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Category Archives: Band

What to ask before booking a Wedding Band

Your wedding or civil partnership is one of the most memorable events of your life and it should be celebrated in style! Many couples can spend up to 12 months planning the big day and so we thought we’d help out a little when it comes to hiring perhaps us or any wedding band. Live bands for weddings have become an essential part of the celebrations and add a fantastic focal point to any party. But, not everyone has experience of how to book a band and the things to look out for and check. So, we thought we’d provide a basic set of questions to what to ask before booking a wedding band:

  1. How many weddings have you previously performed at? Performing at a pub and performing for a wedding are 2 very different things and so you should always check how much experience a band actually has of performing for weddings specifically.
  2. Can we see some references from previous wedding customers? Always ask to see testimonials from other weddings where the band has performed.
  3. Do I need to hire any equipment? Most couples aren’t sure of what they need to provide in order for a band to perform and the best people to advise of this are the band themselves. Pop of Ages are fully self-contained and bring all their own PA equipment and stage lighting.
  4. What happens when you aren’t playing? Be sure to check this as the last thing you want is deathly silence as the band finish to take their first break. Most bands will provide some form of recorded music through the PA but it’s always wise to ask just in case.
  5. My venue says you need insurance and PAT certificates, do you have these? Just about every venue will need Public Liability Insurance and PAT certificates for electrical equipment that the band are using so you will definitely need to make sure the band has these.
  6. Is there anything I need to check with the venue? A band will advise you specifically what you will need to check for but it will normally consist of asking your venue if they have enough space for a band to perform in, if there is adequate power located near the performance area and if there are any restrictions on noise levels. This last question doesn’t mean that the band are looking to play at ear-splitting volumes, but, some venues have decibel limiters installed that make it impossible for some bands to perform no matter how hard they try.
  7. How long will you play for? Again, this can vary with different bands and different styles of music. For example, high energy acts such as a Latin band may only perform for 2 x 45 minutes, whereas a rock and pop cover band will perform for 2 x 60 or 3 x 40 minutes. Finding this out will help you to plan the running order of your evening.
  8. Do you have a rider? A rider is a list of things that the band will need extraneous to the performance itself. For example, a band may require a meal, soft drinks and a lockable changing room for the duration of their stay at the venue.
  9. Do you have a contract? Great question! A contract will give you peace of mind and reassure you that you have the band secured for the day. Just make sure you check all the details of the contract to ensure that they are correct and read through any associated terms and conditions.
  10. What happens if someone is ill on the day? Musicians are only human too and it could easily be the case that one of them falls ill and can’t make the wedding. Many bands will have deputy (or ‘dep’) musicians who can cover but it is always worth asking the question.

Hopefully, these questions and gaining the answers will help you pick the perfect band for your wedding or civil partnership celebrations. However, if you want to avoid this work and just jump straight in and hire one of the most popular, experienced and best wedding bands in the UK then just get on touch.

wedding-band

At Pop of Ages we ensure that we have answered all of the above questions and we go above and beyond to answer even more of them!

You may also like visit our FAQs page to see answers to other common questions or just contact us any time for free expert advice.

Full STEAM ahead for Swindon Charity Fundraising Event!

Party band Pop of Ages were ‘chuffed’ to bits (couldn’t resist the pun, sorry!) to provide the live music and entertainment at a fantastic charity fundraising event on Saturday hosted at STEAM, Swindon’s Museum of the Great Western Railway.

Born and bred in Swindon, we are all very proud of our local history and heritage, so it felt incredibly special to be performing in the ‘Old 20 Shop’ of the Swindon Railway Works where our fathers and grandfathers earned their livelihoods.

STEAM is housed in a beautifully restored Grade II railway building in the heart of the former Swindon railway works. Situated right opposite the Swindon Designer Outlet, the museum tells the story of the men and women who built, operated and travelled on the Great Western Railway, often referred to by historians and railway fans as ‘God’s Wonderful Railway’. The pioneering vision and engineering genius of Isambard Kingdom Brunel led to the Great Western Railway network becoming regarded as the most advanced in the world, and this treasure is right on our doorstep.

Full of character, elegance and history, STEAM offers the perfect venue for Charity Fundraising Events, Weddings and Corporate Dinner Dances.Attended by over 170 guests, Saturday’s Charity Fundraising Event was a black tie Masonic Ladies Festival dinner dance hosted within the visually stunning exhibitions of the Steam Museum. Demand for the event was so great that tickets were sold out almost instantly! Luckily Steam could easily accommodate a greater number of guests and so additional tickets were made available making it, apparently, one of the best selling Masonic Ladies Festivals held in Swindon.

