How Do You Choose A Good Wedding Band Part 2
Following on from part 1, here are some more important questions to ask when you are considering hiring a live band for your big day.
How long do they take to set up their equipment? Most good function/wedding bands can set up in 30 to 40 minutes which is about the time it takes the venue to turn the room around after the wedding breakfast, ready for the evening. If they take much longer, you and your guests may be held in a side room while the band finishes setting up, and even worse, doing the dreaded sound check. Good bands can judge the acoustics of a venue as they set up and sound checks are often little more than rehearsals on your time!
How long are their sets and what kind of music will they provide during the breaks? Many bands only play for two 45 minute sets which leaves an awful lot of time to fill during a 4 or 5 hour evening reception. Good professional bands will play for at least 2 hours and should be able to do three 45 minute sets, which will then only leave a couple of intervals to fill. There is a big difference between a band just putting a random CD on and having a carefully thought out set of recorded music for either background or dancing as required. Again, good bands will have given this some thought and will have selections of light music for playing during a buffet or for settling down music before the band starts, and a properly thought out set of disco music for the later interval when you want the dancing to continue.
Can you request any particular music during the breaks, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to request special songs played during the intervals and the band should also be able to learn at least one special song for your first dance together, if they don’t already know it. (It is probably a bit over the top to expect a band to learn more than a couple of songs especially for you if they are not going to get much use in the future).
Do they ask for a deposit and do they expect the balance paid in full before the day of the reception? This is not unreasonable and you will find that most of your suppliers will work this way. If a band is haphazzard about the way you pay them it is awkward for you as well as them. Do you really want the band leader following the best man around all night waiting his money – much better to get it out of the way a week or so prior to your big day?
Are you booking the band direct or through an agency and if through an agency, will you be able to speak to the band directly when you need to. This is very important as agencies often give the band very little info about the gigs they send them and don’t want you to have direct contact with the band in case you book them again later without going through the agency first. Don’t forget that agencies always add in the region of 25% to the band’s fee and the band will often charge a higher than normal fee to the agent. You lose a lot of money that way. Many bands will often be 30 – 40% cheaper if booked direct – and you get to speak to them. The only advantage of booking through an agent is that if the band lets you down at the last minute, the agent should find you a replacement, although of course you can always phone an agent yourself at the last minute. Most agencies have plenty of bands out of work at any time.
Backing Tracks - does the band play live or do they use sequences or backing tracks? If you hire a solo singer the chances are they will use backing tracks throughout. Whilst this may sound like the Count Basie Orchestra in full swing you are still only getting one person on the stage for your entertainment. A bit like a Karaoke machine really! Many bands also use sequences to give the impression of a larger band. This is fine as long they are upfront with you about it.
Demo tracks and video – probably the most important clue as to the suitability of a band for your event. Almost all bands now have some form of sound tracks or video available direct from their website. Take the time to listen to them. Some bands have clearly spent a lot of money on this side of their publicity although all that tells you is just that, they have spent a lot of money! Check out the video carefully. Is what you are hearing what you are seeing. Most videos done in studios are overdubbed with music later – in fact so are many live videos, but beware of the highly polished videos or sounds as this is probably not what you will hear on the night, or if it is, they will no doubt be using extra backing tracks when they perform, which can work fine but it does rather kill the spontaneity and means that the band can’t alter the set to suit the event. Do remember a live video with obviously live sound is probably not as polished but is a much more accurate picture of what you will get!