Throwing a wedding, corporate event, Mardi Gras shindig, or any other type of party is serious business. Well, even though you may want some nonsense to go on during your party (is it really a fun time if nothing weird or wild happens?), you don’t need or want any nonsense during the planning phase. Even if you are a party planning pro, you may have never hired a brass band before. There is plenty of information floating about the internet on how to hire DJs, and maybe you even have experience in that aspect of planning, hiring a real live brass band? This is new (sounds mildly intimidating!). Therefore, we present to you this no-nonsense guide for hiring a brass band in San Francisco.

What are you looking for in a brass band?

Start with asking yourself the tough questions. Brass bands have a lot of range when it comes to style and type of music they can play. Some tend towards the traditional marching band/parade style, others provide light background music, some have the ability to play modern dance songs that really heat up a party, and then you have very versatile bands that can play in any of those styles. So then, what flavor do you want for your event? Are you looking for a band who does wedding marches or second line parades? Knowing what you want will help you focus and zero in on the bands that will work best for you.

Do your homework

School only prepared you for the homework you would have to do when looking to hire a killer San Francisco brass band, but we can promise you that this homework is way more fun (and there’s no surprise quiz afterwards). If you want to hire a brass band, you can’t just go and ask “Hey, are you guys any good at this?” and expect an unbiased answer. Instead, you need to go to (mainly) unbiased sources to find out. What sources my might you turn to?

  1. The experts online. Not the sarcastic type of online “experts”, but the real deal. Check out bands that are featured or reviewed in blogs, online magazines, and well-respected websites like com and marthastewartweddings.com.

  2. User reviews. Though sometimes online reviews may need to be taken with a grain of salt (watch out for the “Karens”), you’ll bet a good overall picture of how the bands performed from former clients. Check out sites that contain plenty of client reviews like Wedding Wire, The Knot, and Gig salad where you can search band by region, zeroing in on the bands that play in the San Francisco area.

  3. Social media. This one might be a little more of a double edge sword (we hear it can be ground zero for many “Karens” to congregate) but it certainly has its value. You can find mostly honest reviews (look at the overall review picture, not just one or two), information about the band, event photos taken by clients, and possibly even some videos of events that allow you to hear the band play.

  4. Go take a listen. You know who is going to give you the very best review tailored just to you? Your ears.  Watch and listen to videos on the band’s website and even better, if possible, go see them in action (ask the band when and where you can hear them live).

Talk to your venue

Even though it’s your event and your money (or maybe your company’s money), different venues may have different rules, requirements, or restrictions (like noise, size of band) that can affect your choice of a brass band. Talk to your venue and ask the right questions before swipe right on your band match—the band you want and the venue you’ve booked might not be as compatible as you envisioned.

Interview the band

Now that you’ve made it through the venue gauntlet (yay!), your journey takes you towards your next quest—interviewing the band. This may seem nerve-wracking but remember that you hold the power. You know the venue rules and restrictions, and even more, you know what you want. Its time sit back and let them impress you. Ok, maybe it’s not quite that relaxed, you’re going to need to ask them plenty of questions. If you’re brain is as gold-fishy as ours, you’re going to want to make a list. Some of the questions you might want to ask:

  • Is the band familiar with your venue?
  • How many members are in the band and which instruments do they play (the size and instruments can vary somewhat with brass bands)
  • Do they have a signature style and what is it?
  • What’s their overall vibe? (lowkey, high energy, both?)
  • Ask to see their song profile. Are you able to choose the songs they play (if that’s what you want) or is it a set playlist?
  • Talk about when during the event and how long you want them to play

Once you get the “fun” questions out of the way, but sure not to forget the more serious business of talking pricing, contracts, and band breaks/requirements (they are human afterall and need to rest, pee, and eat).

Brass bands can be super fun and exuberant, add class to an event, or give the event you planned that little something extra (you know you love being a little extra) that makes it stand out. They come with different styles, sounds, and flairs and might just be the best party planning decision you’ve ever made. So do your homework, know what you want, and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Happy band hunting!

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