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  • How To Find The Right Live Band For Your Wedding

    by Brad Lazarus

    Featured in this podcast:

    0.33 – The different types and styles of band
    2.06 – The key to a genre based band that can crossover
    6.00 – Should you book a band with a specialism in one or two genres
    6.42 – Book a band based on the vision you have for your wedding party
    7.31 – Choosing a band is a bit like choosing a solicitor
    8.08 – Do you get a better standard of performance from certain bands
    9.00 – What type of band is best for a full dance floor
    9.37 – How can you find the band with a ‘WOW’ factor
    10.20 – Will guests dance to a swing band?
    11.20 – How you can find a band with the XFactor
    12.00 – Does a bigger band mean a better performance
    12.50 – How the number of guests at your wedding impacts on your band choice
    13.34 – How to save money and get more from your band
    14.17 – Should you be choosing all the bands songs
    15.15 – Should you trust your band to pick the right songs to perform



    Mel:                       Hi there and welcome.  I’m Mel and this is my husband Brad.


    Brad:                     Hi!


    Mel:                       We run a management company for professional function bands.  Brad’s been managing bands for near on 10 years.  So it’s fair to say he pretty much knows what he’s talking about.  I’m going to pick his brains about different topics, and this week we are talking about how to find the right type of band for your wedding.  We’re going to try and keep it to about 15 minutes and cram in as much useful, practical information as we can for you to give you as much value as possible.  So let’s get straight in.  Brad, talk us through.  What are the different types and styles of bands available for weddings?


    Brad:                     Well, I think they are… you know, they’re broken down into, you know, broadly a few categories really.  And I think the one which most people will know and that’s like kind of the default starting point really is that kind of party band/wedding band.


    Mel:                       “Wedding band.”


    Brad:                     Quote un-quote.  Yeah.  And it very much is a case of those bands don’t come from a particular genre standpoint in the types and style of music they play.  They almost kind of play everything that they like or they think that the client likes.  So they work well in certain situations.  In other situations, they don’t work well.  So it’s up to you to kind of decide that and, you know, we might get into that a little bit later.  The next type of band, you know, you can characterize as maybe being a swing – jazz act.  So that’s broadly any band which covers those genres from kind of like that Rat Pack style through to kind of, you know, good time jazz, you know, that big band jazz – swing style through to kind of maybe 1920s, 1930s type of jazz.


    Mel:                       Oh, okay.  So good kind of vintage, retro vibe.  If you’re trying to create that at your wedding, something like that would be –


    Brad:                     Yeah.  That would be perfect.


    Mel:                       A good option.


    Brad:                     I mean, you know, a lot of the time, what you should look for particularly for a wedding is maybe a band that does cross over into that more kind of mainstream kind of soul.  Something which lends itself to the instrumentation of the band is good, you know.  With a jazz or a swing band, there’s probably a horn section, you know, even just one saxophone.  And I would recommend going for that if that’s the kind of style you’re going for.


    Mel:                       So what does that mean?  Earlier on in the evening, you set the tone for your event with all the swing – jazz stuff but you’re saying perhaps later on, you know, come 9 or 10 o’clock and you’re wanting to fill the dance floor, you move into the soul section.


    Brad:                     I would say so, yeah.  And that soul is, you know, depending on the type of band.  The band should really be picking the songs, those soul songs which lend themselves to the instrumentation of the band and nice horn section sounds.


    Mel:                       Okay.


    Brad:                     The next kind of style really is that soul – Motown band, and that broadly is anything from that kind of ‘60s soul – Motown kind of classic feel all the way through to, you know, going through to the ‘70s and that kind of ‘80s new R&B into the kind of what we now call, maybe call kind of modern R&B, Rihanna, that type of feel.  So that type of band is, you know, that’s broadly speaking.  A band may kind of narrow their focus down maybe into kind of specializing kind of Motown or kind of, you know – again, you know, under that banner you can always put in that kind of ‘70s disco.  Maybe that funk –


    Mel:                       With a funk.  Yeah.


    Brad:                     Funk as well.  So that broadly kind of comes into that banner as well.


    Mel:                       Okay.  This sounds like kind of real classics, sort of through the ages, like a decent band will pick out, you know, the real classic tunes that everyone’s going to know.


    Brad:                     Absolutely.  Yeah.  Well, at least, they should do.  It’s up to you to really go and make sure that that is the case really.  And then the next style is that kind of rock.  You can kind of call it rock pop/kind of indie.  So it’s that kind of modern day indie guitar sound but maybe some kind of classic rock songs, maybe that kind of soul stuff like Blues Brothers-y type sound as well.  That can really be put into that bracket as well.  So anything that like classic rock, like kind of Lynyrd Skynyrd, that type of thing, all the way through to kind of more modern indie guitar sound, Oasis, that type of thing.


    Mel:                       Okay.  A bit cool.


