Having been a DJ for over 36 years, club, mobile & radio and still going strong, I have worked with many bands, acts and artistes over the years, as well as booking bands & promoting my own shows. Therefore, I can write this blog with confidence and knowledge. Yes, my bias will always be towards the DJ, but it is also an honest and fair evaluation of ‘all things music both live and recorded’ in the interest of giving food for thought to prospective brides and grooms, wedding planners, party bookers etc. to ensure a brilliant night’s entertainment
Many prospective brides ask me about bands and for any information I may have on bands as they ‘would like a live band as well as a disco for their wedding party’. I always keep contact numbers of good bands or acts I have worked with, so that I can offer this advice when asked and am always happy to pass on this information.
My advice always is that for 95% of weddings, a good DJ is a necessity for the evening party and I will write next time about what constitutes a ‘good’ DJ. A good DJ is indeed all that the client will need for their evening party. However, I will then advise the client that if their budget will permit, then alongside a good DJ, a good band is the ultimate icing on the entertainment cake. This will really give their guests a night to remember with the contrast between a quality big live sound and a DJ, using his musical expertise and experience to take the party into a different direction before bringing the band back on for their second set and then the DJ to finish. A perfect night’s entertainment, provided the band is the right band for the function.
When considering a live band for a wedding, I also advise that whilst as a bride & groom they can have whatever they want because it’s their wedding, it’s also important to consider their guests too. As the ‘party hosts’, to coin a phrase, although it is their wedding, I am sure that they also want their guests to have the best night possible. Therefore, whilst personal preference is important, it’s also a major consideration to look at the style of band they might like to book. A couple may have seen a brilliant band playing in their local pub, but are they right for a wedding party also? They may like them, but will the majority of their guests like them, will they want to get up and dance to them? (This is ultimately what all brides want:-a full dancefloor). So, this is where careful consideration is really important in selecting the right band playing the right music for any given event or function. Whilst you are not going to please everyone, it’s important to try and please as many people as possible. Again, with respect, a good DJ can provide this service, but only the best bands can also do this, hence research and asking the right questions before you book is a no-brainer.
Before considering the quality and choice of the live entertainment, the biggest consideration of all are the timings of the event. I say this, because if the timings are wrong, then the whole night can be ‘forced and wasted’. Let me explain: if, for example, the function and for this purpose, I will make it a wedding party, is running late, then the impact can be enormous because the venue will inevitably have a licence curfew of say, 12 or 1am. Likewise, if the guests have been at the wedding all day at a midday wedding ceremony, then they will inevitably be tired and it’s a fact that by 12/12.30 many have left so it is important to maximise the band for peak times, ie, between 9pm and midnight. Therefore, it’s not good to try to cram everything into a short space of time. Likewise, you do not want to ‘waste’ the band by having them playing too early or whilst the evening buffet is being served and consumed by the guests.
To maximise everything and to catch the mood of the guests at their liveliest, I always recommend evening party running times for a disco and live band as follows: 7.30pm-DJ plays background music whilst evening guests arrive and band finish setting up, 8.15pm – Evening Buffet, 9pm – Bride & Groom First Dance and DJ to maybe play 1 or 2 more songs. 9.15pm – Band First set, 10.15pm-DJ Set, 10.45pm-Band-Second set followed by DJ to finish the night off. This contrast and these timings work perfectly and really maximises the best part of the party with regard to the mood of the guests.
It’s really important for the DJ to be ‘switched on’ at all times to what the band are playing and to what the audience are reacting to and the way the mood and atmosphere changes as the night progresses. The first song the DJ plays after the band’s 2 sets is vital to keep the guests uplifted and to keep the party atmosphere as high as possible. An inexperienced DJ who doesn’t know his music will struggle here and if the music between sets is not ‘right for the night’, then the whole party buzz will suffer.
This brings me onto another comment I get from a lot of prospective clients who have a band booked already and are not considering booking a DJ because ‘the band are doing the disco for us’. What? It’s too late after the event to have regrets. Get it right beforehand, not after. I say this with the utmost of respect because I love live music, but many bands have been known to say this, and all they do is play an Ipod or CD in-between their sets resulting in the atmosphere and the party going flat. Also, when they finish their second set, all they want to do, and quite rightly so, is pack away and get home, so their offer to provide the music as a disco very often is just not that and they do not have the experience or expertise to do the job of a good professional DJ. Similarly, I do not have the skill or the expertise to play in a band. So, the moral here is simple, make sure that any offers are what you are expecting and if you want to get it absolutely spot on, let the band do what they do best and let the DJ do what he does best.
It’s also important for the DJ to be aware of the band’s set list so that he does not play any songs that the band intend playing. Likewise, it’s important that the band also make him aware of their set list too, it’s all about working together as professionals The DJ needs to also be aware of the last song of each set so he’s ready to play and avoid any ‘dead spots’. Working with live acts like comedians, singers, entertainers is a lot simpler as they will usually go on earlier and will not usually offer to ‘cover the music for the entire evening’.