A welcoming champagne reception was enjoyed in and around the museums’ main exhibition hall prior to a sumptuous 4-course dinner in The Great Western Hall. Then guests danced the night away to music and entertainment from our party band Pop of Ages.

Guests of the event (organised and hosted by Temple Lodge) helped raise money for the Swindon based charity ‘TWIGS’.

About TWIGS

TWIGS  (Therapeutic Work in Gardening in Swindon) is a charity project based at Moredon Community Gardens on Cheney Manor Industrial Estate which aims to provide meaningful occupation, training and rehabilitation for those recovering from mental health problems.

TWIGS Community Gardens are a colourful and vibrant set of gardens in the heart of Swindon.

They are managed by TWIGS as a resource to give people who experience mental health problems the chance to regain confidence, self-esteem and to learn new skills.

The gardens provide plenty of different ideas to take home to your own garden, along with plants and craft goods to enhance it.

TWIGS is affiliated to MIND – the leading mental health charity for England and Wales – and provides places for up to 100 people -people have the opportunity to work on projects across Swindon, linking us with the wider community. The Garden Site is ever changing, as is our dedicated and skilled team of people who contribute to this special place.

More information about TWIGS and how you can support this important charity can be found here – Learn more about TWIGS.

Live Music for Events at STEAM

We arrived at 4.00, loaded in our gear and were set-up and sound-checked prior to guest arrival at 5.30. The Great Western Hall looked absolutely stunning with all the tables laid out beautifully.

 

At 7.00 we played the specially selected entrance music for The Temple Lodge’s Master Bruce and his Lady Ida and then remained on hand to provide PA and microphones for speeches, background music as required and disco music during band breaks.

After dinner and speeches, Pop of Ages performed 2 sets of live music featuring our brass section which everyone seemed to enjoy!

It was a Ladies Night and as we all know ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ so we did our very best to give everyone, especially the ladies, a celebratory night to remember! We played a selection of hits to get everyone up dancing spanning from the 60’s to the present day.

We received some very kind verbal feedback from guests at the end of the night, and here are some subsequent Facebook comments;

“Marc u were brilliant as rest of band x you have a great rapport with public x great night thank you” – Ida Walker, TWIGS

“Band was great – everybody had a great night” – R. Smith, STEAM

“Brilliant band,  you had us all up dancing!” – S. Jones

“…a fabulous evening – loved the band!!! Great fun and lovely people xx” – C Montgomery

“…a wonderful evening really great night!” – C. Farnham

It was heart-warming to watch guests of all ages having a ball on the dancefloor from the first song until the end of the evening, bopping away to a great mix of old school hits and modern classics.

The whole event was a joyous occasion, and a fabulous way to raise much needed funds for a local charity.

Pop of Ages are based in Swindon and would be the perfect band for your Charity Fundraising Event, Masonic Ladies Festival, Wedding or special occasion at STEAM.

We can provide a completely bespoke music and entertainment package to suit your requirements.

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require further information about our Party Band, or hiring our professional music services for your special event.

Special thanks to Ida, Bruce, Coots, John (and his fabulous catering crew) and the STEAM team for looking after us so well, and for making this Swindon charity fundraising event such a huge success.

 

Cornwall, Volkswagen vans and Gibson guitars…

So what does Cornwall, Volkswagen and Gibson have in common?

The answer is Pop of Ages’ band manager Dave, and here’s why;

Cornwall

This month we have been mostly… sat in the van on the M5!
Traffic is appalling and these days when planning journeys from our base in Swindon to venues in Cornwall we have to factor in traffic jams, motorway delays and tailbacks. We’ve got to every venue on time, and have had the pleasure of performing in various Cornish locations for a myriad of events this year, especially during August!

FACTOID: Pop of Ages were the first band (in fact the first anything) to perform at The National Maritime Museum, Falmouth.

One of Cornwall’s premier visitor attractions, the museum’s build was only just completed and it hadn’t even been opened to the public when our four piece band performed for a wedding reception – guests danced the night away in historic maritime surroundings. Happy memories.

