THE GREAT DEBATE: Wedding Band vs. DJ and How To Choose

The most controversial debates of all time are arguably “Cats versus dogs”, “Coke versus Pepsi” and the biggest debate of them all – “Wedding Band versus DJ”. While we aren’t experts on fur babies or carbonated drinks, we do know a thing or two about wedding bands and DJs. With over 20 years of experience and a roster of some of the top corporate bands and DJs on the east coast, we have been asked (and have answered) almost every question about whether or not a band or DJ works best for any event.

HOW TO CHOOSE BETWEEN A WEDDING BAND OR WEDDING DJKeynote Band

There are many factors that go into deciding whether to hire a wedding band or DJ. Using an Entertainment Exchange booking agent will help you to narrow down your choices and most entertainment acts have performance reels and live videos to help you to make your decision as well. 

Of course your personal preference and the vision you have in mind for your wedding is most important; however, we have a list of the top factors and they are: type of event, event space, event setup, stage presence, song selection and budget. Let’s get started with the argument.

WEDDING BAND OR WEDDING DJ? THE TYPE OF EVENT MATTERS

While you are in the early stages of planning your event, it is important to think about the general flow and mood you want to set for your event. Some couples want a sweet and intimate backdrop for their wedding reception. On the other hand, some human resources department heads may want to plan a holiday party with enough energy to make the accounting department heads sweat it all off on the dance floor.

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The good news is that Entertainment Exchange wedding bands and DJs can adjust to deliver almost any amount of energy our clients desire; however, we admit that in some circumstances, there are advantages to choosing one act over the other. DJConnection.com has a great position on this one: 

“When you’re throwing a private birthday party, you might want to make a big show of it and have an actual live band playing covers of your favorite songs. Or maybe you would rather just have one person playing your favorite music versus a whole 5 piece band.” 

A band may bring a level of nostalgia and distinction to your event, but a DJ may bring more diversity to the music.

WEDDING BAND OR WEDDING DJ? SPACE & SETUP MATTERS

The venue choice for your event WILL have a major impact on your decision and ability to have either a band or DJ. Whether you choose a band or DJ, you have to make room for their equipment, the lighting and speakers throughout the room. Another factor to consider is that events hosted in a post-coronavirus world will need to adhere to additional safety measures to ensure social distancing parameters are met to make guests AND talent feel comfortable. 

WEDDING BAND OR WEDDING DJ? WHICH SOUNDS BETTER

The venue choice for your event WILL have a major impact on your decision and ability to have either a band or DJ. Whether you choose a band or DJ, you have to make room for their equipment, the lighting and speakers throughout the room. Another factor to consider is that events hosted in a post-coronavirus world will need to adhere to additional safety measures to ensure social distancing parameters are met to make guests AND talent feel comfortable. 

Most Entertainment Exchange DJs and bands will give you a great sound, but level of stage presence is definitely runner-up as to whether your entertainment act will “sound” best for your event. A wedding with a string ensemble brings a different energy than a wedding with a House Music DJ. Neither option is better or worse but the difference in their level of stage presence will affect your decision. 

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There may be an automatic assumption that bands can only provide a high level of engagement and stage presence, but many DJs can give just as much energy as bands. People generally go out to “experience” a band. They are looking for an opportunity to connect with the band members and feel the energy from the stage. On the other hand, people go out to party and dance “with” a DJ. This is the perceived difference between having a “show” (a band) versus having a nonstop dance party (a DJ). 

If you’re interested in having more of a “show” for your event where the talent is the focus and commands the attention of your audience, a band may be the way to go; however, a DJ can interact with guests and hype the audience over the emcee mic. Other things to consider are band breaks and the ability for talent to quickly adjust to the energy of the audience.

Bands usually take a short break during a standard four-hour event to regroup and give time for wedding reception speeches and cake cutting. Entertainment Exchange Talent acts work with planners in advance to select the timeframe of the breaks and have “break songs” curated to ease the transition. The break music is usually a mix of popular dance tunes and line dances like the “Cupid Shuffle”. Clients also have the option to make song requests in advance for this portion of the night. 

One advantage that a DJ may have when it comes to stage presence and song selection is their ability to adapt to ANY change in flow of the event by simply choosing the right song within minutes. Google guesses that there are about 97 million songs on the airwaves and even the most well-rehearsed singers and musicians could never master that many songs. Bands usually have a great and diverse repertoire but the best bands master a handful of oldies, Top 40 hits, ballads and dinner songs to ensure quality in their performance. You may want to consider a tribute band if you want to stay in the same vein of music all night, a popular cover band if you want efficiency and diversity in song, and a DJ if you want all different types of music all night long. Another factor to consider is the overall space of your venue which brings us to our next point.

WEDDING BAND OR WEDDING DJ? WHAT’S MORE AFFORDABLE

Budget is always the big kahuna of this argument! Your budget is an early estimate of what you may or may not be able to afford. For a standard four-hour event, a DJs booking fee is in the range of $2,000 – $3,500. The pricing is affected by location of the event, performance time and sometimes a DJs popularity and tenure. Many DJs also bring equipment and lighting to really add an exciting element to the dance floor and that can be included in the price as well. Bands start anywhere between $5,500 – $10,000. Their pricing is also affected by location of the event, performance time and the band’s popularity as well. But an additional factor is the amount of “pieces” of the band. Smaller bands may have the basic instruments, 1-2 vocalists and a sound engineer. Larger bands may add horns and more singers to their roster which could mean more money. Market popularity also affects the price when you get to higher-level bands. Some bands may be smaller but may be more expensive due to their popularity. This is always the reason why booking agents encourage clients to book their venue first and their entertainment second – many acts are booked 1-2 years in advance so you lessen your chances of getting the entertainment you want if you take too long. 

THE OTHER FACTORS

Now let’s dive into the pros and cons of the two.

Pros and Cons of a Live Wedding Band

A band usually consists of 5 or more people including a sound engineer, while a DJ may have two people max (the DJ and maybe an assistant). This means your venue must provide enough space for the band members to move around during the performance, especially if you’re looking for a high-energy performance.

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Pros and Cons of a Wedding DJ

When it comes to the actual floor plan and setup, a band usually has a much more complex setup and this can create a challenge if you have a smaller space or need to have action in separate locations (i.e., cocktail hour, ceremony and reception). A DJ can address these issues by having several different speaker setups that can play music can easily be hidden throughout the venue. 

Many bands have started to adapt to the challenge of having multiple setups by creating add-on packages to their original bookings. For an additional fee, some bands offer a “cocktail hour” musician for weddings where one or two band members play before the reception during the cocktail hour or during the ceremony. This allows you to take advantage of having band music throughout the night and the add-on is not an unreasonable price. 

Overall there are equal benefits to having a band and DJ. From our perspective your budget and the type of event are the most important factors when making your decision. It is best to work with an Entertainment Exchange booking agent to ultimately make your decision. An agent can offer the proper guidance and has enough experience to keep this debate going forever!

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