Posted: May 1, 2009 Filed under: Tips/Advice | Tags: band leader, bands, cake cutting, classical, dance music, dynamics, experience, first dance, jazz, live band, music, parent dance, set list, song list, speeches, wedding music
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.
Posted: March 11, 2009 Filed under: The "Life" Part, Tips/Advice | Tags: booking, communication, contract, delay, deposit, discount, emails, live band, negotiation, open dialogue, phone calls, services, wedding vendor
This week’s entry is not about how to choose the right vendor, let’s assume you’ve already done that. Now, it’s time to book them… officially, not just in your mind.
There is so much to do when it comes to choosing all of the vendors for your event, that by the time you’ve actually decided on one it can seem like your job is done. For the vendor however, this is not the case. There are contracts to sign and deposits to pay before the deal is official. So, even if you are 100% sure in your mind that you want Franco Falencia’s Floral Design to create the decor for your event, Franco really has nothing to go on until it’s official. (Don’t bother googling Franco, he’s not real. If he was though, I’m sure his work would be fabulous).
First things first. Don’t ask for a contract if you don’t intend to sign it. If you want to see what is in the contract before you make your final decision, ask for a sample. Most vendors will have one when you meet with them, or if you are booking remotely they can email or fax one. This will be a blank or one with sample information filled in. If you ask for a contract specifically for your event, the vendor assumes you intend to book with them and will be sending in a signed copy with a deposit. Which lead me to my next point…
Turn your contract around quickly. Especially if you have been extended any sort of discount off of the book rate for the services you will be receiving. It’s a courtesy and it makes for a great working relationship with your people. From the vendor’s standpoint nothing is worse than having a contract out in the world just stagnant. It is at this point that we start to wonder if you have changed your mind, found someone else, joined the circus or moved to South America. Trust me all sorts of scenarios run through our minds. Remember, this is how we make a living, your deposit is someone’s paycheck. If something comes up that causes a delay on your end, be honest with your vendor. Chances are they will be willing to work with you, as long as they know what’s up. If they aren’t, well maybe they weren’t the right people for you in the first place.
An open dialogue with your vendors is the best way to avoid any snag ups or confusion or worse yet losing them to someone who’s more on top of things than you are. Read all contracts carefully and ask questions. If there is something in it you don’t like, ask if it can be changed. At this point you are not obligated to anyone. If there is some information the vendor needs that you don’t have, i.e. what you want the band to wear at you event, ask if that can be determined at a later date. Write in any extra information or considerations. I personally hate blank spaces in contracts. They leave room for questions, issues and last minute problems.
Communication is equally important if you have decided not to hire a specific vendor for one reason or another. The phone calls and emails you keep getting are coming in because you haven’t answered them. A good vendor works their office diligently. Until they’ve heard a no, you are still a possible yes. (Of course anyone who keeps calling or emailing after you have clearly told them that you went with someone else, you have my full permission to pummel… verbally). Simply answer one phone call or email with a polite “thank you for your time, but we’ve decided to go with someone else.” There’s nothing personal here, it’s not like avoiding phone calls from your ex, or your crazy Aunt Harriet, and we won’t be offended if you’ve decided to go with someone else. It’s a competitive field. There’s just as much rejection as acceptance. Some vendors may ask what influenced your decision so that they can improve their service in the future. It’s OK to be honest and you should be.
If you are still undecided, give vendors an idea of when your decision might be made, or tell them when to follow up with you. Always make sure your have your first choice vendor contracted before you blow off your second or third choices, you may end up needing them after all. If you take a long time to make decisions, your first choice may no longer be available by the time you get to booking them.
The key to all of it is communication and professionalism. The people you are dealing with are pros, treat them as such. They are there to help you through this process. Ask questions and be up front. You’ll take a lot of stress out of the whole thing for both you and your vendors. If you find someone difficult to communicate with or unwilling to make any compromises, you may need to go back to the choosing stage and skip booking them altogether.
Posted: March 3, 2009 Filed under: Tips/Advice | Tags: alternative, budget, cash, DJ, entertainment, event, excitement, hip hop, live band, live instruments, motown, party, techno, wedding
So, you may think that for me this would be a cut and dry case of band band band. Since I am a wedding singer myself most people probably wouldn’t even ask me this question, but there is no answer that’s right for everyone. There are several factors to consider before deciding on the answer to that age old question, band or DJ?
OK, maybe it’s not an age old question, but is one that can define the tone of your wedding. Entertainment can make or break a party.
A live band brings an air of excitement to any event. There is something about watching and listening to real people making music right in front of you that takes the whole experience up a notch, and your wedding is a once in a lifetime event. A professional band should be able to cover all types of music, but this is an especially great choice if you are into rock, swing, Motown, alternative, and genres generally utilizing live instruments to create their sound. If your fiance proposed to you at a Bruce Springsteen concert, trust me, you’re band people.
However, if you are into electronic music, hip hop or techno, or you and your fiance never miss a Saturday night out at the club, then a DJ might be a better fit for you. A great DJ can play his or her turntables like an instrument, and this way you will know exactly what the songs are going to sound like. If you practiced your first dance to the CD for all those months, you can dance it exactly the same way that night.
Of course, I have to address the elephant in the room, cost. Bands cost more than DJs. That’s just a fact. There’ no way around it. Even with all of the equipment a DJ has to invest in, there is still less overhead for them than for a band, and less people to pay. So, if cost is the number one factor in your decision making process, you may want to hire a DJ. Determine your budget before you start your research, and be upfront about it with potential vendors. You might end up getting a great deal.
If you have the cash there is always the option of both, to give the evening two distinct flavors. You can alternate between the two, or start the evening out with one and end with the other. Also, many bands have the capability to DJ a portion of your event, and there are DJs who perform with singers or musicians to fill out their sound. Really, your wedding should be a reflection of your personal style, and you should have a great time at it. Decide which musical backdrop will facilitate a good time for you and your guests and go for it!