Questions to ask before Hiring a Live Band?

Hiring a live band is a no-brainer if you want to add an extra level of excitement to your special event or wedding. Music is a major component to setting the tone for the night and leaving the guests wanting more. But there are some intricacies in hiring a live band. You are hiring a group of people (instead of one DJ) and that means it’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page from the beginning. Also, the average person has no experience with understanding what professional musicians need in order to make their show go off without a hitch. Whether you book a live band with Entertainment Exchange or any other agency, here are some questions to ask before hiring a live band.
How long have you been doing this professionally?

It is important to find out how long the band or agency has been in the business. You want to hire professionals who have experience and a level of expertise, especially if you book them for your special day. It is also important to ask whether the band has performed at your type of event. Just because a band has performed at a local hotspot for years, doesn’t mean they have experience performing at a corporate event or wedding. 

When making your decision, be sure to also average the length of time the band has been performing with their level of expertise – don’t just choose one over the other. There are corporate bands that have been around for years but don’t regularly add new songs to their repertoire which is a red flag when it comes to expertise. A regular gigging band knows it is important to keep their music and look fresh and up-to-date. A band with 10 years of experience, a more current song list AND upgraded equipment may have a better service offering than a band with solely more years of experience.

Have you done events at my wedding venue?

While not a major requirement, if the live musicians you hire have already played at your venue in the past, this is a bonus. If there are special provisions for the electrical aspects of the stage or acoustics issues within the venue, the band will already know how to plan and set up upon arrival. If your venue has limited parking or has challenges with loading equipment, the band will plan to allot time or make special accommodations to ensure the band is set up and on time to start. The band leader will also have a chance to communicate with the other band members to ensure they add a little extra time for their commute. Finally, events tend to flow better when vendors have experience with one another. If the band has experience with the venue contact, everyone will be on the same page from the beginning which is great for you. 

Do you take any breaks? How many and when?

Band breaks are a normal part of a special event or wedding and experienced booking agents and band leaders will work with you and your planner to align band breaks with other special parts of your event. For instance, if you are planning a corporate event where there are special presentations or speeches, the band can take a break during this time. If you are planning a wedding, experienced bands usually take a break during special toasts or the cake cutting. In short this is a “trick” question because they cannot answer this question until you share your event’s logistics and format, but it is a great way to tell if your band has experience or not. Their answer will help you to determine their level of professionalism and will help you to manage your own expectations. 

Bonus Tip: Common practice is that the live band get at least (1) break per hour of performance time. So for every 45-60 minute “set” of music, you want to give the band a break. Most breaks range between 10-30 minutes depending on the format of the program. Remember to give the band members time to eat as well. The average wedding reception will have (3) breaks for the band – one during the time that guests eat (the band can eat at this time as well), another break after the first 45-60 minute set and the last break before the final 45-60 minute set.
What music will be provided during the breaks?

Great news- an experienced live band will always have “band break” music available during an event. There’s nothing worse than having great music for an hour, then breaking the mood with dead silence. Band leaders usually have a DJ playlist that has preloaded music for band breaks. This music may include line dances or just light pop tunes that the band does not perform themselves. Unless you have specialty music you want to play during this time, when you ask this question, the answer should be “yes”. If it is not, we definitely recommend having your own playlist available on an iPad or iPhone. The sound engineer can then connect your playlist to the venue’s sound system. Be sure to discuss and plan all of this in advance.
Do you take requests from guests?

Most live bands have a song list they distribute to clients upon request or during the booking stage. You will have the opportunity to review this list and request special songs and even take away a few songs if you don’t like a specific genre or artist. Bands are usually open to learning new songs if there is enough time allotted for the musicians to learn and rehearse the songs. 

During the actual event, if a guest requests a song and the band is comfortable performing the song, you may be in for a treat; however, there are times when band members have to make the decision to say “no” if a guest requests a song but the bride and groom have it on their “Do Not Play” list. If a guest unknowingly requests a song that doesn’t fit the format or theme of the event and the client representative has specifically asked for the band to play a specific type of music, the band may also say “no”. It is important to remember that a live band is not a DJ or jukebox so if you have specific musical requests, try to plan this in advance.

How much would you charge for overtime?

Pricing for overtime depends on the band but the average across the industry is time and a half and/or by the hour. Going over time for a few minutes can sometimes be covered by offering the band a nice cash tip, but anything over 10-15 minutes, will incur a charge. Talk to your booking agent so you can be clear on the overtime rates – even if you don’t plan to go over the time. Knowing the cost can help with easily calculating on the spot and will help with lessening confusion. Also remember that some bands require this payment before going into overtime. Have cash or a digital payment option available onsite. 

What is your refund/cancellation policy?

Most agencies and bands require some type of non refundable deposit in order to book your date. The amount of the deposit can vary depending on the agency but typically a deposit can range from 25% – 50% of the total price. Outside of “Acts of God”, most deposits are non refundable if an event is cancelled. 

Entertainment Exchange is a bit more flexible with our company’s refund policy. All deposits are refundable less a service fee if we are able to book an event of equal or greater value for the act that was canceled on the date that the event was cancelled. Your deposit reserves a specific act for a specific performance date. From that point forward, the acts begin to pass up additional offers of work from other clients. Often when an event is canceled the act is unable to reschedule the date and thus loses a performance opportunity for that date in question.

If you need to postpone your event (instead of cancel), you can always apply the credit towards your future event. 

Do you bring backup equipment?

With over 25 years in the business, agencies like ours have more than enough experience to be prepared for most emergencies and changes to an event. Extra auxiliary cables, back up microphones and additional songs are all essential to ensuring that a live band can adapt to any changes that may take place onsite. All in all, the answer to this question should be “yes”. 

Your best bet is to work with an experienced booking agent who can help you to navigate through these questions and any other questions that may arise. Here are some other frequently asked questions you may want to add to your list as well. There’s no such thing as a “dumb” question when it comes to getting what you want for your special day, so ask away! 

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