Booking a live band for your special event is always a solidly great choice. Live music adds atmosphere to any gathering, and is capable of turning any party into an event that will be remembered for a long time.
Some things you should know before booking live entertainment.
Ask yourself how many office parties you’ve been to where there was nothing special going on other than the same people you see every day at work, everyone puts in an appearance, socializes for a while, then goes home.
Now ask yourself how many live concerts or shows you’ve been to? Think about the excitement in the air at a concert, everyone cheering, dancing, and having a great time. It’s a good bet that some of these concertgoers even save their ticket stubs to put in a scrapbook when they get home. Wouldn’t it be great to have a similar level of excitement at your South Florida wedding or event? A live band can help you give your guests an evening to remember!
However, hiring a band for a special event is sometimes intimidating for those who have never done so before and it does involve additional planning and expense that should be taken into consideration well in advance in order to minimize any last-minute “surprises" that otherwise may arise. It helps to be as informed as possible when negotiating a price with the agent or bandleader, and it is especially important to communicate your expectations to the bandleader so that the musical portion of your South Florida wedding or event goes off without a hitch. Bandleaders may also have some expectations of their own; it is a two-way street, and like any business transaction the objective is to create a win-win scenario whereby you, the band, and your guests can all call the evening a success.
This article will focus on how best to achieve that win-win scenario, so as to make your event a memorable one that will achieve its desired goals. The first section will provide some ways to help you plan your event to include live music as a centerpiece, the second section will provide some information that everyone should know before starting to negotiate a fee with the bandleader, and the third will focus on the actual day of the event. The information in this article will help make your event a Dream Come True and not a Nightmare!
The Planning Process:
Plan your event: The first thing on anyone’s to do list should be to come up with an overall plan for how you want your event to flow, and where you want the band to fit in to this equation. Will there be dancing? Will there be quiet dinner with background music? Will there be a cocktail hour? The answers to these questions will determine what type and size of band will suit your needs. Having a 17-piece Big Band for your dinner hour would be too loud for your guests to hold a conversation, but having an acoustic jazz trio for a crowd of dancers is also a mismatch. Assess your needs realistically, and hire a band that meets those needs. . Be sure to communicate those needs to the bandleader too; he/she needs to know what you’re expecting.
1: Some successful musical matches
Cocktail/Dinner music: ……………………….………Small, acoustic Jazz trio or quartet
Wedding Ceremony: ……………….Pianist, organist, Classical Duo/Trio, Brass Quintet
Swing Dancing:…………………..……..…Large band with a drummer and lots of horns
Disco Dancing:……………………….………….……………Variety band with a vocalist
Many bandleaders will be able to work with you to accomplish all of your goals. Consider the logistics of your venue: Along these same lines, it’s important to make sure that your location fits your needs.. If you’re hiring a large band, make sure the stage area is large enough to hold them all comfortably enough to hold them all comfortably). If the event is to be held outdoors, the stage area should be covered in case of inclement weather, as should the sound system. If it’s going to be an evening event or after dark, make sure there is adequate power for lighting on stage. It is helpful to provide as much of this information to the bandleader this information to beforehand as possible to do. Consider the visual impact of your event, and choose music that’s right for that theme. A good band will always entertain your guests, but a good band in a well-decorated room will transform your guests and bring them into an entirely new world for a night.
2. Hire Professionals:
Sure, you might be able to save some money by getting so-and-so’s brother-in-law who played in a band in college to come jam with his friends at your party, but ask yourself: isn’t your event important enough to give your guests the best? Professional musicians do this for a living! They will take your South Florida wedding or event seriously, work hard to entertain your guests, and will work with you to suit your event’s needs instead of just hanging around playing their instruments for their own gratification. Budget Accordingly: Remember that most professional musicians have a great deal of time and money invested in their abilities and their equipment. Many professional musicians have degrees in music, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and sometimes even Doctorate degrees in the Musical Arts. Many are also music educators in public schools or privately teaching or Adjunct Professors at local colleges and Universities.
Musicians usually work as independent contractors, which means they’re responsible for their own health insurance, self-employment taxes, retirement plans, Liability insurance and medical insurance and other expenses that the rest of the working world gets through their employer. What’s more, the physical effort of playing an instrument is very demanding. Medical studies have shown that a concert violinist burns as many calories during a typical day of practice (4 to 6 hours) as an athlete training to run a marathon. Most working musicians carry their own gear to and from the job site, ranging from at least two or three brass instruments to a full set of drums, amps, and sound systems. Musicians are prone to RSI’s (Repetitive Stress Injuries) and other job-related maladies. All of this contributes to added medical costs and higher insurance premiums for which the musician must bear the cost.
