Tips For Hiring a Live Band

Hire the perfect live band for an event here on The Bash.

Maddie Sheely

Account Specialist + Contributor

Hiring a live band for your special celebration is always a great idea. Live music adds atmosphere to any gathering and can make your event the one that people talk about for years to come. We gathered some tips and things to consider from Carey Kleiman of CK Band to help with hiring a live band for an event.

If you aren't yet sure whether or not you should hire a band for your event - try this test: Ask yourself how many run-of-the-mill office parties you have been to. They are all the same - you and your co-workers all put in an appearance, force a little conversation and then leave as soon as the boss looks the other way.

Is that how you want your event to go?  Of course not!  You want a fun, exciting and memorable event and that is what a live band can offer.

Hiring a band can be intimidating if you have never done so before.  It involves additional planning, not to mention expenses that should be taken into consideration well in advance of the event in order to minimize any last-minute "surprises." 

It helps to be as informed as possible when negotiating a price with an agent or bandleader, and it is especially important to communicate your expectations ahead of time to ensure that your event goes off without a hitch.

Your band will also have their own expectations - after all it is a two-way street.  As in any business transaction, the objective is to create a 'win-win’' scenario whereby you, your guests, and your hired performers can all call the evening a success. 

Here are some tips for hiring a live band for an event: 

Consider the Specifics of Your Event

The first thing to do when you begin planning is to decide how you would ideally like the event to flow and what role the live music should play.  Will there be dancing?  Would you like background music when dinner is served?  Will there be a cocktail hour?  

Asking yourself questions like these will determine the type of band that will best suit your needs. For example a 17-piece cover band will be great for a dance party but may be too loud if you are hosting an intimate dinner party.

Consider the Logistics of Your Venue

It’s important to make sure that your location fits your needs. It may seem obvious, but if you are hiring a large band, make sure the stage area is large enough to hold them all comfortably.  If the event is to be held outdoors, the stage area should be covered in case of inclement weather, as should the sound system.

Make sure there is adequate power for the band's instruments and for lighting the stage.  Also consider how the band fits in with the room.  The decoration of your venue can take your event to an entirely new level and the look of the band can be a big part of that.

Hire Professionals

Sure, you might be able to save some money by getting an amateur garage band, but ask yourself: isn't your event important enough to give your guests the best? Professional musicians do this for a living. They will take your event seriously - it is their job to entertain your guests and their reputations rely on it.

Budget Accordingly 

Remember that most professional musicians have a great deal of time and money invested in their abilities and their equipment. A professional musician can have as many years of schooling, just like a doctor or lawyer. 

Musicians usually work as independent contractors meaning they are responsible for their own health insurance, self-employment taxes, retirement plans, and other expenses that you may take for granted.  

Not only does playing music on a professional level take a great amount of skill - but it is also physically demanding. All of this is to say that your hired musicians deserve to be compensated accordingly. 

With that being said you don't have to break the bank to get the band you want.  It is important that you come up with a realistic budget for live music for your event. This budget should be largely based on the number of performers you are looking for, and how long you expect them to play. 

There are a few other elements that go into a live music budget that you might not otherwise be aware of.  Please note that not all of these fees will necessarily need to be a part of your budget, but the more you know the better off you will be when negotiating:

Agent Fee: Additional percentage taken by booking agents (typically add 15% to total musician wages).

Cartage: Bonus paid to musicians who carry large instruments or equipment, such as drum sets, keyboards, amplifiers, etc ($45 per large instrument).

Doubling: Additional pay to musicians who must learn and maintain skills on more than one instrument in order to perform an engagement with the band ($25 per instrument).

Mileage: Amount paid to musicians to cover fuel and travel costs (45 cents per mile for engagements outside the Metro area).

Travel Time Premium: Bonus paid to musicians who are required to travel more than 30 miles to an event (usually $12.50 for each 50 mile increment).

Sound System: Covers the cost of professional sound reinforcement, including the use, cartage, and maintenance of sound equipment and a professional sound engineer to operate it ($200 to $800 depending on needs and size of room).

Stage Lighting: Covers the cost of use, operation, and maintenance of professional stage lighting ($50 to $150 depending on stage needs).

Payroll/Employment Tax: Covers all Federal, State, County, and Municipal taxes and fees associated with Contractor wages as reported on IRS Form 1099-MISC (add 20% to musician wages).

Insurance: Covers musical instruments and equipment against loss, damage, theft, or other unforeseen circumstances (cost varies depending on individual rates and policies).

Deposits: A bandleader will usually ask for a deposit to reserve the date. The amount varies from one individual to another, and will usually range from as small as $100 to as large as 50% of the total engagement fee. The bandleader usually holds the deposit in a special bank account until the date of the engagement.

Don't let this list intimidate you. Even a basic understanding of what goes into a performance budget can be a great help to you when negotiating with your band and having the event of your dreams!

Find and book a live band for your next event here on The Bash.

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