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Help booking a live band. Live music and your venue: what you need to know

A check list and guide to ensure your venue and live musicians work together to ensure the perfect event.

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Live music and your venue: what you need to know

The majority of good wedding reception venues & corporate event venues are accommodating to live music. Most have live bands perform on a regular basis and will be able to advise you on the usual positioning for the band within the main reception room and other such details.

The purpose of this article is to highlight details which need to be confirmed in advance with both the venue and the band, as well as a few points which venues can often overlook.

1. Confirm with the venue that you can have a band
An important point obviously, and you should discuss the type of band you’re hiring. Some venues share facilities with other businesses (such as a museums or galleries) and may have a limit on volume so as not to disturb them. Party bands are by nature lively and require a certain volume level to achieve a good dynamic performance.

If the venue advise that volume may be an issue, you should first speak with your Alive Network agent to discuss how this may effect your options. If a particular type of band is out of the question you could consider changing venues or consider a slightly less volume dependant style of music such as jazz, classical music or swing.

Once this initial consultation with your venue is complete, get a contact name and number to pass on to your band so that they can speak with the venue once booking contracts are exchanged.

2. Confirm how much space is required
You can find out from the Alive Network web site as well as from your Alive Network agent how much space each band requires. This is presented in the format of meters square. You should let the venue know well in advance how much space the band require so that they can plan table layouts.

If you have plenty of room and the venue has a dedicated area in which to position the band, you should ask the venue if they prefer the band to arrive and set up prior to the meal/ prior to guests arriving.

It may be that if your event involves a sit down meal and space is limited, you’ll require that the room is re-arranged after the meal to remove tables, and make sufficient space for the band. This is common practice and the venues will also use this time to lay down a dance floor in front of the band.

Most party bands will require approx 5 meters wide x 4 meters deep. They will have PA speakers positioned either side and in front of them, with lighting equipment stands either side or over the top of the performance area.

Some bands also require an additional space of approx 2 x 1 meters on the opposite side of the room, in which to position their sound engineer and mixing desk.

3. Dance floor
Check that your venue provides an adequately sized dance floor if you’re hiring a party band or if you plan to be dancing. Alive Network bands will get all your audience up and dancing so a good sized dance floor is essential.

4. Electricity supply
Check that the venue has at least 3-4 standard plug sockets in very close proximity to the bands performance area. Bands will bring extension leads and multi-plug adapters as required, but it is useful if easy access to power is available.

Some bands also require a space on the opposite side of the room to position their mixing desk and sound engineer. This area will also require 1-2 standard plug sockets and a 6ft table on which to place the mixing desk and sound equipment.

If you’re holding an event in a Marquee, arrange with the Marquee hire company that sufficiently powerful generator be provided, or that a dedicated outdoor electricity supply with at least 6 plug sockets is made available exclusively to the band. This supply should not be shared with any one else or over overloading may occur.

5. Arrival and set up/sound check times
As mentioned above, it’s possible that your band may be required to arrive and set up before guests arrive, or after a sit down meal during the period in which the venue re-set tables and re-arrange the room. The preferred arrival time for most evening functions is around 6pm – 7pm.

Check with your venue which times will be most convenient to them. Every venue has their own preferred method. It may not be possible for a band to sound check earlier in the day if other rooms close by are in use by other venue guests, even if this is your preferred schedule.

The band may charge an additional fee to arrive and set up prior to a meal. ‘Waiting’ fees are charged by the hour by most bands. These are calculated automatically when you submit and online enquiry via our web site. Alternatively you can speak with an Alive Network agent to discuss the most cost effective solution.

Sound check time is required by the majority of bands to mix instrument volume levels, fine tune equipment settings and get the show prepared. Most bands will require 60 – 90 minutes for sound check. When planning the arrival time of a band with your venue, take into account set up time required and ask your venue to offer feedback on how this might affect their plans.

