Posted: May 1, 2009
Today an online friend asked for my input on a Band vs. DJ blog. I was happy to help, especially since it is a topic I have covered here before. I read a post that was sent to her by a DJ, just below mine. This Dj was very diplomatic and sang the praises of live bands for the excitement they bring to any event. She then went on to detail some cons on bands. One was price. I can’t argue that. Bands cost a lot more than DJs. Then she said something about most bands being unable to play music from all eras and something about pleasing grandma. So not true! At least where I come from. Bands have to play everything. Ask grandma. she’ll tell you to get a band. Anyway, all of that got me thinking. Maybe people don’t know what a top level, professional event band should be capable of.
You band should be able to…
…play music that you can enjoy with your grandma, your dad, your niece, your sister and the lady from your mom’s tennis club that you had to invite, and play it well. Look for a varied and extensive song list. Then ask for recordings or video to make sure the songs on the list are recognizable as… well… the songs on the list.
…take requests for special songs like your first dance, parent dances, cake cutting, last song (if you want to specify – some people do, some don’t) or anything else that comes up. If you have songs in mind already while you are searching for a band, ask for them in advance. If not, the leader should be able to help you with those choices by giving you lists and suggestions.
…string the songs together so the action keeps going on the dance floor. Nothing is worse than a band stopping to select their next song while you are standing out on the floor ready to dance. That kind of thing sends me straight to my seat, or the bar! Make sure you hire a band with a strong leader that has experience. Leading a band is not an easy job. Choose someone you trust and can relate to. They will be reading you and your guests all night to keep the party on the right track.
…shift on the fly. There shouldn’t be a “set list” for the music at your wedding. The band should be able to roll with last minute changes to timing of food or speeches. Sometimes the best man has a lot to say. Aside from some basic needs (electricity and enough space for the equipment), your band should be able to set up just about anywhere in the room you (or your event coordinator) want them to be.
…provide music for your ceremony and cocktail hour if you want it. Ask what kind of additional services your band can provide. Don’t assume that because most of the night will be spent playing dance music that your musicians can’t also play jazz or classical. Most professional organizations have access to musicians outside of their main band as well. You may be able to book a specialty act through them and have just one person to deal with, which makes it much easier to stay organized.
…control the volume. It’s not as easy for a group of 6 to 10 people to turn down their volume as it is for a DJ (who has a master volume control), but real pros should have a sound system that is present and powerful without blowing Aunt Lisa out the back wall of the room. Bands play with dynamics. Slower, softer songs are supposed to be quieter than swing or classic rock. A good band should be able to start soft and ramp up to the louder stuff as the partygoers ramp up.
…dress for the occasion. Your band should find out how you would like them to dress before your wedding day. They should also be able to suggest attire for the band based on your event’s time, location and level of formality. If your reception is a luau on the beach, you don’t want a bunch of tuxedo clad musicians to show up to play.
…help you through the planning process. Like every vendor you hire, the band should be professional and experienced. They should be willing to take your phone calls when you are freaking out because your fiance wants your first dance to be “Bootylicious”. They should suggest ways to enhance your day and take some of the stress of planning away. Make sure you get trustworthy people all around, but especially when it comes to the band. They end up running so much of the party and music sets the tone for the whole evening. The band leader should be able to work well with the staff at your venue and be in communication with photographers and videographers so you don’t miss out on capturing any priceless moments. Like one of your bridesmaids getting drunk and dirty dancing with your Uncle Frank. I’m just saying… I’ve seen a lot.