Anyone who has ever attended a wedding reception will tell you: the professional music performer – whether a DJ with turn-tables, a nine-piece brass band, or your niece hovering over a carefully-curated iTunes playlist – can make or break the party. When planning your Big Day, ask your prospective music entertainer these questions to make sure the dance floor stays packed all night long.
Is This Your Full-Time Job? Professional DJs and bands not only have more experience when it comes to “working the crowd” and solving last-minute technical problems, but their business’s reputation – and thus their income – rests on their proficiency and dependability. Because full-time musicians don’t have “real jobs,” it’s also less likely that scheduling conflicts, like surprise business trips that spring up two weeks before your wedding, will arise. Our recommendation: Don’t put your wedding-day entertainment in the hands of someone that DJs, plays, or sings as their “side gig” – go with a professional.
Have You Played Our Venue Before? Hiring a veteran musician – especially one that has experience playing in your particular venue – will make your wedding day go much smoother. Often, these “old-pros” will already knows the site’s set-up and unloading procedures, where to plug in, who to talk to regarding sound-checks and lighting, and answers to a number of other questions they might otherwise come looking to you for help with. Venues often have a list of preferred musicians they work with as well; make sure you ask you wedding hall or banquet center about trusted professionals that have graced their stage (or DJ booth) in the past.
Can You Learn New Songs (If Interviewing a Band)? If you have a special song that you want played during your reception, be sure to ask if the band is willing to learn the new tune. Unlike customized playlists for DJs, who can instantly download songs from the internet, rehearsing the music and lyrics for a new diddy can be time-consuming; give the band at least six weeks to get up to speed on your special requests. (And don’t be surprised if they charge you extra for their efforts.)
Are You Willing To Sign a Contract? Most professional bands and DJs are just as worried about a business deal going sour as you are, and a trustworthy musician will probably already have a rough contract drawn up stating their hours, services, and cancellation policies. When negotiating the contract, always include your venue in the talks – some venue contracts will conflict with or limit the services your music entertainer is able to provide – and make sure the signed version includes:
- Exact time the performer will begin and end. This should include unloading and loading time, though usually not transportation time or expenses.
- A “Key Man” stipulation. This prevents the key element of your musical performance (i.e.the DJ or the lead singer) from being swapped out for someone else. Remember, all talent is not created equal; you should get the performer you signed up for.
- A rough list of “must-have” songs, just so your performer knows what you expect.
- A cancellation and refund policy for both performer and wedding party.
- Food and drink policy stipulating what the performers are entitled to during the reception. It’s common for vendors to offer the band dinner at half price, and band members and DJs often have unfettered access to the open bar.
- Emcee services (unless you have a separate emcee booked to make announcements) and how much they will cost. Many DJs and bands provide this service as part of their package, but some may charge extra for it.