6. Loading in equipment
Check in advance that the band has easy access to the function room. Huge flights of stairs and very long corridors make loading in time increase to the point that your event schedule could be seriously affected.

If the band cannot park and unload their equipment within 50 yards of the room, or if they must carry equipment up more than one flight of stairs, please ask the venue to provide trolleys and specialist lifting equipment as required. Alternatively, please arrange with the venue that several strong male members of the venue staff are made available to help the band load in.

If lifts are to be used to move equipment, please have the venue arrange that they are to be used exclusively by the band for the period required to finish loading in and out. Some busy venues can have lift systems which take 20 minutes or more to return, pushing the band way off schedule for setting up.

7. Changing rooms
Please arrange with the venue that the band have a room to change in. This should be well lit, private and secure with enough tables and seating for all the band and their sound crew. If possible, close access to private toilets and wash basin are preferred.

If the band is required to arrive early and wait more than 60 minutes before their performance, it is essential that their waiting room is comfortable. Comfortable seating should be available with access to food and refreshments (see Band Ryder below.)

The band may bring laptop computers and a TV/video so several electricity supplies will be required in their room.

The band should be shown their room upon arrival and should have sole access to the room from arrival until the time when they depart.

8. The bands food and drink ryder
Most bands require a basic food and drinks ryder which you should arrange with the venue to be left in their room. If the bands ryder includes hot food, you should arrange with the venue that this is served to the band either in the venue restaurant or else in their changing room.

It is important that soft drinks and water are provided in advance to the bands changing room and not left for the band to fetch from the bar. It is important that arrangements be made with bar staff so that should additional soft drinks or bottled water be required, the band don’t have to queue up for them, or explain to the bar staff that their drinks are on a ryder.

An average band ryder will include: soft drinks as required, mineral water as required, tea and coffee as required, one hot meal per band member and crew.

Extra items may occasionally include provision of towels, provision of an iron and ironing board, provision of a clothes rail, full length mirrors etc.

You can discuss individual band ryders with your Alive Network agent.

9. Finish times
You’ll need to discuss with your venue what time your event must finish at. This must be confirmed with your Alive Network agent when you book the band. Most venues are only licensed for entertainment until 12 pm.

It is usual for a band to perform 1 - 2 encores but much beyond this could be breaking the terms of the venues entertainment licence.

If a band are forced to over run their contracted finish times because the event is behind schedule, they may enforce their ‘over-run fees’, as per their booking contract. This will be explained by your Alive Network agent but is at the discretion of the band to enforce. It usually states that approx 25% of the total booking fee be paid to the band per ½ hour over run. This time is calculated not on how long the band have performed for, but how long after their agreed finished time they performed for. We have not yet heard of a case where a band has felt the need to do this.

10. Summary
The process of booking a band is really easy and your event will be all the more enjoyable for you, the venue and the band if the above advice is taken on board.

To summarise your final check list you should ensure you have discussed the following with your venue:

  • Inform them you’re having a band and the type of band.

  • Confirm how much space the band need and where they will be positioned, including the sound engineer.

  • Confirm the venue can provide a dance floor or suitable dancing surface.

  • Ensure adequate electricity supply in the venue for band and sound engineer.

  • Confirm the band's arrival time with the venue and how long they’ll require to set up and sound check.

  • Check that the band has easy access from their van to the function room. If not arrange that the venue provides suitable trolleys or extra helpers to carry heavy equipment.

  • Ensure the venue can provide the band with a changing room and that the room will have comfortable seating if the band are to wait around for more than 60 minutes.

  • Ensure that the venue can provide the bands ryder, to be left in their dressing room on arrival, and that all bar/restaurant staff are aware that the band have a ryder.

  • Confirm bands finish time with the venue.

  • Pass on the band's contact number and name to the venue so they can establish communication if required.

  • All of the above can be communicated to your Alive Network agent or directly with the band once agreed.

    It’s important to remember that any major changes to arrival times or performance times may affect your contract. Please discuss any changes with your Alive Network agent should they arise.

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