Not All Musicians Are Created Equal

Illustration by Peter Arkle

At what point should a couple start looking?
After you book the venue. See three bands before committing, so you have a basis for comparison.

How should you go about finding a band?
First, know the difference between a band company and a band. People say, “Hank Lane was the band at my wedding and they were great.” Hank Lane is a company that has more than 20 bands. Once you find one you like, listen to them performing the different genres you’re into. Hear all the singers. Make sure you see them performing—on video, not just audio.

What are some red flags?
If the band shows you a video, make sure they are not showing you something out of date. Half the people in the band may have left. They don’t do this anymore, supposedly, but some have been known to try to sell you more musicians, and then, come wedding day, send somebody who doesn’t even play an instrument. They’re called ghosts, and they’ll pretend to play with the band. Next, ask to see a song list. If you ask if they play contemporary, they may say yes, but if you see their list, you may realize they haven’t updated it in two years. Much more important is asking how they manage the evening’s energy. A good band can go from song to song without stopping.

Is there a minimum number of pieces you need?

What should you negotiate into the contract?
List the musicians’ names, so the ones you’ve approved show up, not anyone else. If you want them to learn songs, put that in.

How about a D.J.-band combo?
The D.J. needs to arrive early in order to listen to what the band is playing so he or she doesn’t play the same songs. Having a D.J. is nice if you want to play international music.

How do you transition from band to D.J. at the end of the night?
Tell the band they have to wait until the evening is over to take the set down. Position the D.J. far from the band, put a spotlight on him or her, and then make the band’s area dark. A side note: It’s better to have one set of speakers for both. Having two sets just looks ugly.

Besides music requests, is there anything else to specify?
Give them a very detailed timeline and spell out all introductions exactly the way you want to hear them. You don’t want to be caught off guard by someone belting, “Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together… ” If you don’t script them and hold them to it, there’s a 90 percent chance they are going to say something really cheesy.

Not All Musicians Are Created Equal