Couples don’t usually appreciate the value of quality entertainment for their guests until after their wedding day. In fact, up to 81% of the brides who looked back wished they have spent more time and attention for this part. There are two viable options for investing one’s wedding budget wisely on entertainment: hiring a DJ/emcee or hiring a live band.
A popular event organizer called Greenlight Booking gave 10 strong arguments favoring live bands over emcees. Almost all of these reasons describe how the ‘human factor’ plays a very significant role in bringing a better human experience – the answer to why there are still concerts in the ‘MP3 Age.’ Curiously, a popular artist’s fee is 300 times the national average cost of wedding band music.
Most Americans are spending around of $2,500 to $6,000 to hire a band, but the total exact amount is always dictated by three major factors:
Live performers are (almost) always paid per hour for their service. It is the only constant factor that affects your rate, regardless of other various conditions. It is customary for most clients to misunderstand work hours as strictly limited to the real-time gig duration. A Canadian party band Phonix provides a transparent equation for every time-based item you are paying when you hire a very good music group. For this example, they demonstrate the calculations based on a composition of nine performers and two technicians with a $25 per hour rate:
- Set list preparation = 1 hr x hourly rate
- Organizing a rehearsal = 2 hrs x hourly rate
- Practice session for (9) band members = 3-hour rate x 9
- Client meetings = 2 hrs x hourly rate
- Music sheet preparation for special request = 3 hrs x hourly rate
- Light and sound system logistics = 3 hrs x hourly rate
- Day of event setup period with (2) technicians = 14-hour rate x 2
- Day of event sound-check = 2.5-hour rate x 9
- Day of event gig = 4-hour rate x 9
- Bookkeeping and accounting = 1 hr x hourly rate
On the surface, it looks like you’re paying up to $3,162.50 for only 4 hours of live performance. But upon closer look at the overall time spent in organizing a good show, your band has effectively spent a total of approximately 126.5 valid work hours. It goes without saying that you need to avoid accruing overtime fees.
Tip: Always ask for a thorough transparency projection of the overall time-based fee. Miscellaneous fees are the kind of surprises you don’t want on the most important day of your life. If a prospective event performer/organizer could not afford such level of honesty, you are better of finding other services in your area.
Tip: In order to fully optimize time management, create a comprehensive to do schedule before the wedding day. If you invest a great deal of time and effort in helping the band prepare, you can significantly reduce their accumulated overall time-based price (especially if you’re a musician yourself). Here is an example of a task checklist you can follow:
- 1 to 2 months before the wedding day
- Request a copy of their set list
- List the songs you want in their catalog
- Send them your list and other special requests
- One week before the wedding day
- Schedule the final payment
Tip: If a band charges time-based fees for transporting their equipment, you may volunteer to have someone in your inner circle with a legit driver’s license to handle this task. But in case you do not have a suitable vehicle (e.g. an SUV with a hitched wagon); you may alternatively hire a low-cost moving company to do it for you.
Another crucial element that directly affects your budget is the market value of the performing music team. As demonstrated by the previous part of the article, this part of the spending is what you and your commissioned supplier (event manager or band leader) agree to multiply with the total number of hours. While the wedding band rates give you the most straightforward spending analysis, it is also the one aspect that is riddled with few huge intangibles.
The years of experience may be a solid basis for how each performer rates his/her asking price. However, it hardly tells you the whole picture. Basing your selection strictly in terms of how long they have been playing leaves reasonable doubt.
Apart from experience, another justification for paying a certain fixed rate for every member of the band is their level of prestige. Professional integrity often fills the blank spaces that the duration of service alone fails to substantiate. You can better judge the band’s reputation based on their number of years in business and the number of customers that recommends them.
Finally, a band’s expertise-based pay rate is also defined by their genre specialization. As opposed to those who appreciate all-around know-how, a band that only concentrates in one genre tends to be taken more seriously. Clients primarily choose a band based on their mastery of the genre and its songs. Being a jack of all trades (and master of none) is obviously self-defeating.