Our band manager Dave is the main point of contact for band bookings – this August Bank Holiday weekend the band travelled to Kennards House, Trethorne Leisure Park, Launceston for a Birthday Party celebration. After packing down and loading the van we then popped down through Truro to Falmouth to stay overnight with my parents. We all had a spot of lunch at the Halfway House pub on the way from Penryn to Helston. Then we’re back up to Harlyn Sands near Padstow for some Holiday Camp cabaret fun, own beds after that then onto Bridgwater Somerset to perform for a Cancer Research Fundraising dance. Exhausting but thoroughly good fun and plenty of positive feedback received from our customers.

Pop of Ages’ Volkwagen T4;

Dave is the driving force behind the band – literally. We get to and from venues with Dave at the wheel in our trusty Volkswagen T4 van and it’s taken a real beating this year – particularly in August when we seemed to be touring Cornwall, Devon and Somerset literally every weekend. From Ocean Blue in Exmouth to a marquee in Lydford Gorge, a Golf Club in Plymouth to Walkhampton Village Hall in Dartmoor, we certainly get to see some beautiful scenery in this job.

Knowing a fabulous local car mechanic certainly helps keep it tip-top (and let’s face it, Dave is great at many things but is no mechanic) and we certainly racked up the miles with the various weddings, birthday parties and charity fundraising events in the last month.

Keeping everything in working order is an absolute necessity in this job. I’ll admit that occasionally someone (normally Dave) has to do a quick bulb change or mic battery replacement, but that’s nothing compared to breaking down on the way to gig – and it’s pretty much thanks to band manager Dave that has never happened, ever.

Gibson 335 Guitars

Our Dave has recently acquired a 1982 blonde Gibson 335 (from his father-in-law, my dad) which I think is a work of art.

This little beauty is so good to look at that my father had it on display, just like an old master, ever since he hung up his own musical boots in the 90’s. It hasn’t been played in earnest for 20 years so when Dave decided he wanted to ‘gig’ it, some serious TLC was required.

So… on the way to a Cancer Research Charity Fundraising Event near Bridgwater, Somerset, the whole band descended upon legendary guitar luthier Kim Webber to drop off the guitar so he could work his magic to restore this wonderful Gibson 335 to it’s former glory. Myself and Marc drank coffee outside in the van whilst Dave had a thorough consultation with Kim.

A lovely chap and luthier to the stars – the last time we met Kim he was in the process of building Jack Black’s ‘Tenacious D; The Pick of Destiny’ guitar so we obviously had to wait our turn. Thanks Jack, but that guitar did look mighty fine!

My own childhood memories include my dad’s on-stage sound – defined at first by his Cherry 1961 Gibson 335, then the blonde newcomer from 82 onwards. Full bodied, warm and woody – describing it’s sound is like trying to describe a fine wine but the tone quality of a 335 is part of my psyche and instantly recognisable.

Dad’s old ’61 cherry (I believe) is currently being played by the fabulous Robben Ford (shown left) who also regularly performs with the legend that is Larry Carlton. I couldn’t think of a better home for it than on stage with these two guys!

Dave currently plays a vintage Fender Strat and has done for the last 30 years and it’s the perfect workhorse for the band’s sound and music playlist. However I honestly can’t wait until the blonde Gibson 335 makes it way into the van, onto the stage and into Dave’s skilled hands. This time last year I honestly didn’t think I would still be performing in the band with Dave – let alone with him playing my dad’s Gibson – but my husband and Pop of Ages’ band manager has been cancer free for a year now and the future’s so bright we’ve gotta wear shades.

written by Kirstie
Keys, Vocals & M.D.for Pop of Ages

How much does it cost to hire a band for a party?

how much does band cost

Our most frequently asked question is how much does your band cost? – obvious of course but if you’ve never hired a band before for you wedding or party then this this blog will help you make the right decision at a price that suits you. How much does it cost to hire a band for a party.

The Pop of Ages band have been performing professionally at weddings, parties and corporate events all over the UK since 2000 and offer band line ups from a compact trio to a full 6 piece band with brass section and all options in between. This flexibility allows us to provide great live entertainment at a cost that fits nicely into most budgets.

Number of band members

This is an obvious one and can be one of the major pricing factors. If there are less people to pay, that will of course be passed on to you. 4-piece function bands are the most popular, expect to pay between £800-1200 for a professional band with a varied repertoire. Not only will they present and conduct themselves in a professional manner they will know how to fill your dancefloor and entertain your guests. Duos and trios are also popular, most will use some kind of backing to ‘fatten’ things up on stage typically drums and perhaps keyboards or bass guitar. This option will not only be cheaper at around £400-750 but will take up less space at your chosen venue and still provide a full live sound. If you’re looking for a larger band, you may consider a function band with a brass section, this quite often means a 6+ piece band and can increase the price so it’s really down to budget. As a good rule of thumb expect to pay between £200-250 per musician, this is cheaper per head than most DJs charge plus you are making your party that extra bit special by having live music (rather than some guy playing MP3s from a laptop with a few flashing lights!)