    Brad:                     Yeah, possibly a bit cool.  Yeah.  I mean, for some people, it’s not quite what they want for a wedding but it can work really well depending on the mix of repertoire and that’s, you know, that’s about going into the band’s repertoire and seeing what they’re all about really.


    Mel:                       And I guess if you’ve got a very young, lively, out-for-it kind of crowd as well, that might work well.


    Brad:                     Yes.  Yeah, again, you know, that’s something that you need to work out – what are your guests going to like and you know, how does that fit with what you want.


    Mel:                       Okay.  Any other types?  So we’ve got party bands, soul and Motown, swing – jazz, rock and pop.


    Brad:                     I would say yeah.  I mean, the other one is the tribute act really which is kind of as it sounds really which is very much, you know – “Be careful” is what I would say with a tribute.  Obviously, you know, if you’re going to get a Neil Diamond tribute and you want people up on the dance floor all night and he’s just performing Neil Diamond songs, you know, go figure why people might not dance.


    Mel:                       [Laughs].  Are you saying it’s a bit gimmicky?


    Brad:                     Well, possibly yeah.  I mean, a lot of people will book a tribute as maybe a bit of a cabaret.  So they might kind of have, you know, a main band on for after-dinner dancing but after the meal, you know, you might have 15 – 20 minutes of a tribute really.


    Mel:                       Okay.  So moving on, would you say that choosing a band with a particular genre bias then is the best thing to do if you want to have a successful wedding with a full dance floor?  Should you be looking to find a band that kind of specializes, for want of a better word, in one of those genres?


    Brad:                     Well, I think primarily you really want to be booking a band which is fantastic.  That’s really what it comes down to.  Booking a band with a specific kind of genre bias I think works well depending on what you want to create.  If you’ve got a vision in mind, then you know, start with that end in mind and work back from that, and then you will get to a particular music type which might lend itself to that vision.  And kind of the first starting point, you know, if you’re not into music, and a lot of people this is the first time they’ll ever book a band and maybe you’re not into music in the way which you know, a lot of people are, so you almost don’t really know what you’re looking for which is fine, so the first point of call is that you believe that band that plays every different genre of music is going to work.  The point about that is it’s almost kind of like choosing – we kind of parallel it to choosing a lawyer.  You know, if you had some dispute over land, you wouldn’t go to a lawyer that didn’t – you would ideally want to work with a lawyer that just dealt in the law of the land as opposed to, you know, 15 different areas of law.


    Mel:                       Okay.  Yup.


    Brad:                     You’re going to get a better job out of the specialist than you are out of somebody that broadly does everything.


    Mel:                       So that’s true of musicians as well.


    Brad:                     I would definitely say so.  Yeah.


    Mel:                       Okay.


    Brad:                     So you know, the phrase is “jack of all trades, master of none” really.


    Mel:                       So do you get a better quality of performance from a genre based band than, you would say, than a generic kind of wedding band?


    Brad:                     I don’t think you necessarily get a better performance.  I think you know, every band is different and we are generalizing here, but a bunch of guys and girls that have been playing soul or Motown for the last 15 years, only soul and Motown for the last 15 years, are likely to be better at it than a band that have played seven or eight different genres of music, you know.


    Mel:                       Okay.  Fair enough.


    Brad:                     So again, it’s subjective and you know, there are some amazingly brilliant party bands out there that do their job very well, but I would say that if you’re looking for a band that will help enhance your evening, your vision, what you’re looking to try and create, and are better at what they do, then the jack of all trades – I would go down the genre route.


    Mel:                       Okay.  So what type of band is best for getting guests on the dance floor?  You know, as a bride, that’s kind of really my main priority.  So I just want everyone on there dancing.  You know, is there a type of band that does it best?


    Brad:                     The first thought is naturally the band that gets people on the dance floor is the band that plays everything.  But that isn’t necessarily the case as far as, you know, from my personal experience.  Again, the best type of band is a great band that has a wow factor and is like –


    Mel:                       Oh!


    Brad:                     Yeah.  And how can you find that wow factor?  And that wow factor really kind of comes from the different characteristics that make up the band, you know.  What is, you know, the character, the magnetism, the personality, that kind of authenticity of what the band stands for that kind of which gives them their self confidence as a band to be able to go and play a particular type of sound really, really well rather than almost trying to be a jack of all trades, you know.  So I think that’s what’s going to get people on the dance floor.  So you know, people look at like the swing – jazz genre and think, “Oh, people won’t dance to swing music.”  Swing music was the dance music of its day.


    Mel:                       True.


    Brad:                     There weren’t discos or DJs or you know, nightclubs.  Those were the nightclubs of its day.  A great swing band, their raison d’être, that plays at weddings as a profession, they are very much a band whoseraison d’être is to get guests on the dance floor.  So that’s what they will do.  And you know, how can you find those bands?  Well, you need to kind of do your research.  You need to go, you know, see them live, check out their testimonials.  What type of testimonials are they?  Are they testimonials from people with a like mind that are looking to create an event or a wedding set like yours?


