Booking A Swing Band
If you're thinking of hiring a Swing, Jive or Rock n Roll bands for your event, this guide explains everything you'll ever need to know. Find out what a Swing band will do at your event, how various types of Swing bands differ from each other, what type of music they'll play, how much space they will require, how to ensure quality, how much it costs to hire a Swing band and much more.
What are Swing bands and what do they do?
On the Alive Network web site a wide range of artists may describe themselves as swing artists. There is a specific help guide which talks about Rat Pack swing singers and you might like to read that if it’s more appropriate. This guide will focus mainly on swing, jive & rock n roll bands.
Swing bands cover an extremely diverse range of sounds and moods, mixing jazz, rhythm n blues, lindy hop, jump jive and rock n roll. Bands vary in size but the instruments which are typical to a swing band are double bass, piano, brass section, harmony vocals and electric guitar.
Swing bands generally have a sharp image and pride themselves on their appearance and stage presence. Image is usually retro, i.e. 1940s, 1950s and 1960s style.
Swing bands will transport you back to an era of glamour and style, with music ranging from the early 1920’s, Fats Waller, Glenn Miller, Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra, jazz, 1950s rock n roll, Rockabilly and modern swing artists like Michael Buble.
When swing music is played live it becomes infectious, and appeals to all age groups from young to old. There will be music to appeal to everyone, from guests who want to dance to children who want to jump up and down, and those who just want to sit, watch and tap their feet.
Examples of a Swing Band
Examples of a Jive band
Examples of a Rock n Roll Band
What should I look for to ensure quality?
All of the swing bands on the Alive Network web site have already been carefully pre-vetted so they represent the very best of what's available in the UK. We have selected our artist roster from literally thousands of applications so in order to ensure quality all you need to do is choose a band from our web site. Its risk free and you have peace of mind that we've already done the hard work for you.
If you do choose to look around elsewhere, here's what you should look for:
1. A great demo CD
The music should be in time, in tune, and be well produced (it should sound like a high quality recording).
2. Great photos
If a band can't be bothered to have decent photos produced, what else will they be skimping on? Also, appearance is essential so look at their photos to see how they present themselves at bookings.
3. Customer reviews and testimonials
Make sure you can read genuine recent reviews from previous customers. You'll find loads readily available here on the Alive Network web site.
The band should use professional quality PA, instruments, amplifiers and microphones.
5. Experience and background
Read the bands biography which should provide details of each band member’s personal experience as well as the experience of the band as a whole. Check that the band consists of high calibre musicians with a strong track record of playing at prestigious corporate events or at high quality wedding venues.
6. The backing of a reliable agency
No agent, no backup if anything goes wrong.
Look for an agency that responds quickly, efficiently, and takes the time to listen to your individual requirements. They will be your point of contact so you need to be happy that they're providing a high quality service too.
You get what you pay for, so don't cut corners unless you don't mind risking the success of your event. We represent hundreds of artists, all of whom define their own fees, so our prices are a good indicator of what's usual to pay.
What exactly will a Swing band do at my event? What will the format be?
The band will arrive at a time to suit you and set up their equipment where required. To unload, set up and sound check takes on average 60 - 90 minutes. This time is important if you want the band to sound good as levels will need to be balanced correctly. Usually they will play background music from a laptop or iPod whilst they get changed and ready for the performance.
Assuming your event is a wedding or includes a sit down meal, it is usual that set-up and sound check would happen after the meal whilst the room is cleared, and whilst guests leave the room to get drinks and stretch their legs. If you would prefer the band to be set up before guests arrive, this can be arranged but usually costs more because of the extra time involved.
The bands first live performance would usually commence about 8.30pm and last 1 hour. They would then take a break until the next set is required. If a wedding, this usually covers the time when the evening buffet is served or when the cake is cut. During this time the band would play background music from a laptop or iPod.
The second live performance would then usually start around 10.30pm lasting 1 hour until 11.30pm, plus hopefully a few encores! When the performance is finished, the band will usually play more background music until the contracted finish time. Most bands will leave this music running whilst they dismantle their equipment at the end of the night.
The band should start loading their equipment back into their vehicles only after the agreed contract finish time. It takes around 45 minutes to an hour to pack down and load out. What equipment will the band provide?
99.9% of the bands working with Alive Network will provide all of their own equipment. This would include PA, instruments, amplifiers, basic stage lighting and either a laptop or iPod to play background music through their PA between performances. Some of the larger corporate events tend to use a dedicated audio visual company, and often they will provide PA and lighting for the band.
Although there is a difference between the size of PA systems used by the various swing bands we represent, they will all bring as minimum a PA system suitable for up to 150 people, which covers most private parties and weddings. Bands with larger PA systems won't necessarily turn them up any louder but the option is there if needed, and larger systems usually sound much higher quality. Looking at the size and quality of their PA and lighting systems is a good way to judge value for money between several bands. Ask your Alive Network coordinator if you need help with this.
Important note: If your event will have more than 150 people, or if the room where the band will perform holds significantly more than 150 people, it's worth remembering that a larger PA system will need to be considered and you should discuss this with your coordinator. As a guide, you need roughly 10 watts per person, so a 300 capacity room will ideally require a 3000 watt (3K) PA system. Most of our bands can arrange larger PA Systems if required.