And let’s not overlook transportation costs. These days, fuel expenses are significant; musicians must drive in order to transport their equipment. All of these factors contribute to the band’s Cost of Doing Business. You should expect to pay these musicians fairly for their time while they’re performing at your event. That being said, you don’t have to break the bank to get the band you want. Come up with a realistic budget for live music based on the size of the band you want (number of musicians) and the appropriate costs involved for each musician. Agent Fee Additional percentage taken by booking agents for the work they do in booking the band. (Typically add 15% to total musician wages) Cartage: Bonus paid to musicians who carry large instruments or equipment. Doubling: Bonus paid to musicians who must learn and maintain skills on more than one instrument in order to perform an engagement with the band. Mileage: Bonus paid to musicians to cover fuel costs to travel to and from the job site for engagements outside a Metro area. These costs can vary depending on which state the band is located. Sound System: Covers the cost of professional sound reinforcement, including the use cartage, and maintenance of sound equipment and a professional sound engineer to operate it. Stage Lighting: Covers the cost of use, operation, and maintenance of professional stage lighting. Payroll/Employment Tax: Covers all Federal, State, County, and Municipal taxes and fees associated with Contractor wages as reported on IRS Form 1099-MISC. Insurance: Covers musical instruments and equipment against loss, damage, theft, or other unforeseen circumstances (cost varies depending on individual rates and policies). The bandleader will have considered his/her cost of doing business when providing a price quote.
3. The Booking/Negotiation Process:
You’re now ready to begin negotiating. Having planned your event’s overall flow, being informed about what the bandleader is likely to charge, and having budgeted and planned accordingly, you’re now ready to bring the band into the equation. Arrange a meeting with the bandleader or agent if possible. Email is often better because it leaves a written record of all of your correspondence, which makes it easier to look back and find out what’s already been discussed. Watch out for extra fees: An ethical bandleader will not try to add in additional costs, but once in a while you’ll get a leader who tries to charge more than a reasonable amount. Although most leaders may not be willing to share information on how they pay their musicians, fortunately you can use the above table to figure out if you think they’re charging an unreasonable amount for their services. As always, though, the cornerstone in this business is communication: If you feel you’re being charged an unreasonable amount, you can always ask the bandleader to explain why he is charging so much. If he gives you a reasonable explanation for his fee, then it’s probably legitimate
4. Get a Contract:
A written contract is more than just your assurance that the band will perform their duties in a professional and timely manner. It is also the band’s assurance that they will be paid at the end of the night. Having a legally
bonded contract is sensible and recommended part of any business dealing, and dealing with a band is no exception.
The contract can contain anything you both agree to, but it does need to have a few key items: at minimum, your contract should contain: Your name and address; the name and address of the signatory musician: and the amount of
compensation agreed to, when the deposit is due (usually 50%) and when the final payment is due and on what terms. Usually, it will be a money order, bank check, cashier’s check or cash; the bandleader will usually not accept personal checks. Personal checks are usually okay for the deposit but not the final payment in most cases. Beyond that, there are some terms the bandleader will probably insist on, such as the fact that no commercial recordings will be made of the performance without written release. There are usually also some legitimate concerns bandleaders have about the band’s working conditions while onstage. Here are some common requests:
Safety: Make sure the area where your engagement is to take place conforms to building codes and is safe for occupancy.
Breaks: The band will not be able to maintain their energy level if they are required to play solidly for 3-4 hours straight. Most bands divide the time up in 1-hour sets with 15 minutes of break-time in between, although this is usually flexible based on the flow of your event.
Setup: It is best to allow at least 3 hours prior to the event so the equipment can be loaded in without being in anybody’s way.
Food: The band usually needs to eat at some time during the engagement, the meal does not have to be what your guests are served. Sandwiches, cold water, soda, coffee are usually fine. Most bands will ask also for cold bottled water for the stage.
Communication: Communicate your needs to the Bandleader, up front. If you’re going to need the band to play Calypso music for half of the night and then Cover tunes for the other half, communicate that at the time of negotiation, not later on. If you have a favorite song for the Bride/Groom dance, Mother/Daughter, Father Daughter, Toasts etc., tell the band leader up front so the band is prepared to play your requests, arrange the music, and rehearse it if it’s not already in the band’s repertoire. Allow the Bandleader to communicate his/her needs to you. Remember that these musicians are accustomed to being treated professionally while on the job. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to lay rose petals at their feet or separate all of the green M&M’s out of the bowl in their dressing room, but you should treat them like respected business colleagues. As with any business negotiation, it is a two-way process. Remember that the musicians are performing their job in a different location each time they perform, and as such they will be very conscious of their work environment and working conditions being up to certain standards as explained above.
On The Day of the Event:
You’ve planned the event. You’ve hired the band, paid the deposit and signed the contract. Here are some things to keep in mind on the day of the event: Have the business items prepared in advance. Make the check out ahead of time so you can so you can hand it to the bandleader smoothly. Have a liaison or contact-person available at the venue location early enough to let the band in so they can start setting up (this can be your caterer at the venue, or wedding planner if you have hired one). Allow the musicians plenty of time to get the heavy lifting out of the way so they can take a few moments to relax before having to be at the top of their game when the music starts. Give your bandleader the cell phone number and contact information for your contact-person so they can call if they have any questions or problems.
Don’t Micro-manage: Chances are, you’ve got enough to worry about the day of the event without worrying about the band. Fortunately, you’ve hired professionals! Let the bandleader do the job you’re paying him to do. He will make sure the musicians under his employ will conform to whatever conditions you have discussed with him ahead of time. If you have a favorite song, it’s acceptable to make a request, but there’s no need to dictate the bands entire song list to them – let them do their job.
Expect the Unexpected. Live music is unique in that it takes place in the moment. No two live performances are ever exactly alike. Each musician is constantly striving to make every performance unique and wonderful. Don’t expect your band to sound exactly like the recording – expect them to sound better!
Expect them to interact with the audience a little bit, let them “work the room” and personalize their show for you.