October 7, 2009
How much does a good band cost? How much should I spend on a band for my wedding? What should I budget for music for my party? These are common questions that people ask when planning their events. The answer, of course, is that there is not one answer. Consider dining out. You might ask yourself, how much should I plan on spending if I want to eat dinner out? Well, that depends on where you want to go and how much you have to spend. Some folks will go to the local diner and have a turkey club with fries and spend $15 for two people. Others will order in sushi and spend $50. Some people will go to a fancy Italian restaurant, and after a bottle of wine, dinner, dessert, cappuccino and limoncello, will shell out $200. And there are those who will go for a celebrity chef, a restaurant in the Time Warner building have a tab close to $1,000 for their meal. Same with cars. You can buy a five year old Honda Accord that will get you where you are going for $10,000. You can buy a brand new Subaru for $20,000. You can get a 5 series BMW for $50,000, and a Bentley for $200,000. I guess I made my point. Now, how do you pick a venue for your wedding? How much are you going to spend? There is such a large range of places and prices that it really boils down to your overall budget, and then what percentage you will allocate to each part (venue, catering, music, décor, photography, wardrobe, incidentals). For now I would like to point out that along with the economic hierarchy of venues, there is that same ladder of pricing associated with the other services. For example, you can save a lot of money by renting a hall and finding an inexpensive caterer to bring food, dishes and rental chairs. The price tag will be significantly less than having your affair in the ballroom of a fine hotel. You can have a modest wedding in your living room with very little fuss, or you can put up a million dollar tent-compound in your backyard, with air conditioning, chandeliers and a hand-painted dance floor. I have performed at all. My point again is that it keeps coming back to your style, your resources and your priorities. So when it comes to bands, (aha! finally I am coming to bands!) there is obviously quite a range, which is relative to many of the other elements.
My company is known to be a boutique, upscale service provider. We are priced at the top end of the spectrum, and there are very good reasons why. In many respects, you get what you pay for, whether it be service, quality of material, support of an organization, innovation, caliber of talent, cost of behind-the-scenes extras. Sometimes price is determined by popularity and the laws of supply and demand. In the world of music for private parties, be it weddings, galas, charity balls, corporate events, and all of the special celebrations that punctuate our lives, we should seek to find the best musical product for what we can afford to pay. We cannot underestimate the impact that good music (or bad!) can have on an event, from the first moment to the last, yet it is my belief that the music is often overlooked and “underbudgeted for”. I have so much to say that I will probably write a book, a very impassioned discourse about that one issue! How crucially important the music is, and how under-emphasized it can be in the budget. Just to go on a quick tangent here, I am not only talking about the “band;” the music for dancing. I am talking about how music could be used to underscore and influence all the different elements of the event. I refer not only to a bandleader but someone who is a musical consultant, who can understand and convey how we work with the musical nuances to transform, connect, and influence. This goes far beyond the understanding of most of the weddings magazines when they talk about how to choose a band.
So how much should you spend? Well, how good do you want it to be? How good can it get? That is what needs to be considered! (I will eventually answer my question, I promise!) Industry standard is less than mediocre. The “wedding band” stereotype (cheesy, sloppy, thown-together) has been well earned over a long period of time. The “better” bands, the companies with real musical integrity who have put their energy into re-inventing the concept and offering a superior alternative to the standard “wedding band” phenomenon are few and far between, and definitely worth the higher price.
(please proceed to Part 2 of this posting, “How Much Does a Good Band Cost.“
BACK TO HOME PAGE
October 7, 2009
So now I am going to answer the question. How much should you, could you spend on music for your wedding? My first answer is, as much as you can, it is THAT important. With that said, here is the range. I know some deejays that start around $750. (Surprised to hear me say this? Thought I would start at the $25,000 figure? We’ll get there.) Most of the deejays I use go for around $ 2500-$ 3500. There is definitely a difference between the $750 DJs and the $2500 DJs. The deejays with a following, not to mention the celebrity deejays charge as much as $10,000-$50,000 depending upon their reputation and the circles in which they travel. Then there are a whole crop of deejays in between those prices, some bring a few live musicians, some have elaborate lighting packages that can be added, staging, dancers, and emcees.
