The contract has been signed, the band has been hired, and you can’t wait to hear them perform at your event. Except things didn’t go exactly the way you had envisioned them in your head. The band thought everything went great and that they gave you exactly what you asked for, and maybe even a little extra!
Miscommunication or the lack of communication can turn the highlight of your event into disharmony. What are some things you wish you had told the band when you signed them on? What are the things the band wished that you had told them beforehand?
1. Sponsor: Don’t pressure us to hire you.
Of course, everyone wants to make their pitch to sell themselves and get hired, we get that. But it doesn’t matter if it’s a used car salesman, tourist trap souvenir hawker, or a band—being pressured into paying money for something we’re not sure we want is a real turn off.
Even if we do give in to the pressure, we may not be happy about how things went down, and it could start our relationship off on a sour note. We may even find reasons to be dissatisfied with small, inconsequential matters. As the one paying good money, we need to feel comfortable with who we are hiring. Put us at ease. We know you aren’t the only option out there.
Band: Contracts are a must.
We try to be friendly and mesh well with those we work with. But the friendly nature of our relationship doesn’t mean that a handshake works as a contract (an initial agreement, maybe, but so much more is necessary). A contract lays out what each side expects from the other—it’s really a protection for everyone involved, including you. The Musicians Union strongly recommends that we always have a comprehensive contract laid out and signed—this helps cover the expected as well as the unexpected (which definitely happens).
2. Sponsor: Background music shouldn’t be played at concert volume.
This isn’t a sold-out arena or the club, and as much as you are an essential addition to the event, it’s not really about you. Events where people are mingling, networking, or otherwise involved in conversation, is not the place to max out your speaker volume and become the only thing people in the room (and maybe even people outside of the room) will hear. People want to talk, not have to shout, to be heard above the music. Have you ever tried to have a 15-minute conversation that is mutually screamed in faces or ears? It’s not pleasant. If you were hired to play background music, please perform it at a level that keeps it in the background.
Band: Don’t hold back from telling us what you want.
Hey, we’re here to make you happy so we’ll perform according to your wishes as much as possible. Just be specific about what the event is and what you want our role to be. Give us as much detail as possible so we can keep everyone happy throughout the entirety of the event. If at any time during the performance you feel that the music is too loud (or even too soft), please just let us know and we will make adjustments to our volume.
3. Sponsor: If you speak to the crowd, reference our (your hosts) name a few times throughout the event.
We’ve done all we can to drum up support for our event, that includes hiring you to entertain everyone. If it’s a wedding, make sure to mention the guests of honor. If it’s a corporate event, fundraiser, conference, etc., please mention the host company or charity. We don’t just want people to have a good time, we want them to remember why they are there.
Also, please make sure you get the name(s) right (let’s avoid an awkward situation) when giving your shout out. Publicity and respect go both ways—we’re happy to let you have your time in the spotlight and just ask that you give a little of it back to us.
Band: We thrive on publicity and good reviews.
When people are looking for a band, they check websites for demos and pictures, but they also rely on what others have to say about us. If we did a good job and you were happy with our work, please let everyone else know. Leave a review on our website or social media pages (or both! We can never get enough good feedback). You may not think one review matters, but good recommendations are the lifeblood of live bands.
Even if there were things you wish we could have done better, let us know. You can kindly make suggestions on our web or social media pages, but it’s even better if you contact us directly. We’d be glad to discuss any of your issues.
4. Sponsor: If you’re the main attraction, get the crowd involved.
We want our event to stand out and have people remember it for a long time to come (the event of the century!). Don’t be afraid to be extra—invite people onstage to sing or dance with you (who doesn’t feel special when that happens?), dedicate songs, sing directly to audience members (make the ladies—or gents—swoon), start a second line parade and have the guest(s) of honor take the lead. For some in the audience, just watching others be involved with the band (especially if it’s a friend or family member) creates a fun, memorable experience. Go that extra mile to impress us—we won’t forget it, and neither will everyone involved.
Band: Clue us in to the type of crowd you are expecting.
We want to go the extra mile for our sponsors and “fans”, but knowing who we are entertaining will help us tailor our performance to your audience. Members attending an introvert convention will probably not appreciate being pulled into the spotlight on stage, while a crowd of Millennials might not be into entire sets of pre-1990’s music. The more information you can give us, the more targeted we can make our performance.
5. Sponsor: Take special requests.
We’re paying you to play what we want to hear. Sure, we give you leeway to play your specialties or popular genres, and if you had a setlist planned beforehand, that’s great. But if we want to hear something specific, please do your best to accommodate us. Give your “fans” what they want to hear, and we’ll be happy.
Band: Try to give us special requests beforehand.
We do our best to accommodate our hosts and we know that you may have some must-hear songs that you want to be played. Even though we can often add in a song on the fly, as live musicians, we have to learn and practice any songs we play. Giving us your requests beforehand will allow us time to learn and/or practice any special request songs that aren’t typically in our setlist.
6. Sponsor: Have solid AV equipment so that we can speak to the audience.
As professionals, we expect you to have equipment that is in good working order. You may not really need much in the way of speakers or mics in order for your sound to be heard, but we want our guests to be able to hear anything we (or you) have to say. How can we properly thank you and our guests if no one can hear us?
Plus, having poorly maintained or half-broken AV equipment reflects badly on you as professional musicians and nothing detracts from a message like crackly feedback into a microphone.
Band: Let us come early to do a soundcheck.
We want to make sure that everything is working properly, that everything we need is at the venue (outlets, extension cords, etc.), figure out what we do need to bring, and get a feel for the layout of the space so we can have a smooth setup.
Most likely we won’t be able to enter the venue without you arranging for us to be let in. It might be a bit of a hassle to make an extra trip to the venue, but trust us, it’s worth it to let us get everything worked out well before the event begins.
7. Sponsor: Don’t mess around behind us while we’re talking.
Seriously, guys—grow up. We know you are there to entertain and we want you to have fun with the crowd, but there is a time and a place for everything. If we are trying to thank important members who contributed to the event, relay important information, or give heartfelt speeches—who can pay attention or take us seriously if you are clowning around behind us or throwing up bunny ears behind our head (is that even still a thing?).
You might not be into what we are saying into the mic, but we would appreciate you letting our audience listen to us undistracted. Please show us the same respect any other professionals would. And when it’s time to have fun and be entertaining, by all means, do your thing.
Band: Be clear what you expect of us entertainment-wise.
This kind of goes along with letting us know who our audience will be. We play all different types of events from classy, dignified affairs to all-out rocking shows. We can keep to the background, get the crowd involved, be funny and goofy, high energy, low energy—whatever you want, just tell us beforehand. We don’t want to embarrass you, ourselves, or your guests by providing entertainment that isn’t appropriate to the function.
Whether you are planning an event or playing it, it all boils down to good communication. Everyone should be clear about their expectations (and have it in writing) and not be afraid to ask important (or seemingly unimportant) questions. Working together ensures that things go smoothly, everyone has a good time, and there is nothing but smiles at the end of the day.