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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.

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…

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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