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Questions to Ask When Hiring an Austin Wedding / Event Band

When hiring an Austin wedding band these days, you may be surprised at how many things you must consider. Here is a list of questions to ask and bases to cover to make sure the musical part of your big day goes off without a hitch.

Beyond good music, what am I looking for in a band? –

Perhaps just as important as the musical performance is professionalism, promptness, attitude and communication of the band. You would expect it from your caterer, florist, and event coordinator. Expect it from the band as well.

What’s the most expensive night of the week to hire a band?

Weekends are when bands make money. Wedding receptions and parties are most often held on Saturdays and bands will usually keep those nights open for such events. You may save money by having your event on a Sunday afternoon.

What’s a reasonable budget?

In Austin on a Friday or Saturday, you can generally expect to pay anywhere between $1000 to $4500 for live jazz at your event.  More for an established wedding/ cover band.

Does the band have a performance contract?

Most do. If they don’t you can find several templates online that you and the band can use to write one.  Always have one in place, though, when you hire a band. It’s for your protection as well as theirs.

What will I need to put down as a deposit? Is it refundable?

A band will almost always require a non-refundable deposit in order to secure the date on their calendar. Some require half the total feel as a deposit. Others less. These days, it can be handled via check, or online payment services like Paypal, Google Wallet, or Venmo. Anticipate a transaction fee of 1-3% if going through the online payment service. If you pay the deposit via cash, make sure to get a receipt.

How will I pay the band at the end of the evening?

Often, a couple will have a relative, or their on-site wedding coordinator handle payment at the end of the evening. You can have an envelope of cash or a check ready for them to give the band.

Is it customary to tip the band? If so, what’s a customary percentage?

It is customary to tip the band if they’ve done good work. The percentage can range from 5% to 20 %.

How much physical space will the venue have for the band?

This is an important consideration. When you visit the venue, ask them where they normally have the bands set up and measure the square footage of that area. If there’s a stage, measure the square footage of the stage.

Do they require a stage? If so, can the band provide it or will I need to rent one from a party rental service?

Most bands don’t actually require a stage. Flat space will do. If you or the band, however, decide that a stage is required, then you will need to rent one through a party rental company.

If the reception is outdoors, is there an area for dancing? Will we need to rent a dancefloor?

If your event is outdoors, and there’s no smooth flooring near the band, renting a stage may be a consideration if you are wanting or anticipating that guests will dance.

If the reception is outdoors? What’s the plan for the band in case of inclement weather?

Most wedding and event planners know to have the contingency of a tent, or moving everything indoors in case of inclement weather. Just make sure you consider where you’ll put the band and how you will meet their electrical needs

Will the band need a place to store their instrument cases?

Drummers, keyboard players and upright bass players all have large cases for their equipment. Guitarists and horn players have cases, too. Try to designate a room or closet in which they can stow them during the event.

Does the venue have sufficient and proximate electrical outlets and power to accommodate the bands needs?

Ask the band what they require in terms of electricity and outlets. Some bands require just one 20 amp 110 volt outlet. Others require 3 or 4 for their equipment. This can be a major factor in deciding where to place the band.

Can the band provide music for the ceremony?

Most bands can provide music for your ceremony for an extra charge. The extra charge covers the possible extra work of learning and rehearsing specific songs, extra setting up and moving of equipment, and their time.

How do you want the band to dress?

Make sure to cover this with the band and even have it included in the contract. Specify if you want the band to wear suits (if so, specify a color), tuxedos, or, if you want casual dress, go into specifics as to what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Do you want someone from the band to emcee the reception?

Most bands have a member or members who can emcee and make announcements. Just work it out ahead of time and be sure to provide them with all the information they need (schedule, names and pronunciations, etc.)

Do you have a specific song or songs you want played for the first dances?

Couples often have a special song they’d like played for their first dance, or for the father/daughter dance, etc. Figure out the version of the song you like best, and what kind of tempo at which you’d like to dance.  Do you want to slow dance to it? Swing / partner dance to it? Communicate this to the band. Often, there will be an extra charge if it’s a song that the band does not already know and play and the band has to chart it out and rehearse it.

Will I need to feed and provide drink for the band?

Unless you want them to keel over, yes. It is customary for the band to receive a meal and access to water / tea/ soft drinks while they are performing.

What’s the contingency plan if members of the band get sick and can’t perform?

Most of the time, if a band member falls ill and is unable to play the event, the band will find a suitable substitute for that person. If it’s the singer who falls ill, however, and you had your heart set on hearing that person perform, you should, at the very least, receive a reduction in the fee.

Does the venue have a house P.A. system? House lighting? An on-site piano? Drum kit?

If it does, and they meet the standards of the musicians in the band you may be able to ask for a reduction in the band’s fee.

 

How many breaks will they need and how long will the breaks be?

A band will usually require a 15 to 20 minute break every hour. Those fingers get tired J

What if the end of the night comes and we’d like the band to play a few more songs? What will we be charged?

The band will usually charge you for extra time. If not, reflect it in the tip.

Will the band play music through their P.A. during their breaks? Through an iPod? May I have input on what kind of music is played?

Most bands will have recorded music they play through their sound system during their breaks but will certainly accommodate If you have an ipod with a playlist.

How early will the band arrive for set-up and sound check?

Generally 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the event.

Will the band allow us to use their vocal microphone for our toasts and announcements?

Yes, it is customary, but ask. Don’t assume.

Will a member of the band or their soundman be available during the toasts to adjust the P.A volume so that all the guests can hear what’s being said?

Ask for this. You want everyone to hear the toasts. Some guests speak softly and far away from the mic. Others are loud and right up on it. Having someone from the band to regulate and adjust the volume for each speaker is key to the success of this part of the reception.

Can you go see the prospective band live and meet your contact in person?

Find out and, if you can, go see them live. You’ll get a good feel for how they will look,  perform, and interact with a crowd.

Who are their previous clients?  Testimonials?  Reviews?

Do they have previous client reviews on their website, or on online services like Gigmasters? Read them.

Have they performed at corporate events? This can be an assurance of a certain level of professionalism.

Does the band have a list of songs or active setlist that we can look over and can we request that certain songs will (or won’t) get played?

Many bands post their songlists on their website. If not, ask the band for one. You may see 10 songs that you absolutely love and will enjoy hearing on your big day. Or you might decide that you absolutely do NOT want the band to play “White Wedding” by Billy Idol. In either case, you can have some control over this with a little research.

What about combining a band and a DJ? What are the benefits?

This is a popular choice among wedding couples these days and it can make a lot of sense. Let’s say you want nice jazz music for the cocktail hour, dinner, and first dances. But you want rocking, fun dance music after that get everyone to let loose on the dancefloor. Some bands are capable of providing all of that. But you can save a great deal of money and accomplish all your goals by hiring a jazz trio or quartet for the first part of the night, and a DJ for the second.

If the band is going to finish playing before the end of the event, what’s the plan for them to load out their equipment?

If a band is scheduled to finish playing before the end of the event, it’s important to plan for how they will load out their equipment and exit discreetly so that it doesn’t disrupt the rest of the event. Cover this with the event coordinator or venue so that you may place the band near a convenient exit.

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