Seasonal prices / Last minute bookings

Friday’s and Saturdays in the summer are the busiest time for every wedding and party band and so there isn’t usually room for a discount. If you’re getting married in February and March or perhaps October and November some bands may quote slightly lower than they would in the summer months. Similarly, if you’re organising a last minute wedding and need a band in say, 4 weeks time, then you can expect bands without a booking to go in lower. Weekday or Sundays bookings can also save you money.

Travel Expense / Time Travelling

We are used to traveling and realise it’s not always easy to find a band in the same town, although diesel prices have fallen recently the cost of fuel is unfortunately passed on to the client. Most band will charge around 50p a mile outside of their local area.

Another thing to consider is that a couple of hours traveling there and back again can mean 4 extra hours work for 4 to 5 people. As with all professions musicians will take this into consideration before quoting therefore if possible try to find a band based in your local area as this will save you money.

Arrival Time / Finish time

With travel time taken into account, a band can often expect to work 12 hour days. This is based on a 5:30pm-6pm arrival time and so any earlier will often mean an increase in price. Quotes are almost always based on a midnight finish and so you can also expect to pay more for the band to stay until 1am. Remember you are not just paying for two hours of music.

Length of Set / Performance time

Bands generally perform 2 sets of around an hour. That’s just an average, some only do 2 x 45 minutes and some might do 3 x 45minutes. Some bands start their prices slightly lower for 2 x 45 minutes and then add on a supplement for longer sets. All good bands will also provide as part of the package a quality sound system (PA) lighting for the band and dancefloor plus recorded music in between the live sets. Pop of Ages can also supply professional ‘Black-Tie’ DJs to compliment the live music and play any requests.

Top tips

If you want your party to be a success only hire professionals, people who’s livelihood depends on providing a great service (don’t risk hiring that pub band you saw for a few hundred quid or a mate of a mate who plays a bit of guitar and drums – it will only end in tears!)

Try and keep local – this will save on expenses.

Communicate with the band leader – tell him or her what you expect and be clear about what you want.

Trust the band too – experienced bands really know what they are doing and are only interested in entertaining you and your guests – most bands get repeat gigs by recommendation so its in their interest to do a great job.

Look after your musicians – a little hospitality on the day will pay dividends, tea or coffee, a bite to eat and most importantly arranging a private dressing room for the band will keep them happy, energised and willing to go that extra mile for you (at no cost!)

If you would like a quote for your event or have any questions please get in touch

Corporate Function Band

Corporate Function Band Pop of Ages are a great choice for companies looking to hire a professional band for staff parties or for any special company event.

Recently we were delighted to be booked again to perform in Bournemouth for oil and gas company ‘Perenco’ at their annual staff corporate event. The company parties took place over two successive weekends on the 14th & 21st February at the Marriott Highcliff Hotel.

This is the fourth year in a row they have booked us, it’s always a lively affair with great food, awards, presentations and of course live music and dancing.

To kick off the evening’s entertainment, Kirstie and Mat our piano and sax jazz duo provided some cool tunes during the champagne drinks reception in the bar and then later moved into the ballroom to continue during the meal.

Once the guys had finished the cocktail music a well earned break was in order. The client kindly provided the band with a nice dressing room and a hot meal of lasagne and chips along with plenty of coffee and soft drinks – the fuel of champions!

They had chosen to hire our 5 piece line up for their evening party and at 10pm we kicked off our first 1 hour set playing a selection of stonking tunes from our setlist

At around 11pm, after a very lively set, both the band and guests took a much needed break. We tend to play most of our songs as non-stop medleys in group of 3 or 4 songs joined together, this is the best way to ensure the dancefloor is full all of the time.

After our break we hit the stage again for our second and final set, we played some old school classic party favourites as well as some of the biggest chart hits of recent times including ‘Get Lucky’, ‘Blurred Lines’, ‘Happy’ and of course ‘Uptown Funk’.

Mat Sibley our superb sax player – we are also able to add trumpet making a 6 piece band with brass section, sounds and looks superb!