With bands, if your party will not have dancing, then the ensembles can be smaller and will certainly cost less than a larger ensemble. Two to four musicians can make a lovely presentation, whether the repertoire is classical, jazz, or pop. Anytime you add a vocalist, the price will go up because you also need a sound system (a microphone into an amplifier into speakers, usually on tripods, with cables and power cords. It is a whole set-up and adds to the cost.) If you want dancing it is important to establish a range of styles that you want, which will affect the instrumentation of the band, how much variety is needed. This is where there is a tendency for the quality to fall off; in order to fit into a budget, bands sometimes try to play music they are not properly staffed for, or not quite qualified for. If you want dancing at your party and you want live music, you must make sure that the band you hire has enough personnel to cover the different styles of music needed. One thing about weddings, there is usually a very wide range of music played, partly because there are guests of different age groups and different backgrounds, and because there is usually a lot of time for dancing. We need to mix it up, keep it moving, encourage different types of people to enjoy partying at the same time. Like an airplane, the music needs to be able to taxi, take off, ascend, cruise, and land- several times throughout an event. To continue this analogy, you might say that the band is the plane and the guests are the passengers and are on a journey toward a destination. The band is the vehicle that takes them there.
So what should it cost? Can every band be an airplane? Are the airplane bands the ones that cost $ 20,000? (I am making fun of myself now.) I have been told that there are bands in the $3500-$5000 range, but I must confess that I do not know of any. There is enough budget in there for each band member to make a night’s pay and have someone bring a sound system, and the band is probably not part of a larger organization that has internal support systems. There are probably decent bands in that range where the leader does everything himself (finance and payroll, hiring the musicians, writing arrangements, compiling sales materials, doing presentations to perspective clients… you would be amazed at what goes into putting this all together!). One might wonder, though, if the leader is so busy doing all of the administrative details of running a small business, will he or she have time to concentrate on the creative and musical elements, like rehearsing the band?
From my experience running a live music company that specializes in polished presentation and customized performance, competitive prices for the high-end market start in the $11,000 range and go up from there. Prices were higher in the past, but now, to accommodate the economic changes in our culture, and since “small is the new big,” many high-end music providers have downsized some products, and are offering smaller versions at more affordable prices.
While bands do exist at all price points, in the Luxury Bridal Market you will most likely spend over $12,000 for the music (a small group for the ceremony, a few musicians at cocktail hour, and a band of minimally 10 people) and as much $30,000 or even more for something larger, extremely unique or customized. Substantial string ensembles are also a specialty of some companies (like mine!) and add to the cost, and I will write about that in a future posting.
If these numbers seem high, here is some info to round out the equation.
Here are the (current) going rates for some headline entertainers that will perform at your wedding….for the “right price.”
The Rolling Stones $9 million*
Paul McCartney $1.5 million*
Jennifer Lopez $1 million*
(*all prices are approximate)
Believe it or not, I still have more to say on this topic. So please read Part 3 of this series, and find out what goes into some of the pricing.
BACK TO HOME PAGE
October 7, 2009
This article is not for the faint-of-heart. As you can see from the above header, I am hereby answering the question, “How Much Should You Spend on the music for your wedding?” And the answer is “as much as you can.” I am going to say something even more controversial now. Music is NOT the place to try to save money. I am not saying that you should overspend, that you should spend more than you can, or more than you have. But I am saying that the IMPACT higher quality music and musical presentation has on the overall outcome of your entire event, is often overlooked and undervalued by many people, even many wedding professionals. Most people do not consider the following: the difference in what you would spend for a higher quality musical ensemble is such a small percentage of the overall budget for your affair. Really, think about it, do the math!
I have spent my entire career explaining, educating and encouraging clients to spend more money than they thought they needed to. And why? Because in order to get something really good, really special, it costs more. It just does. We all know this. And we all accept it when it comes to our dining out experiences, the homes we buy, the cars we drive (refer to Part 1 of this blog series). We even accept it when it comes to choosing the venues for our weddings and parties. We usually choose the places that are in the top range of what we can afford. And why? Because we want our party to be the best it can be, we want it to reflect our taste, our style, our stature. So what many people do not realize is how much of an impact the music makes on every aspect, almost every single moment of your affair, and can enhance virtually every part. I can only speak of the way we (at Starlight Orchestras) do things, but think about this (some musical aspects to consider when evaluating pricing)…
Arrivals and Ceremony Music
There is music playing as your guests first enter the venue; be it a building, a hotel, a chapel, a ballroom, a club, or even outdoors when guests first leave their cars. There is music playing as guests are waiting to be seated at the wedding ceremony. Once seated, there is of program of listening music for the 20+ minutes before the wedding ceremony begins. There is wedding music for the processional, and much of what I have already outlined can be highly customized. There are special musical selections for different groups of people in the bridal party; pieces for the officient, the grandparents, the bridesmaids and ushers, the children, something dynamic for the Groom, and then something extremely special for the Bride. There might be music during the ceremony itself, and then of course, music to punctuate the recessional.
