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.