Tip: One specific way of objectively assessing the band’s expertise is to attend any live showcase of their performance. It could either be a concert for a fundraising event or a regular gig in a bar or restaurant – as long as it is accessible. In fact, some couples would first watch the band’s performance before scheduling an appointment (if the show piqued their curiosity).
Tip: Speaking of the interview, the possible list of relevant questions you have prepared might be lengthy but concise at best. But whatever else you intend to inquire about them, NEVER (seriously) forget to ask if they have an insurance. Only consider prospects that are financially indemnified but don’t just simply take their affirmation on face value. You also need to know the scope of their liabilities protection to make you feel a little secure.
Tip: Look for ‘red flags’ when it comes to the professional integrity of the band. With a significant portion of your wedding day’s success hinged on positively blowing your guests’ minds, the last thing you want is your live band not taking your celebration seriously. Here are some of the clear signs of shifting to another music group as stated by the California-based team Event Source:
- No written contract
- Insistence on paying full in cash
- Late message response or meeting attendance
- Frequent change of band members
Tip: In terms of genre specialization, you can gain a huge advantage by hiring a Mariachi band (especially if you fancy Latin music). This traditional Mexican orchestra only costs an average of $350 to $650 per hour and they don’t necessarily require amplified sound system. Mariachi bands are mostly acoustic and appropriate for indoor, al-fresco, and outdoor reception venues. Lastly, you can even downsize them to three performers without compromising sound quality wherein the trio can move around and serenade all guests one table at a time – an idyllic set up for a small-sized reception in a restaurant.
Tip: There is a wide variety of performers that exclusively play a unique genre. You can hire a cohort of medieval minstrels for a medieval Game of Thrones wedding, or a local bluegrass quartet in a rustic wedding. In essence, take advantage of the theme flexibility of acoustic live performance by choosing a specialty act that fits your theme. After all, does a DJ (and his/her wire-tangled booth) NOT look peculiar in a gypsy carnival setting?
The final main aspect that determines your overall budget for hiring a band is the headcount. As presented earlier, the number of performers (and their instruments) is the final multiplier in the equation. This is the simplest cost factor to comprehend compared to the two previously mentioned main aspects. Not surprisingly, the headcount is also the least complex issue to negotiate.
Obviously, your wedding day will comprise of two parts – ceremony and reception. Each part will need multiple sets of musical performance. The personnel responsible for this include the light and sound technicians and the musicians themselves. As demonstrated in the first part of the article, every person that operates the musical instrument and other gear are paid per hour. However, the event organizer or music group will only charge a fixed rate for leasing their equipment.
Tip: You need to be aware of the size of your reception venue’s stage. This way, you can have a clear idea about how many musicians and instruments you can arrange conveniently. If you have enough space to put a stage measuring 16 feet x 12 feet, you will be able to accommodate a 9-piece band. But if your indoor venue only has one corner, you can only hire a small 3-piece band. If you fancy a cheaper 3-piece band, choose a proportionately smaller (and in fact less expensive) venue.
Tip: Relative to the size of the venue and its stage, the number of performers and instruments will also dictate which preferred genres are exclusively possible for your wedding. A trio or 3-piece band can pull off music genres that set the milder festive vibe that is either soothing (e.g. jazz or classical crossover) or jovial (e.g. country or reggae). If you intend to hire live bands in order to take the dance party to a whole new level, you require an energetic specialty act (e.g. RNB or dance-pop) ranging from a sextet to 9-piece band.
Tip: If you are to exchange ceremonial vows in a religious establishment, always discuss specific house rules with the minister concerning performers outside their service team. If they charge a token fee to allow your outsider musician, just avoid the ceremony coverage or only hire a soloist. Most Christian churches already have their own choir but there are even special cases wherein the ministers themselves are lead singers.
Tip: ABSOLUTELY avoid hiring musicians from your homeland if you intend to bring them overseas in your destination wedding. Your simple time-based expenses will exponentially balloon since you will also include plane tickets and accommodations. Imagine flying from Los Angeles to Bora Bora (French Polynesia) and shouldering the flight fee for each performer in your 25-per hour 9-member band. Excluding the overseas accommodation cost, you are already paying up to $57,162.50 for the 9-piece wedding band alone!