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.