A bit more about us…

Pop of Ages provide a reliable, personal and bespoke service that simply cannot be offered by large corporate entertainment agencies. We promise to work hard to ensure your corporate event, party or celebration is exactly how you want it, and, of course, to provide the very best in high quality live music entertainment.

Our standard entertainment package includes a professional sound system (PA) suitable for up to 200 guests, LED lighting for the band, Disco lighting for the dance floor area and pre-recorded music on either CD or iPod during our breaks. You are also welcome to provide your own music for us to play through our PA if you wish.

For large scale events We can also supply sound systems for up to 2000 people, state or art concert style lighting systems, LED dancefloors, mobile festival staging and professional and recommended ‘black tie’ Disco’s and DJs.

If you would like to more information about hiring us for your corporate event or party please get in touch…

Hire the band for your Staff Christmas Party

works christmas party
It’s now the time of year when you might start thinking about the office Christmas party!

After choosing a date and booking the venue, you’ll no doubt be looking to hire some entertainment that will thrill your staff, fill your dance floor and be a talking point long after the festivities are over.

Pop of Ages have 15 years of experience performing at Christmas parties and Staff Xmas parties. You want your office Christmas party to be a memorable one and booking an experienced and lively party band is most definitely a fool-proof plan!

We’ll provide a great evening of music and entertainment so you and your staff can let your hair down and enjoy the party you have all worked hard to deserve.

We perform classic covers from the 60’s to the present day and have the advantage of fantastic male and female lead vocals, our extensive and varied setlist caters for all ages and musical tastes. We include hits from pop, rock, motown, soul, funk, disco, country, blues, reggae, swing, R & B, electro, synthpop and even ska!

We  are available for dates throughout December and January and can offer fantastic options with band line ups of 3,4,5 or 6 members to suit most budgets as well as a jazz duo or solo pianist and best of all – live music and DJ packages with high-end production for large scale corporate events.

We are available to hire throughout the UK with our best rates being in the South West and surrounding areas.

Why not visit our FAQs page to find out more about what we do and please feel free to get in touch for a quote and to check our availability.

wedding band cheltenham

 

Ever wondered what’s it like to be in a band?

These photos are from a typical gig – travelling to the venue, unloading, set up, crew, sound checks, changing room and finally the performance and the travel home…enjoy!

driving to the venue

Here is band manager and guitarist Dave driving our trusty VW Transporter on the way to our gig for Bunn Leisure guests at Selsey.Being a Friday we had to leave pretty early to avoid the worst of the traffic.

arriving and ready to set up

We arrived safe and sound at the mighty Embassy Club in West Sussex one of our favourite venues. Greeted by the very lovely Sara who had the coffee on hand. It really makes a difference to the band when we receive a kind and friendly welcome as you can see by Marc’s happy face!

Entertainment Manager Marc

Soundcheck

We have set up our equipment now and Dave is getting serious about his sound…

Sound engineers

It’s always great to work with a professional sound and light crew – Jamie and Tom are top blokes and this is just the monitor desk!

Kirstie and Marc4 piece band

Here is our changing room – OK so it’s a caravan but it’s very important for us to have somewhere private and secure to relax and get changed into our stage clothes before we start.

Backstage

Here we are backstage behind the curtain waiting for the go, Marc and Kirstie making a few last second checks then its ‘Showtime!’

Dave tuning

Dave says ” I don’t understand this, it was in tune when I bought it”

Sound tech

Here is Tom the sound monitor engineer literally seconds away from the start now…

Andy drummer

Great pic here of Andy counting us in for the first song …1,2,3,4 and we’re off!

on stage

Lead male vocals Marc, with Kirstie on keys and Andy on drums.

live on stage

Four piece band live on stage…Dave on guitar is looking happy, which is good thing!

Kirstie vocals

Our fab female lead vocalist Kirstie doing her thang – she’s the band Musical Director and is a bit good on the keyboards too!

Dave and Andy

View from the side of the stage – Dave on guitar and harmony vocals, Andy on drums

on stage finale

Final live pic of the band, second set towards the end of the night…it was a fab gig and the audience danced all night long.
Journey Home
The bit you never see…

We left our home at 2.30pm and its now 1am with a 2 hour drive home ahead of us.

Most gigs are a 12 hour day, really hard work but great fun. We love our job!

If you would like to find out more about Pop of Ages can do for your event please get in touch…

Farewell civil partnerships – hello gay weddings!

