Ten quick tips about hiring a live band

Pastiche Band
Go to content

Ten quick tips about hiring a live band.

If you are planning on hiring a live band to play music at an event, a fundraiser, a corporate function or a wedding, here are ten things to think about.

1. What musical style or genre are you looking for from a live band – it’s your choice, but don’t forget about your other guests.
2. Is the live music for dancing or background?
3. Give the band some room for manoeuvre – a good band knows what they are doing.
4. What number of musicians do you require?
5. The line-up – what is the instrumentation of the band.
6. Look after your band – they’ll work hard for you.
7. Musicians like to have a good play. Allow enough time – bear in mind that events almost always run late.
8. Find a band that play together regularly.
9. What venues have the band played at? For what clients?
10. Location – where are the band based?

1. What musical style or genre are you looking for from a live band – it’s your choice, but don’t forget about your other guests.

When you are thinking of hiring a live band it is important to find the right musicians for the job. Have a think about what style of music would work for the event that you are holding. A corporate function may require different style music to a wedding. Consider the guests that are coming – the age range, mix of males to female all have a bearing on the styles of music required.

You can also discuss this with the bandleader and ask for their suggestions. Many bands have a list of styles and a repertoire of songs that you can choose from, (or there me be some songs that you definably don’t want!) The band should be happy to learn a special song, say for a first dance.

Pastiche Band have played for weddings where the couple have been very specific as to the style that they want and, of course, it is their day. But we’ve been in a position where other guests have complained that the range of styles is not broad enough to cater to all tastes.

Some bands specialise – they may be a ‘70s disco band, or an ’80s electro-pop band.

Pastiche Band like to be versatile and play in a wide range of styles from ‘40s jazz and ballroom dances, pop music from the 50s to today, folk music and even a ceilidh set or two. But we are not a string quartet, nor do we play opera. If you decide what type of music would work you then need to find the right musicians to play it.

2. Is the music for dancing or background?

At a discrete cocktail party where people want to chat or network you may require some music for the ambience, but not want anything loud or too upbeat. On the other hand if you want music for dancing you probably wouldn’t require anything too mellow (having said that the odd slow song often goes down well with couples).

For a wedding Pastiche Band have often played both types – a mellow jazz or folk set for the drinks reception, occasionally during dinner, while people would like to chat. Later the band kick into a few dance sets.

3. Give the band some room for manoeuvre – they know what they are doing.

You may have never organised a function before, but professional bands do this all the time, it is their job. Pastiche Band have had people prescribe exactly what songs they want for the whole evening. Sometimes the band may be aware that some of the songs may not suit that particular situation. We have been given a rigid set list of songs for the entire evening. It’s good to give the musicians a little leeway to read the dance floor and play songs appropriate for the moment.

4. Size of the band required

The size of the band that you need to hire depends partly on the nature of the event, the size of the event, the number of guests and the budget. An intimate gathering may only require a duo or trio, but a full on party would probably need a bigger band.

A five-piece band is fairly standard. Pastiche Band line up is typically female voice; guitar/voice; keyboards; bass and drums. For a larger event you may choose to add a second singer (male or female… or even both), a saxophone, or a horn section. Or you may have a personal preference for a particular instrument, say saxophone. It is good to discuss this with the bandleader.

5. The line-up – instrumentation

The line up of the band depends a lot on the style of music and the size of the event. If it’s a small, quite event a duo perhaps piano and guitar, or a trio (piano, guitar, female voice) would be good. Maybe for a bigger event where you would like jazz you might want to add upright bass, drums, maybe a horn or two (Pastiche often add saxophone, trumpet, trombone). We use some top horn players who have played with George Michael, Van Morrison, Robbie Williams…

For a party a five piece band is common. This can be augmented with horns of extra singers if required.

If there is a ceilidh set or two a fiddle is a must have.

6. Look after your band – and they’ll work hard for you

Musicians are generally hard working. Often they have to arrive very early for a set up. They can be at a venue from 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, and not finish packing up until well after the guests have left. They generally would like to get some food during that time. We have driven many miles to a remote wedding venue, and no-one thought that the band might need some sustenance at some point during the evening.

7. Musicians like to have a good play.

Be realistic and allow enough time – things invariably run late, especially at weddings – photos and speeches often go on longer than was expected.

Weddings are notorious for running behind schedule. Try and allow time for this in your planning. We have literally sat around and played for ten minutes at the end of wedding where speeches went way over schedule. We did once play for a military wedding that ran with absolute precision down to the second.

8. Find a band that play together regularly

It is good to find musicians that work together as a band regularly. It may not always be possible for a bandleader to get exactly the same line up for every event. Musicians are busy – sometimes a musician will be out on tour.

Sometimes musicians get ill. A bandleader should have a collective of experienced musicians that they can call on who play regularly with the band.

Some bands put multiple bands out under the same name on the same night. If you’re unlucky enough to get one of these bands they may be a thrown together group of musicians who haven’t even met before.

9. What venues have they played at? For what clients?

Check what venues the band have played at. If there are a list of respectable venues, and for some well-known clients, that should reflect , to some extent, the professionalism of the band. Are there any testimonials from previous clients?

Pastiche Band have played for The Royal Family (we’re not allowed to disclose the event because of a confidentiality clause), BP, BT, Credit Suisse, Ernst and Young, Hanson, Lloyds TSB…

We have played at:

  • Banqueting House
  • Meridian Hotel, Piccadilly
  • The Hurlingham Club
  • The Dorchester Hotel
  • The Lanesborough
  • Madame Tussauds
  • The Park Lane Hotel. Piccadilly
  • HMS Belfast
  • HMS President
  • The Honourable Society of Lincolns Inn
  • The Lansdowne Club
  • Four Seasons Hotel, Canary Wharf
  • Four Seasons Hotel, Park Lane
  • The Natural History Museum
  • The Landmark Hotel

10. Location – where are the band based?

Is the band that you are interested in hiring local to you? If not their travel may be expensive, and maybe their accommodation if it is a late finish and a long way from where they are based. Pastiche Band are London based, but have played in Manchester; at Gleneagles in Scotland; in Spain and Dubai. These were all big corporate events with clients were attending from all over the world.

It might be best to find a local band. If you are set on a band that are based some distance away discuss it with the bandleader and see what arrangement you can come to.

May 14, 2015
Back to content