Whew, it’s been a long day! Finally getting to answer this!
First of all, that is HILARIOUS about your parents’ band!! hahaha what a nightmare! Probably was not as funny at the time though…!
It’s definitely hard to find vendors from so far away, especially music! So here are my tips for anyone looking!
Tips for Hiring a Band (Especially When You Live Out of State):
1) The two top websites that almost every band I know is a part of are Gigmasters and Gigsalad. I wouldn’t use Thumbtack for something like this and DEFINITELY not craigslist. On Gigmasters or Gigsalad, you can see a band’s profile that is set up almost like a press kit, but for events and weddings. You will be able to see promo photos, live action photos, a promo video, live video (hopefull!), sampe set lists and/or a master song list, client reviews, testimonials, price range, and a sample contract. I highly recommend checking out these two sites first. Hopefully you can find some badass, professional looking bands, but don’t necessarily be deterred if their profile is more simple or doesn’t have all of those elements– my profile on these sites honestly SUCKS because we have to pay a pretty steep monthly fee (Anywhere from $20 to $100 PER MONTH) to be a part of those websites. So, when I realized I was getting way more business via word of mouth than via these websites, I cancelled my subscription and let my profile fall by the wayside. Pick out some bands you think you might want to pursue, and ask them some questions!
2) You can also ask any other vendors you’ll be working with for their recommendations! I always try to swap cards with the photogs, caterers, photo booth gal, and especially the venues. Ask those people you have already hired and trust what their recommendations are!
3) After getting your list together of people you want to contact, send them each a list of ALL of your questions, and specifics about your event. Don’t be shy! You want to gauge a) if they can do what you’re asking and b) if they care enough to answer all of those questions and really try to win you over. If they’re not used to that level of planning and conversing with a client, then they are not used to doing weddings. Actually, usually I am the one needing more information from the clients in order to properly price an event, which is why I encourage you to give them all the info up front for a faster quote. Compare all of your repsonses and try to narrow it down to a couple of choices (maybe 2 to 3)
Pertinent info is: address of venue, time, date, how long/what parts of wedding you need them for, WILL THE MUSICIANS BE OUSTIDE OR INSIDE?, your budget, atmosphere you’d like the party to be and genres of music (this is where you specifiy that “I love audience singalongs and crowd participation. I want top 40 but Grandma loves country. Can you do all of these things and still get my boring sister to dance? Also we’re Jewish and would need you to play the Horah.”). Honestly ask all of your questions and give all of your info. It saves headaches down the road when you forget to mention its on a rooftop in Boston in January and all of a sudden, we either need to quote you twice as much or just back out because that kind of weather is impossible to play in and will likely ruin our gear. You think I’m exaggerating but I’ve played 2 events that were 6 am marathons in 25 degree weather. Yes, the band was outside. Yes, I cried afterwards.
4) Another tip is to type their band name into youtube and see what comes up. Probably at some point, you’ll run across someone else’s wedding video or cell phone vid from an event. It may not be on the band’s YouTube channel, which is even better! Then you can see what they look like from their latest client’s perspective!
5) VERY IMPORTANT: Ask if they have a public date that you can come see (or, in an out of town case, send someone to see.) My band rarely ever plays clubs, but occasionally we do ONLY for potential clients who are too nervous to book us without hearing us live first. I know you said that you have family in Boston… are any of those family members big into live music? Do they love parties and dancing? Send them to the club date to view the band and see if they like them! You can also have them establish face to face contact with the band for you Maybe they can live stream a set for you, or take videos of the band? I think this would be a great way to see the band “in person” without you actually flying 2,000 miles just to see a coverband playing in a shitty club… haha!
6) More tips!
– Don’t just check the city your wedding is in… check cities 1 to 4 hours away. Technically 4 hours is “out of town” and more expensive, but you might find someone you like better, and maybe the band would rather drive straight home instead of staying in a hotel, which means you only have to pay for gas and not like 5 extra hotel rooms. So the difference ends up being miniaml. I play in the Dallas/Ft Worth area primarily, but live about 40 minutes away from those cities. We play all over the state and even Oklahoma and Louisiana, too. Travelling for our job is normal.
– Ask if they can provide or at least help you book the cocktail hour and / or ceremony musicians, too. Then you don’t have to look for musicians you have never heard 3 separate times (because those are considered 3 separate events to most musicians). Additionally, the extra costs are less than if you just book all the music at once from one source.. In other words, you’ve already paid for us all to be there, so you are only pay for extra music. If you hire a string quartet (for example) SEPARATE from the band, you’re paying their base fee plus our base fee plus whatever extra you have added to each. Does any of this make sense without me quoting actual numbers? Okay, example, these are not real numbers: You paid my band $3,000 for the reception. You then wanted Guitarist and Vocals to play your cocktail hour, so I only charge you an extra $150 per musician since we’re already there. Your end total is $3000 + $300. As opposed to: You pay my band $3,000 for a reception. Decide to use my friend in another group for your cocktail hour, and she charges you her normal rate of $300 per musician, making your total $3000 + $600. *NOT REAL NUMBERS* Even if the difference is negligble, it’s still nice to save a couple hundred dollars here and there, and plus, it’s way more convenient!
– My last tip is this, if you’ve done all the research you possibly can, there’s probably a point at which you have to just let go and book someone and know that it will probably sound GREAT. It’s so hard to convey to a client exactly what their reception will sound like through words in an email or even videos on YouTube. Short of us actually meeting up and auditioning for you (which isn’t an option even when we live near each other!), you’re always going to be putting some level of blind faith in the band. Take a deep breath, I’m sure whoever you book will sound GREAT! And people WILL dance, I promise. Sometimes it takes some coaxing, but in the end they always dance.
Okay this was definitely my longest post yet. I’m really sorry. There’s just so much info that I wish my clients knew.