Before You Hire One…and After!
Most people agree – there’s something special about live music, especially at a wedding. You might want to consider live music for your wedding, if only for an hour or two before or during the ceremony or cocktail hour.
If you’re looking for the greatest versatility at a more modest price, and a professional program, with you’ll understand why the popularity of DJs is growing, even for more expensive, ‘high end’ weddings. You can have it all with a DJ – the music of any year, any style, any artist…from Sinatra to Alicia Keyes to the London Philharmonic. DJs come equipped with great CD collections, and you can add your own favorites and the latest original wedding songs.
When To Look & When To Book
Believe it or not, a year or more is pretty standard for booking bands and DJs. Remember that the good ones are also being booked in advance for other weddings, bar mitzvahs, anniversaries, birthdays and corporate events.
Many top DJ’s and bands are booked a year and a half to 2 years in advance. Make arrangements as soon as you possibly can, especially if you plan to be married during a busy holiday like the Christmas season, Valentine’s Day, or in June, one of the busiest months for weddings.
Where To Start
If you’re wondering where and how to find a band or DJ, or you’re not sure if you want a DJ or live music or what will fit your budget, you can start by looking on line under local Band/DJ directories. A few e-mails and telephone calls should give you an idea of the range of fees in your area.
Friends who have recently been married can also be a first source of information, contacts, and suggestions.
Wedding consultants, photographers, video people and caterers all work with musicians and may have good recommendations.
Don’t forget the place where you’re having the reception. They usually have lots of ideas and contacts.
If you’ve been to a wedding or affair recently and you loved the music, find out who the DJ or musicians were and contact them directly.
Local bridal shows are good places to meet bandleaders and DJs personally and to compare prices and styles. These shows are held periodically throughout the year in most cities.
Musicians can also be found through local chapters of the American Federation of Musicians, agencies, music schools and college music departments…even local symphony orchestras. Almost every professional and music organization has a listing on the web.
Shop and compare and be sure to keep a record of prices and packages offered by everyone you contact or interview. However you find them, please make sure to check their references carefully before you decide.
How Much Will It Cost?
Generally, 4 players will charge anywhere from $1,250 – $4,000 and up for four hours. A 6-piece band in New York City or Los Angeles might run closer to $4000 and range as high…or higher… than $7000, depending on how well known the band is. Fees can be much higher for top talent or name bands and singers. For some celebrity and society bands, the sky’s the limit. In smaller cities, the range may be considerably lower, starting as low as $750 and up to $3500 or more for a 4-piece band. Naturally, the more players there are, the higher the cost of the band. One player, such as a harpist, guitarist or keyboardist, may be available for a couple of hours for anywhere from $200 to $300 or more.
As with live bands, the range of fees for DJs varies from city to city and will depend on the DJ’s own popularity and competence. Generally, the range for four hours in larger cities could be anywhere from $500-$1,500 and up for the more trendy performance-DJs. In smaller cities, the minimum might be as low as $350 for 4 hours. Figure at least $75 to $100 or more an hour and a minimum of two to three hours. Take your location into account.
HAVING IT ALL WITH A DJ
The experienced DJ knows how to please a crowd. The volume control is flexible and always within reach. Good DJs pride themselves on being aware of guests’ reactions and responses to the music every minute and can respond accordingly.
If it’s intimacy and the live ‘feel’ you want, a 4 to 6-piece band is great. If you want the full rich orchestration of many classical wedding selections or the lushness of film soundtrack music for your processional or the original sound of a great film score as background for your cocktail hour or dinner courses, many bands come equipped with CDs and equipment for special moments where CDs are most effective. Just make sure, as with any musician or band, that your selection requirements have been included in the program. A good DJ will have great equipment, such as extra large speakers and a great selection of CDs. Some have spectacular lighting and for additional fees, they’ll offer effects like flashing lights and video backgrounds and live dancers and entertainers.
THE BAND/DJ COMBINATION – THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Some couples like to have the live feel of a band plus the flexibility of a DJ. You can do this by having a DJ and band alternate and work the program cooperatively splitting every hour – 30 minutes each (30/30) or 40 minutes and 20 minutes each (40/20).