Everyone loves a wedding, but did you know that gay couples will be able to marry legally in England and Wales as from 29th March 2014?

Same sex couples must be overwhelmed with happiness and excitement at the prospect of finally having equal rights and being able to ‘get married’ just the same as any other engaged couple.

Gay rights campaigners have worked tirelessly for this landmark change to the law. The introduction of Civil Partnerships in 2005 was looked upon as a positive step in the right direction, but in essence continued to highlight and impose the differentiation between heterosexual and gay marriage.

So as from the end of this month gay couples can tie the knot and can start planning their big day – a Gay Wedding rather than civil partnership.

Traditional family party, fun and feathers, a themed wedding, outrageously camp – what are you planning? Having performed for many civil partnerships since 2005, (and literally hundreds of weddings!) Pop of Ages are proud to offer our live music entertainment services for gay weddings.

We’ll learn and perform your first dance for free, learn special song requests and will include as many of your favourites as we can – just drop us a line or give us a ring, let us know what you have in mind and we’ll go that extra mile for the perfect end to your perfect day! We now have a dedicated webpage for gay weddings, so take a peek and see if we’re the right choice for your big day!

40th Birthday party packs London Hotel with live music from function band Pop of Ages

Pop of Ages band London for an amazing 40th Birthday party celebration!

Pop of Ages six piece band with brass section had been engaged in conjunction with Disco/DJ and superior lighting from Studio 50.com to play at The Haymarket Hotel in London.

The band had performed for the clients’ a couple of years ago at Botley Mansion, and we would like to thank both Alex and Sarah for looking after us on the night. Everyone seemed to have a fabulous time, and we witnessed a packed dancefloor throughout the night, which always makes us happy and proud.

We recently received a lovely thank you letter which we would like to share with you;

Dear Dave,Alex and I would like to extend a huge thank you to you and the band for another stellar performance at Alex’s 40th birthday at the Haymarket Hotel in London last weekend.We didn’t think that it was possible to top the wedding, but you proved us wrong. The dance floor was full from the first note and, if the aching limbs the following day were anything to go by, most of our guests danced all night!We are currently trying to come up with the next excuse to throw a party and, when we do, Pop of Ages will be our first phone call.With thanks and kind regards Sarah and Alex Preston.

Here are snaps of our set up and some ‘stills’ taken from Daisy Jenks’ fabulous video of the event:

soundcheck

– Pop of Ages fine tuning during soundcheck

Alex-and-Sarah-Haymarket

– Alex celebrates on the dancefloor with his wife Sarah

Dave-and-Marc

– Marc on vocals and band leader/guitarist Dave doing their thang, drummer Andy is hidden from view, sorry! But you can see the band here.

Kirstie-Mat-Steve-Haymarket

– Kirstie on Keys, Mat – Sax and Steve – Trumpet during Stevie Wonder’s classic Sir Duke.

Alex

– The main man Alex Shaking his Tailfeather!

If you would like Pop of Ages to perform for your special occasion in London or elsewhere around the south of England, browse our website to see the live music services we offer, or just give us a ring and we’ll go from there!

For more information ring Dave or Kirstie Smith on 01793 870595

What is the REAL difference between an amateur band and a professional band?

KirstyFirstly, I would like to reassure any readers of this entry that I am not trying to malign any hardworking amateur musicians or bands out there. Far from it, and if you continue reading you’ll understand why.

Secondly, I would like to emphasise that I have a great love and admiration for amateur musicians – I was one myself until I was 14, and I probably will be one again for the last 14 years of my life, and I’m fine with that! Just because you’re an amateur does not mean you are unskilled or unprofessional.

Thirdly, my reasons for writing this particular piece are twofold ; a) to help anyone out there who is thinking of booking a live band for any type of event and b) to recount a story which made my blood boil and clearly highlights the difference between an amateur band and a professional one.

So let’s start with the story and we’ll go from there;

Rob (my friend & an excellent agent) received a phone call at 7.00pm New Years Eve.

A rather agitated gentleman (lets call him Jim) informed Rob the band he’d booked for his ‘do’ hadn’t turned up – he was phoning the agency to ask for an urgent replacement.

Rob asked Jim a few obvious questions including how much he had agreed to pay the band. Jim replied £300.

Rob responded he wasn’t surprised the band hadn’t turned up. “What do you mean”? Jim retorted. Rob explained that the price agreed was ridiculously low, and that any band willing to work on New Years Eve for £300 without a signed contract would more than likely not turn up, espcially if they had been offered a higher paid gig.

