Party Band: 7 Things to consider when hiring

On your special day or big event, the guests may not remember if the flowers matched the bridesmaids’ dresses, but they’ll certainly remember if the entertainment was any good.

But how do you choose the right party band?  Or should you hire a DJ?  Do you hire who you like or for your guests?  How do you choose the right option for your budget - 13 piece act or ‘one man band’?  

What starts out as something that seems easy, can all of sudden very quickly present many logistical and cost challenges.  So let’s look at 7 things to consider when hiring a party band.

Party band - 4 piece

Key considerations when hiring a party band:

  1. Seeing (a band) is believing - don’t book before you’ve seen them perform

  2. Song repertoire is everything

  3. Think about your guests’ musical tastes, not just yours

  4. The more musicians in a band, the more it’ll cost

  5. Booking direct with the band Vs booking via an agency

  6. Sound, Lighting & Paperwork

  7. Band Vs DJ - or both

First of all, what is a party band?

A party band provides an engaging live music experience that primarily aims to keep an audience singing and dancing all night. They play music that is generally high energy, with solid ‘toe tapping’ ‘booty shaking’ beats that are easy to dance to, often from a selection of songs that are widely well known.

1. Seeing (a party band) is believing

It may seem obvious, but it’s definitely worth checking out a band before booking them. Any decent band worth their salt should have some footage of them performing for you to watch - or a show reel. Sometimes however it’s hard to get a feel for them though via a live performance as the acoustics in the venue often don’t translate that well onto the video’s audio (in addition to crowd noise and people talking) or sound ‘boxey’ via the mixing desk.

If you’re out and about and you see a band you like - then make sure you ask them for their business card after the show (or in a break) or follow them on social media so you can contact them in future.

2. Song repertoire is everything

Definitely ask a band for their full song list to get a feel for their repertoire, as well as a typical set list to see if it suits your wedding or event. If you’re after a party band but their song list is full of Norah Jones and James Taylor songs then you may want to look elsewhere.

A mix of both is good though, if you’d like them to perform over dinner or at the ceremony, then play after cutting the cake and the first dance once it’s time to party. Or hire specific bands to suit each stage of the event, but you may find it is more costly and logistically disruptive with bands setting up and packing down. You’d probably struggle to find an all in one string quartet and party band though!

Our suggestion is to let the band do their job which is to use their experience to entertain - it’s what you’ve hired them to do. A good guide though is from their song list, pick 10 songs you definitely want them to play, and 10 you definitely don’t!

Finally, you might have a first dance song already chosen, which they may or may not know. Most musicians are happy to learn something for your special day but it is always best if they already know it (or play the original track instead) - in my experience it’s such a high pressure moment and may not go to plan if it’s their first time performing it!

3. Think about your guests’ musical tastes, not just yours

Perhaps you're a die hard Tori Amos fan, or jungle drum n bass is your thing.  While your musical taste is your own, it is unlikely to be representative of what your guests are into.  Think about the age range too - your nan probably isn’t the biggest Queens of the Stone Age fan, nor do the kids want to get down to some good old fashioned swing from Glenn Miller.

The pop classics are classics for a reason though as they span the generations and the test of time...but certainly if you and your girlfriends want to dance to the Craig David back catalogue later on with a playlist when nan’s ready for bed then go for it!

Rocking party band

4. The more musicians in a band, the greater the cost

Essentially for a band, the more musicians the more mouths to feed. The hire fee, as well as additional expenses such as feeding and watering them at meal times, hotel and travel costs. Band location can be important as many charge for mileage, travel and waiting time.

However, with more musicians, then generally the better live experience in terms of sound, band energy and dynamic. 3 is minimum for a band, if you they have a competent guitarist, bass player and drummer, but a 4-5 piece is more common.