The band/DJ combination is great for weddings because usually, the guests are of all ages. Generally, the older generation loves the live sound the band provides, and the younger generation loves the latest CDs DJs have. If you can afford it, and your location has room for both, you might want to have the best of both worlds.
NEWER DJ TRENDS
A newer trend is the mixture of DJs and live music. This isn’t a live band alternating with a DJ. This is a DJ integrating one or two live musicians and vocalists who perform to pre-recorded music. By using polished, ultra-professional ‘music tracks’ or backgrounds (like karaoke), and adding the excitement of live performers, a DJ can give you a spectacular show with the variety and versatility of a CD collection and the energy and magic of live entertainers.
Bands vs. DJs – Key Points To Compare
- Can be more informal
- Can provide group dance instruction & live entertainment/interactive with guests
- All of recorded music with original artists available
- Sound levels of music easily adjusted
- True continuous music/no breaks
- Great sound systems
- Minimal space needed
- Trained emcee and coordinator
- No tips required
- Less expensive :
- Smaller cities: Minimum of $300-400 for 4 hours & up
- Larger cities: Minimum of $500-600 for 4 hours & up
- Brilliant live sound
- Can learn special material (not available on CDs)
- Can spontaneously accompany guest performances
- Limited variety of styles
- Take breaks
- May not provide skilled emcee
- Requires more space
- Smaller cities:4,6, piece band minimum $1,250 to $3,500 & up
- Larger cities: $1500 to $4,000 & up
(Price increases with each musician)
Important Tips To Keep In Mind…
Before you Hire your Band or DJ
- Whether you’re interviewing DJs or bands, watch out for unknown or new companies who promise you the moon for ridiculously low fees like $200 for four hours for a DJ or $400 for a 4-5 piece band. Most likely you’ll be dealing with inexperienced beginners: DJs who play low quality, illegally copied tapes and CDs, or musicians who have never played a wedding before.
- Make sure that you meet with the band or DJ you’re actually hiring and see a live performance or at least a videotape of their work at a wedding. With a band, insist that you get the same musicians you heard or at least a named regular substitute (one who’s played with the band before). A less experienced player who’s new to a band can change the dynamic and throw everyone’s timing off. With a DJ, make sure the one you’ve seen is the one you’ll get.
- If your band or DJ has never worked at your location, don’t hire or place a deposit until they agree (in writing) to visit the place themselves to check the acoustics and find out in advance what equipment they’ll need.
- Also insist (in writing) that your band or DJ give you enough planning sessions. Two at a minimum: One preliminary meeting to lay out all the ideas, and another, about two weeks before the wedding, to finalize your program and to create a ‘script’.
After You Hire Your Band or DJ
- Stay organized. Keep a notebook for jotting down ideas as they come to you, songs you might hear that you like at other weddings, parties, on the radio or TV, etc. Keep this up to date so you’ll be prepared for your planning meetings with the Band or DJ. (For your convenience, we’ve provided specially designed planning sheets to print out for each ‘scene’ of your wedding.)
- Keep in touch with your Band or DJ from time to time.
- Confirm that they’ve visited the location, and cleared any acoustic and equipment problems.
- Confirm that they have the sheet music and have learned any special new songs; make sure they’ve rehearsed with the vocalists who’ll be singing. Make sure your DJ has the CDs of any special songs you need
- Write your final script or program. Confirm that they’ll have enough copies for everyone in the band, plus extras.
For more information about how a ‘script’ can guarantee you the wedding you’re dreaming of and how to create yours, read “3 Steps To The Wedding Soundtrack Of Your Dreams”
For even more in depth information about Bands & DJs, read “HOW TO SET YOUR WEDDING TO MUSIC”, the complete wedding music guide and planner You’ll find:
- The questions to ask every band or DJ AND the answers to expect
- How to protect yourself and navigate your way through a music contract
- More Planning Sheets for keeping track of information about the DJs and Bands you interview: Costs, Ideas, What they offer, etc.
- More ‘secrets of success’ and inside information from the experts about all areas of wedding music planning