Angry manJim was offended and asked (in a fairly aggressive tone) if Rob would at least help out and phone around. Rob replied “No, I’d be wasting my time”. Jim became livid, and demanded to know why Rob was being so facetious.

Rob explained he wouldn’t be able to find any band that would perform on New Year’s Eve for £300, he wasn’t willing to offend his bands by asking, and the best he could provide was a local amateur DJ for £550. Jim slammed the phone down.

The story ends there.

There may be people out there who don’t understand the moral of this tale, so let’s re-ask the question ‘What is the real difference between an amateur band and a professional band?’

Mmm, I think we need some definitions from The Collins English Dictionary to help us along;

Collins English Dictionary ‘Amateur’; (n) A person who engages in a pursuit, esp. a sport, on an unpaid basis; (adj) Engaging or engaged in without payment; nonprofessional; amateurish; dilettante; (syn) Dilettante – dabbler – lover – fancier.

Hang on- just because a person is an amateur, it does not necessarily mean that they are untalented, unskilled or unqualified. By definition, they just don’t earn any money from their pursuit, or make a living from it.

‘Professional’; Of, relating to, or connected with a profession; (n) A person engaged or qualified in a profession; (adj) vocational ;occupational (syn) pro – practitioner – specialist.

Aha, but with the glove on the other foot (!) just because someone is ‘a professional’ and earns their living from their profession, this does not mean they are ‘professional’. We’ve all seen Cowboy Builders and Rip Off Britain where so-called professionals have done shoddy work or have been unscrupulous in their business practices.

So where does that leave us in terms of bands? Confused I expect! Well, I guess the answer lies in the adjectives and synonyms, not the nouns…

An ‘amateur’ is a non-professional, a dabbler, a fancier, a lover of the pursuit, even perhaps a future professional, but ultimately is not a professional.

The ‘professional’ could be called a pro, a practitioner, a specialist. Their trade is their vocation, their occupation – their living.

In terms of bands, a “professional band” earn their living from performance, and provide a service by performing for the client. Therefore a professional approach is paramount. A professional band’s livelihood is wholly dependant upon their reputation and quality of service. Living in today’s social media climate, it’s even more important to maintain high standards and consistently deliver beyond client expectations. If they are amateurish in any area of performance or business, they won’t survive.

An “amateur band” may play for free, or for a fee, and may be good at what they do, but ultimately they will play for their own enjoyment and purposes. They are not in it for the money (as their main wage comes from elsewhere) nor to consistently provide a high quality service of any kind. They do it for fun, and for the love of performing. If they get paid, it’s a bonus, and if people enjoy what they do, then that’s great too.

Don’t get me wrong, professional musicians love performing too (let’s be honest – we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it), but it’s a whole different ball game when you ‘go pro’. I’ll save that for another day…

My advice is to do your research. And then some more.

If a band is cheap, ask yourself why. If a band seems expensive, ask yourself why. Don’t expect something for nothing, pay peanuts and you’ll get monkeys (or not, as in the case study above) and don’t pay a stupid amount as high quality professional bands will always remain competitive in their market. Always ask for a quote, and always ask for recommendations.

At the end of the day, hiring a band is no different to buying any goods or services – you get what you pay for.

Sybil’s statement in one of my favourite classic ‘Fawlty Towers’ scenes sums it up perfectly; “Honestly Basil, if you want a professional job done, you should hire professionals”.

There’s plenty of us out there. 🙂

Thank you for reading.

Hire a band – top money saving tips

Want to save money when hiring a band? Want some Top Tips on how to get a great deal on live music? Booking a professional function band is often one of the last things organised for an event or special occasion and if you know how it’s easy to ‘bag a bargain’!

With 20 years experience as a musician and band manager, Dave Smith from professional Wedding and Party Band ‘Pop of Ages’ answers your questions on how to hire a quality band for your event without spending a fortune.

Q: “A friend of ours said he played in a band, we like him and their quote was cheap so we booked them for our wedding. On the day it was awful, they were late and took ages to set up. Once they started they were too loud, played songs nobody knew, no-one danced and a lot of our guests left. They wore jeans and scruffy T-shirts, one band member got drunk and upset some of my family. They totally spoilt our day and we wished we had never booked them. How did we get it so wrong?”

A: Unfortunately I’ve heard this story many times. There are literally thousands of musicians out there – amateur, part-time and ‘weekend warriors’ all desperate to gig! They will be cheap, sometimes even cheaper than a Disco but you have to ask who are they really playing for and whose interests do they have at heart?