Having said that, in the modern age of live looping, there’s also a more cost effective option to hire a soloist. Think of the likes of Ed Sheeran headlining Glastonbury, just a ‘one man band’ and his loop pedal producing amazing full band sounds - drums/percussion, guitar, bass, keys and backing vocals. Or, hiring a male ‘live looper’ with a female singer (or vice versa) is also an option to broaden the range of sound and songs, with the benefit of the on stage dynamic between 2 people.

If you’re hosting a destination wedding or event abroad, then cost will certainly be a factor. Many people want to hire a band from their home country to get the type of music they want, as it can be extremely hard to find a suitable band on location. Hiring a ‘one man band’ (or woman!) or duo is the most cost effective option, as you’ll need to potentially fly them out and cover accommodation expenses out there. Often the venue or wedding planner can arrange the equipment so that this does not require shipping as excess baggage.

5. Booking direct with the band Vs booking via an agency

There’s pros and cons for both options, but if you know what band you want to hire, then there’s no advantage to hiring via an agent. You can have a direct line of communication with the band representative for booking and any logistical details discussed without the ‘middle man’. You will also save on the agent fee, which can vary between 10-25% in some cases. Not all bands charge VAT either.

The downside is if you don’t know how to go about finding the right band, or have limited time then an agency can help as they’ll have many options to choose from. You can even look on their websites and do some ‘band shopping’ before speaking to anyone as they’ll generally have a band profile with clips to watch and listen to.

Again though, try and see the band before you book them as mentioned earlier to make sure you like them and are suitable for your event. You could also try posting on a Facebook Group too like Professional Function & Wedding Bands UK but you may find you get inundated with responses so be clear about your requirements of what sort of band you’re looking for and location of the event.

Party band or DJ or both?

6. Sound, Lighting & Paperwork

Make sure you ask the band about their equipment - for instance, do they own any? A bigger band will often require a bigger PA, and the size of the room or outdoor space they’ll be performing in, as well as the number of guests will have an impact on the technical requirements.

If they don’t own the required equipment, it’ll need to be hired by them or you - it’s much easier for them to arrange based on the requirements but obviously this is a cost consideration. Alternatively you can arrange for the equipment, or the venue, and that way you have transparency of the cost but not recommended as it’s best to be left in the hands of the professionals. A larger band will often require a sound technician too, which again can add to cost. Lights really add to the party atmosphere so make sure suitable lighting is available - if you’re hiring a DJ the same goes.

In terms of paperwork make sure the band’s equipment has a current PAT Certificate (to ensure their equipment has recently been tested for safety) and have Public Liability Insurance. These are often a basic requirement of event venues.

7. Band Vs DJ - or both

Having a live band perform can be really entertaining, but generally they’ll play 2-3 sets of party music before finishing up. This is when hiring a DJ can be great, to play some of your favourite floor fillers to see out the night.

It can be logistically tricky though with doubling up on equipment for instance, and quite expensive on top of the cost of the band. A good option is to ask the band to have a party playlist of songs ready to go when they finish from a laptop or mobile device, or provide your own if you’re desperate to bring the party home with your DnB bangers.

A DJ has the advantage of having literally millions of songs at his fingertips for requests and can save on cost and logistical challenges as a one man show. You do however miss out on the live music element - a very different entertainment experience. Equally a good DJ knows their craft and can adapt quickly depending on what is working with the crowd, and what isn’t.

So there you have it

7 things to consider when hiring a party band in a nutshell. The key things though is to 1. See the band before booking 2. Ensure they have a suitable repertoire 3. Consider the number of musicians suited to your budget. Happy event planning!

Need a party band?

Jimmi Nolan is a live looping ‘one man band’ solo performer (vocals, guitar, drums, percussion), with an extensive repertoire of 100’s of songs and 20+ years of experience playing weddings, events and live music venues in the UK, Europe and Australia (based in London). Duo with female singer and band options also available. Enquire now on +44 7786 804095 or via the contact form.


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A gig you’ll never forget.

Send a message or contact Jimmi via his social channels below for bookings and enquiries. Or phone him on +61 (0) 475 253191. Based in Kingscliff, Tweed Coast, New South Wales, Australia.

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