10 tips to get the most out of your live band

Booking the right band for your wedding is tricky.  There are so many to choose from, and once you’ve watch 100 youtube clips, you finally find something you like! The problem is, it might not be suitable for what you need, how deflating! Here’s a 10 point guide  from Analogue Sound to help you decide on the right band for your wedding, which makes you think beyond whether you like the sound of their music…

1. Choose the right size of band for different parts of your wedding.
A solo or duo act is great for the ceremony, outside for drinks or for the meal, but not suitable for filling a dance floor. Some solo acts use loopers, but it can take a little time to build up their loop, whilst your guests leave the dance floor and go to get a drink. Even if there is a drum machine involved, or one member has a bass drum or tambourine under their foot, there’s no substitute for a drummer.  Always have a band with a drummer/percussionist to finish the night, after all, that is the main instrument people are dancing along to.

2. Choose the genre of a live band to suit the theme of your wedding, not your car stereo.
A retro band can create a classy, kitsch wedding vibe, whereas a rock or pop band can sometimes cheapen an event like an unfashionably out of date DJ. You might be a goth god, but is your gran going to be shaking her thing to slipknot with the rest of your mates?

3. Have a good read of a band’s repertoire lists before you book them.
If you request too many new songs from them exclusively for your wedding, they might feel uncomfortable and not perform as well. Popular wedding bands (or just popular bands in general) will work really hard on their repertoire list and will be passionate about the songs they choose.  If you choose songs that they don’t like, they might have a quick practice to learn them, but they won’t play them with the same passion.  Best to let them do what they love for the best possible performance for you and your guests. Bottom line, if a band doesn’t play the songs you like, book a different band.

4. Be realistic about how long you want the band to play for
Most bands will happily play for around 2 hours spread across the night. This could be 2 set of an hour, or 3 sets of 40 minutes.  This is a lot of live music to fill an evening.  The band may have more material, and they may offer you an additional fee for another set to make up to 3 hours, but do you want a lot of tired looking musicians half heartedly finishing the third or even fourth hour? If the band has energy, this is transferred to your guests and everyone has a great time.  If they get tired, the atmosphere can drop.  2 hours is the perfect amount of live music time to leave people wanting more (if the band were great) and it give guests enough chance to strut their stuff and have a bit of chill out time in between.

5. Think about where (in the venue) to have your band play
This is crucial.  A room with an awful boomy acoustic can sound so loud and horrible, that your guests will start moving away from the band and into another room without realising why.  This can kill the vibe of your evening reception.  Equally, if you have the bar in a separate room to your band, this can lead to a sub group of guests not getting involved in dance floor antics and making it seem like you’ve got less guests at your wedding.  The ideal room doesn’t have a really high ceiling, it has soft furnishings to dampen the sound and it has enough room for a dance floor, a chill out area for people to sit and chat and has the bar the opposite end to the stage/band area.

6. Find out if the venue has live music restrictions before you book
If having a live band is a key part of your wedding, don’t let the venue sting you after you’ve paid the deposit.  Some venues have restrictions on the time a band can play until, even though you’ve got the room until much later.  This can leave you with a period in your evening without music, and therefore this leaves you with a problem.  Other venues have restrictions on the volume bands can play, due to a neighbour making a complaint with environmental health.  In this case, they can have a sound limiter with a microphone, if the band goes above the set dB for the unit, the power goes off for up to 30 seconds…a real dance floor clearer!  If the sound limiter is set below 90dB, you may have a problem with a band who has a drummer.  It is often worth asking how close the limiter microphone is to the stage, as with each metre the sensitivity drops allowing the band to play slightly louder without setting it off.  The only positive of a sound limiter is the band can make the power go off for the grand finale at the end!!!

7. Talk to the band about their food rider
A well fed and watered band is a happy band, but it can leave a bitter taste in your own mouth if you have a 5 piece band that the venue wants to class as 5 more guests at £60+ per head! In this situation, it’s definitely worth speaking to the band leader about a compromise.  Perhaps there’s a local curry house that you can book them into so they arrive at the venue and get setup, then come back after their curry in a great frame of mind and extremely appreciative of the gesture (and it will cost you a fraction of the price of the venue food).  On the other end of the scale, the band might not be too enamoured with the pre prepared sandwiches you bought from Tesco the day before, and the venue didn’t have any space in the fridge to keep them.  It’s all about talking to the venue and the band and keeping everyone happy, at an affordable price.

8. Be flexible with timings
If you’re a spreadsheet guy/gal, then it’s very easy to get OCD about the exact minute you want everything to happen on your special day.  Whilst we understand this process is largely necessary, it’s worth considering that the majority of weddings our bands attend don’t keep to the planned timings.  If a band knows what time they need to arrive and what time they finish, then generally the rest can be sorted out on the night.  If you’ve considered when they can eat (something the musicians will be very keen on knowing) then the rest can move around a bit.  Also, when considering what time you want the band to set up, definitely think about the disruption, but also the cost of getting them to set up early.  It would be nice to think that when you first arrive at your venue around 2pm, that the band for the evening is setup and everything is perfect.  In reality, a lot of musicians might teach during the day and gig in the evening, so if you ask them to setup 5 or 6 hours before they are due to play, they will be asking for a hefty standing fee per hour to cover the loss of earnings. When you get a band to set up really early, where do you want them to be for the rest of the day? Again, back to having a highly motivated band, if they’ve spend 6 hours sitting around, you might not get the best performance out of them.  Liaise with the venue, if you have everything in one room then the ideal time for a band to set up, is when the room is being turned around for the evening reception.  This will save you money and give the band far more energy to inject into your first dance song.

9. Think about music in between sets
Having both a band and a DJ can work, but more often than not it doesn’t. DJing is a very tricky art to do well, and incredibly easy to do badly.  If your band were on fire and filled the dance floor in their set, it’s only natural that the DJ will want the same reaction.  Depending on your audience, this may not be easy (if they are used to live music), so then the DJ may decide to get louder and more ‘in your face’ to compensate.  This can create a musical ‘battle’ between your band and DJ, which isn’t good for the atmosphere.  Many DJs are brilliant at playing alongside bands, and bands with DJs too, but there’s always the possibility of a clash. 

Why not ask the band if they know a good DJ, or even better, if they offer a DJ service themselves.  This will often just be a playlist, but you can get involved in what songs you want in this list to make it personal to your wedding.  You could even ask your guests (in the wedding invite) to choose a song for the playlist.  Be warned…this can create a very eclectic playlist

10.  Discuss the finer details with the band so you are both happy
Some bands will want a full soundcheck before they perform, others will want to pack their gear down the second they finish the final set, others will want a changing room and chill out area just for them, others will be very easy going and want none of the above.  In all these scenarios, it’s worth having the conversation well before the wedding so you are all on the same page. 

  • If you’re not expecting a lot of noise before they play, you might feel quite upset that people can’t talk whilst the drummer continues to hit each drum twenty times each. Whereas if you know it’s coming, you can move your guests to another room in preparation. 
  • If you know the band have a long journey and want to pack down as soon as the set finishes, get a DJ to start up as they finish.  Or alternatively, get the band to be the end of the night! That way them packing up will encourage people to go to their rooms, get taxis etc which will help the venue staff too.  What about organising an after party in your hotel?
  • Not all bands will want a chill out/changing area, but if they do, ask the venue.  At least if they have this room the band aren’t going to feel uncomfortable hanging around like lost puppies waiting for their pre agreed food.

See more from Analogue Sound at The National Wedding Show Manchester on Stand G25