My advice is simple – only ever hire a professional & experienced band whose livelihood & reputation depend on providing a top class service every time in the same way as you would with any other supplier. Yes, you will pay more than an amateur or semi-pro band, but choose carefully and it will not cost as much as you think. Whatever price you pay, I can assure you that their quality, experience and professionalism will be worth every penny.

Q: “So how much should we expect to pay for a good band?”
A: Most wedding or party bands will have between 3-6 performers, expect to pay around £250 per musician. Much cheaper and you should be asking yourself why!.

Some bands are much bigger of course with up to 12 or more members. Bands will normally charge a fee per person so the larger the band the more money you’ll spend. There will likely be a few extras too, typically travel costs and providing food and drink for the band, so make sure when you contact the band leader to ask them to include the total cost of everything in the quote and if you are concerned, ask for a breakdown of the overall cost.

Q: “Some bands & agencies have quoted us way over our budget and we just can’t afford that much. We really want to book a live band so what should we do?”

A) There are probably as many Entertainment Agencies as bands nowadays and there is a reason for this – it’s easy money! Anyone can start a business as a salesman with no formal qualifications or regulation. Some unscrupulous agents are only interested in getting their booking fee rather than finding the best band for you. They will charge 15-25% + VAT on top of the bands fee, they will not be there on the day to sort out any problems and their contracts offer no real protection for the client (as many claim).

My advice if you want to save money is to avoid them, do your own research and book the band direct. There are of course some good agents and if you feel happier using one then contact Pop of Ages and we will put you in touch with the most trustworthy and professional agencies in the UK who we choose to represent us.

Q: “So a professional 4 piece band is going to cost me around £1000 – why is it so much money for just a couple of hours of live music?”

A) When you consider who you are hiring and what is actually involved its very good value.

It’s not uncommon for each band member to commit to 12 hours of time for 2 hours of performance. To play at your event the musicians will have to load up their equipment early in the day, travel several miles to get to your venue, unload heavy equipment, set it all up at the venue, test the sound levels, wait around during dinner or speeches until they are required to perform then break down all the equipment, load it in the van, drive several miles back to their base, unload all of the equipment and finally arrive home in the early hours of the morning. A professional musician will understandably need to be paid for all of the time that this entails.

Even before your event begins the band leader would have spent many hours work for your booking to ensure all requirements are fully met, and throughout your event the band leader is constantly on-call to liaise with the client, venue and any other third parties to ensure it all runs smoothly.

There are also fundamental business costs incurred when running a professional band so a certain amount of the price paid will go towards this, and all professional musicians’ earnings are of course subject to tax and NI deductions whereas an amateur musician’s income is not.

As you can see, the actual performance is just a very small part of all the work needed to make your function an enjoyable and hassle-free event. When you consider all of the above and the hours involved for the services of highly qualified & experienced professionals at around £20 per hour each, it is still relatively cheap compared with any other skilled job or service, and is therefore excellent value for money!

Q: “We’ve found some bands we both like but the price varies dramatically, how do we know that we are getting value for money?”

A) How much you ultimately pay is of course up to you, the cheapest band may be cheap for a reason, and the most expensive band will not necessarily be the best for you.

By using my general rule of about £250 per head you shouldn’t go far wrong – any 4 piece band charging £1500 or more (unless they are a ‘named’ act or have huge travel costs) are charging too much, even if this includes any agency fees. However no two bands will ever be the same so you cannot compare like for like on price.

Do your own research, speak to the band manager directly and then decide if the band you really want are worth that bit extra, or ask if they are prepared to negotiate. Some bands are prepared to slightly drop their price to secure a booking rather than not work at all!

Q: “Any other tips that can save me money but still have a great band?”
A) Yes, if possible try and hire a band that is located close to the venue, you will save money on musicians’ time and travel costs.

Many bands do not earn enough money to be VAT registered so avoid additional VAT charges where possible, or ask the Band Leader to confirm his VAT registration no. if a VAT charge is added to your quote.

If you’ve not already set a date then hiring any supplier either midweek or out of peak season could be around 20% cheaper than a Friday or Saturday, many bands included!

Unless you plan on celebrating past midnight don’t bother with the expense of hiring a Disco & DJ. All good bands will offer disco music in between sets free of charge. Click here for more detailed information & advice on DJs or music between sets.

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