The Great Band Search

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All the weddings J and I’ve been to have featured DJ’s, and they have been fun. But both of us feel a live band would be fun and I’m personally hoping we can find one. Unfortunately, our budget for music ($500) is limited and so looking around has been difficult.

Perhaps it’s because my line of work borders on blue collar, so although I appreciate art and music, I’m finding a lot of the quotes difficult to swallow. During our search for photographers and musicians, I’ve seen some prices on websites in the range of over $100/hr per musician or even $500/hr per photographer. I know Fire Fighters, EMS Medics, Police Officers, Doctors at Community Centers, Teachers, Nurses, Pastors, etc. who don’t make $30/hr, so it’s hard for me to justify spending a lot more on music.

I’ve tried posting on Craigslist but they require a phone/text msg confirmation of the post and when I tried to do it, I never got a text msg so I haven’t been able to post the gig on Craigslist. I’ve also looked at, which is a great site for finding bands (e.g. with their availability and sample music/video online). But their prices are still way beyond our budget. Some 4 person bands were asking for $800-$1500/hr. We couldn’t afford for them to come, setup, and break down their equipment! So I got to thinking outside the box.

J and I are planning on getting married in the Chapel Hill area of North Carolina. So I decided to go on the University of North Carolina’s website and searched for the Music Department. I called their office and spoke with an employee who stated she could post my “gig” up on their ListServ. So I wrote up an ad with what we were looking for and what we could pay, and it’s been relatively successful. Within 3 days, I’ve already received 5 different student musicians email me. And this is during summer vacation! Many of these students have a group that they regularly perform with for events, so it’s a great start. Most are classical musicians who are interested in the ceremony hour gig, but we’ve gotten responses from others who perform at hotel lounges on a regular basis.

I don’t want to devalue any vocation, and I realize that there is a supply and demand factor involved. But since we’re looking for a cover band to play Michael Buble or Jack Johnson rather than celebrities, it’s difficult for me to justify going beyond our initial budget. I think contacting UNC was a great option and I’m excited to see and listen to these students perform. I remember going to college and being ecstatic finding a work-study position for $10/hr, so I’m thinking this is a great opportunity for students. I’m considering contacting other local schools as well. It also makes me wonder about contacting Photography majors for photos but I know photo quality is important to J so I’ll leave that up to her.

J is definitely the type to look at the going rate and try to negotiate from there, while I just try to do what I can within my budget. What do you think?

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4 Responses to The Great Band Search

  1. Aliza says:

    Part of the expense of photographers is that they do a lot of work outside of the wedding day that isn’t paid for out of the price for that day. Say you have the photog for eight hours the day of. Well, they’re going to take 2,000 or so photos, but you’re only going to see 500 of them, as they’re going to take a lot of time to cull the bad and duplicate pictures out. From there, you sit down with them and go through which ones you want, then they have to retouch those photos, design and create an album for you, and print any additional photos that you may want. Some of those physical items will probably be included in your photography package (such as one album for you and two parents’ albums, one 8×10, three 5×7, eight 4×6), while you have to pay for any additional prints out of pocket. All of that money is covered under your photography package, and it’s a lot of work outside the eight hours you have the photographer the day of your wedding. You may want to look at photography students who are looking to build a portfolio, but photography is the one place you don’t want to skimp, as that’s the one permanent, physical reminder of the day that you will have (other than each other).

    For music, make sure you audition anyone. A band at a club might be great, but it’s a totally different vibe at a wedding. The fact that you’re getting people who play at hotel lounges will probably help, but part of what you’re paying for is expertise (at reading the vibe, knowing “wedding songs,” and entertaining the crowd)and travel/lugging instruments around. If your budget is $500, the most bang-for-your-buck will be with a DJ. (Personally, my SO and I will be having a DJ b/c we have very eclectic tastes in music — from country to rap — and there’s no way a band can cover all that well.)

  2. Rye says:

    Thanks Aliza, that’s something I haven’t thought about. A lot of the vocations I mentioned doesn’t require additional work outside the “workplace” but I see there is additional work that is required after the “event”. I guess in those terms, even a band would be putting in hours learning and practicing songs that they aren’t familiar with. We have a recommended DJ in mind who would be within our budget, so it’s possible that we may just get a student to play during the ceremony. We shall see!

  3. Aliza says:

    Also, those vocations work 40 hrs a week and many aren’t freelancers or business owners. The best way to audition a band is to go to a performance (preferably a wedding), rather than have them play for you with no audience. If you have specific songs that you want, let them know, but also be clear what you want played when. (This goes for DJs as well.) The band at my parents’ wedding asked my parents if they had a specific song they wanted played. My parents named a song that the band had to go learn, and then the band decided this meant that they wanted that song as their first dance. Not only did the band not quite know the song by the wedding day, but it just wasn’t an appropriate first-dance song (tempo-wise).

  4. Wade Hunsinger says:

    I am a musician and have played in the Denver area for about 15 years. I have played several weddings over the years and I actually charge far more for those events than any other performance that I do. The reason is there is usually a long list of songs that each family member wants to hear and that means hours of my time learning new songs (Michael Buble or Jack Johnson for instance). Then if the band is playing 3 hours at your wedding we will be doing at least 6 hours of rehearsals (not including the hours we spend setting up and driving to our rehearsal space). For most groups we setup well in advance of your party, so we can come in and get started without disrupting the flow of the party, and we have to wait (usually in some mountain town far from home) for a large portion of the day until we can do our thing and get home. Then there is the maintenance of all of the gear. Professional musicians spend a lot of money maintaining their gear, so it doesn’t break down on stage, and some of us actually tote around backup gear incase the unexpected happens. Like when someone knocks a large vase over and fills your amp up with nasty plant water. By the time we split the 5 to 10 thousand dollars between the 6 to 12 band members we might each get about $800. By the time I have done several rehearsals with my group and actually do the performance, I make about $20 an hour.

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