Cocktail Hour Music
As the recessional ends and guests start leaving the ceremony area, we ideally want music to be playing as your guests enter the cocktail hour space. This means that music is being played simultaneously in two places, and the musicians are maneuvering behind the scenes to make this happen.
Reception – The Party!
When we open the ballroom; specific and carefully chosen music is playing to welcome the guests as they get acclimated, find their tables, and make their way to the dance floot. Then there is music to announce the bride and groom, special music for their first dance together, then skillful and artful transitioning to music for all guests to dance to. In between dance sets, there is a variety of walk-on music for the celebrants proposing toasts and making speeches. There might be ethnic music for special circle dances, and certainly lots more fun party music, often including special requests. During food service, the music softens to create a lovely dining experience. There are special moments where brides and grooms dance with their parents, and there are special songs for cake cutting. There are ways to use music to end the evening, or to transition to different types of after-parties. The music is constant, it is always changing with the moment, accommodating and underscoring whatever might be going on throughout the 6 or more hours of the event. During all of this, the bandleader needs to be thinking ahead, spontaneously planning the next moment, coordinating with the maître d or event planner, feeling the pulse of the crowd and at the same time conducting and leading the musicians. The musicians need to play well, look great, and keep it going for hours and hours. There is a lot of responsibility and quite a lot at stake. The success of the dance portions of the evening have everything to do with the “calls” that the bandleader makes; what songs are chosen, in what order, at what tempo. This is something that cannot be planned or decided ahead of time; because every crowd is different, every night is different, and what song might excite or motivate guests at a particular moment one night might either not work or need to be placed in a different spot on another night. The bandleader’s skill and intuition in reading the crowd is as important as his or her ability to lead the band. To take it a step further, the band must be completely prepared (well rehearsed, with each member having the skills and versatility needed to perform whatever the bandleader may be requesting, which is often a surprise.) Whew! Sounds like a lot, and it is!
All of these moments, every single one of them, has the potential to be impactful and meaningful; filled with emotion, overflowing with romance or bursting with exuberance and a sense of celebration. And on the contrary, we can miss the opportunity in all of these moments if the music just isn’t good enough, if the bandleader is not talented or skilled enough, if the band is not strong enough,
The Band vs. The Brand
Here is something interesting I just noticed. I have written 11 paragraphs, (1019 words) about music for your wedding, and I haven’t even really talked about “the band.” When clients begin the process of looking for music for their weddings, they believe they are searching for the right band. They want to see videos, hear tapes, see song lists, listen to the voices of the singers. And even though these elements are truly important, it is the concept behind the band (in this case, the STARLIGHT BRAND) that creates the blueprint, and it is the skill of the bandleader that brings it to life. People don’t realize this when they come in for their “sales presentations.” They don’t realize that the singers and the instrumentalists are carrying out the vision of the creative team behind the scenes.
I have come to think of the bandleader as a master chef (okay, a celebrity chef) preparing a special recipe. The dish will come out only as good as the ingredients being used (the performers), but it is the recipe (the concept behind the brand) that makes it unique, and the way it is prepared by the master chef (bandleading skills.)
One more point about how impactful the music is. It is important to remember that once your guests have arrived and have seen the beautiful décor, have witnessed the nuptials, and have experienced the “wow” moment of entering a ballroom that has been transformed by a master designer; his work is done, and then the “party” really begins. There are more than four hours ahead of us. The party becomes a journey. And that is when the bandleader really goes to work! There is a delicious meal to be served, and fine service to be enjoyed; and there is all the space in between with the potential to segueway from magnificent atmosphere into excited, joyful celebration. It is the music that energizes, that creates the ebb and flow; the rise and fall, that modulates the energy, that makes the party come alive. The music is the “whoosh factor” that has the capability of propelling the party like a shooting star throughout the night sky.
If that is not worth paying for, then I don’t know what is! Essentially I am saying that the better the music, the better the party; from the ambiance to the emotion to the flow to the fun.
Confronting your Fears
We may have all kinds of hesitations, fears, concerns about showing too much, making too much of a splash, not being sensitive to the current economic climate, etc. etc. etc. People project ahead and worry that others might over-scrutinize, think they “over-did it,” went “over the top.” But, in my experience, once your party is underway, guests are there and everyone is beginning to have a good time, you are no longer worried about many of the things that concerned you before. You just want your event to be the best it can be, and offer the best scenario you can for providing a festive atmosphere. That is when you truly realize how important the expertise of the music provider is: it is the one element that creates the MOTION! Once a party is underway, I have NEVER heard of anyone wanting to hold back, to be low-key, to be subtle. On the contrary, this is when you want the ability (and have the tools) to make magic!
And again I say, if that is not worth paying for, then I don’t know what is.