party and want a relaxing atmosphere so your guests can socialize, anything larger than a trio would probably not work. If a band manager tells you that his/her band can vary in size depending upon the occasion, be certain that the band has musical arrangements for, and has performed successfully with, the same configuration of musicians that are being proposed for your function. If you are intent on having a Big Band sound for a dance, reception, or show, but are working with a trio-sized budget, you will probably be better off hiring a DJ that has a library of popular Big Band music. Trios and quartets can play Big Band music, but the music will lack the fullness, drive and energy that a Big Band produces. Nothing sounds worse than a “little band” trying to produce a Big Band sound.
- Cost is important, but try not to let it be the only factor. Whether you are looking for a band or a DJ, there is always someone who will offer to do the job for less. Always protect yourself to the greatest extent possible by checking references before signing a contract.
We want to add an element of classical music to one phase of our function. Is that possible?
Yes! We have aligned ourselves with one of the premier string quartets in the Twin Cities. We’ll provide you with a link to their web site and, if you wish, put you in touch with their manager.
How can I be certain that the band I hire can meet my needs regarding such things as timing and energy levels to be generated during the course of my event?
A planning session with the band’s leader before you sign a contract should put your mind at ease. A lot depends upon the venue, the size of the group, and the nature of your function. For example:
- A house party or smaller gathering in a confined area may dictate that the best choice for you is a solo pianist or a trio that plays only background music (appropriate to the theme of your evening if one is chosen) to stimulate socializing.
- A corporate event may call for a trio or quartet during a more formal reception and dinner, adding musicians and a vocalist for a show and dancing after dinner.
- Weddings can use a trio or quartet to play background music during the reception receiving line and dinner, after which the group (or an expanded version of it) plays a more prominent, visible role for dancing and celebrating that follows.
- A fund raising gala can include a trio or quartet playing for the reception, then expand to a show band that’s part of the featured entertainment for dancing or listening after dinner.
How can I be certain that a band will be professional and work with me to meet my expectations for my event?
First, check references. After you have hired the band, the band’s manager should sit down with you again well in advance of the event to discuss your needs and wishes with respect to the band’s presence and conduct during the entire time band members are on site. The manager should also accompany you on a tour of the venue. During that tour, the venue manager should be present to answer logistical questions regarding such things as the timing for the band to load-in to the venue and the restrictions that might apply to electrical needs the band may have for instruments, sound, lighting, etc. If there is a separate catering company involved, its representative should be there also. In most cases when food is involved, the group whose activity takes priority is the catering company. Tables must be set up, decorated, and set properly and the food must be served hot and in a short period of time once it’s time to eat. During and after dinner, the tables must be cleared quickly and quietly. During the time they are on site, all other vendors’ needs revolve around those of the caterer.
After this tour and meeting, you will be in a better position to know what additional actions, if any, you’ll need to take to minimize any logistical problems.
Do I really need a contract with a band?
Yes! A contract’s purpose is to spell out expectations and what the client and the band agree to do to meet those expectations. It isn’t hard to find individuals who have experienced one or more of the following nightmares on the day of their big event:
- The band went to the wrong location and was late for the event.
- The band started late and/or quit early.
- The band’s breaks got to be as long as their music sets as the evening wore on.
- Some band members did too much celebrating during their break and the performance went downhill quickly.
- The number of musicians was fewer that what were “promised” at the time the band was hired.
What should be included in a contract with a band?
Basic contracts, at a minimum, should have a date of execution, date and hours of the event, compensation to be paid, and authorized signatures from both parties to the contract. The following is a list that includes many of the items we have seen in contracts. Many persons include additional items, depending upon the circumstances. Others want a more detailed itemization of expectations. Additional items we’ve seen in contracts include:
- Address of venue
- Hours band is to be on site
- Number and length of breaks the band will take
- Timing of breaks
- Compensation for overtime, per each ½ hour
- Dates deposit and full payment are due
- Date beyond which a deposit is forfeitable if the event is cancelled
- Dress code for the band
- Sound and lighting equipment responsibilities
- Special rules, e.g., alcohol policy, etc.
- Load-in and load-out times for the band
- Party responsible for liability insurance
What non-contract items are important for me to resolve with the band if my event is to be successful?
In addition to the items listed in the answer to Q. 6 that you may decide to eliminate from the contract, the band manager should want to know in advance:
- Name and phone number of the individual in charge of the event
- Name and phone number of the person responsible for managing the venue
- Stage size and proximity of adequate power sources
- Load-in process required by the venue
- Protection of the band from exposure to the elements (for summer festivities and winter functions that may depend upon a heated tent)
- Special requests for specific tunes or styles of music
- Timetable of events for the evening (i.e., special announcements, live auction, speeches, etc.)