    Mel:                       So other brides and grooms that you can relate to?


    Brad:                     Absolutely, yeah.


    Mel:                       Okay.  Well, the elusive wow factor.


    Brad:                     Well, yeah, it’s the X factor.  It is the X factor, and the X factor isn’t something, you know – you’ll only know the X factor if you’ve done your research.  Because the first band that you come across, you might think that’s fantastic.  But then, you go and look at another 10 and then all of a sudden, the first band you’ve seen only sits maybe third or fourth in the pecking order.  So you have to go out and you have to go and either see the bands live or you need to be checking out – their audio on the website needs to be good.  You need to check out video.  You know, do they have pictures of other weddings that they’ve played at which you can look at?


    Mel:                       Okay.


    Brad:                     All that sort of thing.


    Mel:                       Get a real gut feel for it.


    Brad:                     Yeah.


    Mel:                       Okay.  And something that a lot of people think is that the bigger my band, the better.  Is that true?


    Brad:                     No.  The better the band, the better.  I know that sounds [laughs]…


    Mel:                       [Laughs].  No.


    Brad:                     That’s how I think of it.


    Mel:                       I like it.


    Brad:                     But you’re much better off having a six-piece band of, you know, top end musicians that know exactly what it takes to create, you know, a performance that you know, really gets your guests on the dance floor, makes your wedding as unique as it possibly can be rather than having 12 musicians, 12 mediocre musicians that might look good but they don’t really kind of have that fizz and that charisma and that magnetism.  So, yeah, I would say that’s the kind of, the rule of thumb really for me.  You know, you also kind of need to look at the number of guests at the wedding, you know.


    Mel:                       Okay, so I’ve got 180 guests coming to my wedding.  How big should my band be?


    Brad:                     I would say with 180 guests, you know, you could have a 12-piece band, 12 or 13-piece band with 180 guests.  Are you going to get that extra value on top of having maybe the 7 or 8-piece band with you know, a couple of horn section, maybe a 3-piece horn section?  Probably not.


    Mel:                       Okay.


    Brad:                     You know.  It would be fantastic but you know what?  Personally, if you know, everybody’s on a budget, I would use that money somewhere else.  I would almost use that money to buy an enhanced production package and have an even better light show, for example.


    Mel:                       Okay.


    Brad:                     So, you know, that extra few hundred that you’d pay from the 8 to the 12, use that to enhance the 8-piece but make sure that 8-piece is the best band that you can get within that budget.


    Mel:                       Right.  Okay.


    Brad:                     You know, and again that comes down to doing your research and you know, having a checklist of things and you know, we provide those checklists for you as well.


    Mel:                       Sound advice.  Final question because I’m aware we’re running out of time.  In terms of your band’s repertoire, as the bride, should I be choosing all the band’s songs?  You know, should I be telling the band what I want them to play or should I be kind of letting them guide me?


    Brad:                     Yeah, I think there’s a balance there.  I think your first dance request, if it’s reasonable, then I think the band should be able to accommodate and learn that for you.  There are nuances in that.  If you want a proper arrangement with you know, with the horn section of the band, for example, then you know, there might be a charge.  And if you want them to perform it brilliantly well, then it might be worth paying that, a little bit of extra fee if that’s what they’re asking for.  In terms of the actual repertoire, the band should very definitely allow you to pick and choose songs from their repertoire list.  We urge clients and you know, we like to feel as though the clients trust us and it seems to be the way.  If you’re booking a top class band, trust them.  What they do best is not just perform brilliantly well but they should be able – they will know what tunes to play, particularly if they’ve got that experience over the years.  Those songs will be tried and tested.  I know with our bands, if a song works, it stays.  If a song doesn’t work, it doesn’t stay.  Now, what does work mean?  You know, work means depending on the type of band.  If a song works, it means that it gets guests on the dance floor.  And that’s what it comes down to.  So that’s the general rule of thumb.  But again, you know, if you are having problems talking to the band leader or the band’s representative about getting some of your favorite songs from, let’s say for the sake of argument, that soul band performed in their set, I would really be thinking twice about whether you want to book that band because I think they should be able to accommodate at least five or six songs that you want to hear.


    Mel:                       Right.  So kind of demonstrates some element of flexibility.


    Brad:                     Very much so, yeah.


    Mel:                       Right.  Okay.


    Brad:                     Yeah, that’s performed for you and your guests.  It’s not self indulgent in any way.  But then at the same time, there is a balance.


    Mel:                       Right.  Okay.  Perfect.  Well, I think we’re out of time for today but thanks, Brad, and I hope you found it useful, and we will see you next time.

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