How much space will a Swing band need?
There is a useful stage size guide on our FAQ page.
Allow an absolute minimum of 1 metre across per person, but ideally 1.5 metres across. Allow 2 square metres for a drummer. Remember, space is needed in front and to the sides to accommodate the bands PA, speakers and lighting stands.
Minimum band stage size requirements
3 piece band: 3 x 3 metres
4 piece band: 4 metres wide by 3 metres deep
5 and 6 piece band: 5 metres wide by 3 metres deep
7 piece and bigger: 5/6 metres wide by 4 metres deep
The more room the band have, the more comfortable they'll be, and the better they'll perform. That said, bands will do their very best to fit within what ever space you have to work with, just don't expect miracles.
How long will the bands performance last?
The standard is 2 x 60 minute sets, but this can be split into 3 x 40 minute sets. Many bands prefer to play 2 sets because it avoids stopping and starting so they can keep guests on a high for longer.
When choosing the start time for the bands first performance, bear in mind that if your guests have just eaten, they probably won't want to dance right away. Also, they'll be more in the mood for dancing as the light fades outside and once they've had a few drinks. For the average wedding/birthday party, 9pm would be the ideal start time, with a 30-45 minute break afterwards, and a final performance running until close to a midnight curfew.
Are there any options or variations available to me?
Different bands offer different options, ranging from adding or subtracting members (eg, adding a brass section) through to the provision of extra PA/lighting, star cloth or a DJ service. The options available for each band are shown on their profile page and are selectable when you make an online enquiry.
If you have a particular theme in mind, most bands will make an effort to meet it, either matching repertoire or clothing. It is best to specify exactly what you want when you make the booking to be sure your chosen band can definitely accommodate.
How much will it cost to hire a Swing band?
This depends greatly on the size, quality and experience of the band. All Alive Network bands are carefully vetted and so therefore represent the top percentage of quality live bands in the UK. Our swing bands range from as little as £400 for a duo right the way up to £3800 for a huge 18 piece big band.
The average fee for a party/wedding orientated 4-5 piece swing band is between £850 to £1200.
The best ways to reduce cost are to book a smaller piece band, avoid early arrival times (bands charge extra for this) and try to find a band who are based close by. The home town location of all Alive Network bands is shown on the roster pages and also on each bands profile page. You can also ask your coordinator to recommend the best band local to your event.
Why is there a difference between the costs of different bands?
Generally, you pay more for a reputable band with a high level of experience, stronger ability, and good quality equipment. The minimum standard of our bands is already very high as we carefully vet everyone we work with, but you do get what you pay for.
Also, when you search our web site for bands available in your event location, those bands who are travelling from outside the area will add travel fees, and these are included in the prices you see on our web site. Travel fees can sometimes be 50% extra on top of the bands normal price, so there can be a big difference in the cost of local bands compared to acts from outside the area.
The number of members in the band also greatly affects cost, with 3 or 4 piece bands costing much less than 10 or 11 piece bands.
Some higher earning bands are also VAT registered which pushes the overall cost up.
What security will I get when booking a Swing band?
When you book a swing band through Alive Network you'll receive a legally binding contract which protects you against any foreseeable eventuality. This means that short of the band being seriously injured or abducted by aliens, your booking is 100% safe.
You also get the full backing and support of Alive Network, the UK's largest live entertainment agency, as well as the assistance and advice of your personal Alive Network coordinator who will always be on hand to help if you have any questions or concerns.
You can think of Alive Network as your entertainment insurance.
What happens if the band is ill?
It's very rare that problems occur, but if the unthinkable does happen, Alive Network will help you to source a replacement artist, even at very short notice. We work with hundreds of bands across the UK and have a huge database of contacts to fall back on in an emergency.
Given sufficient notice, you will always be fully informed and involved in agreeing a replacement artist. If you aren't happy with the replacement we suggest you can choose another of our acts, or else receive a full refund. If an emergency happens on the day of your event and we cannot contact you, we will liaise with your venue, and send the closest matching alternative artist so you are not left in the lurch.
Is there anything I need to provide for the band?
The band will need a safe performance area, with at least 3 or 4 power sockets in close proximity.
They will require food and refreshments (preferably a hot meal as they'll be on the go for approximately 12 hours and will be hungry). If you can't provide a hot meal, some of the evening buffet will usually be ok. A plate of cold sandwiches isn't really sufficient considering the length of time the band are working for, and their inability to get anything better once at your event. Food is usually provided before or after the bands first set.
You do not need to provide alcohol. Soft drinks, water, tea and coffee are all fine. Please make sure you inform the bar staff that soft drinks should not be charged to the band.
A changing room is very much appreciated including enough seats for all the band members, and if possible, a mirror.
Is there anything else I need to know?
We've put together a selection of useful tips and insights provided directly by our artists.
Carron Holmes, The Atlantic Rock N Roll quotes "People don’t often get the chance to see a swing band close up, and most are surprised and delighted by the image, instruments and the full authentic sound. Expect an exciting night, full of atmosphere that your guests will never forget."
Paul Gallacher, Whole Lotta Shakin quotes "Always consider the time of food being served during the evening. Nothing clears a dance floor quicker than the smell of bacon butties being served. Make sure you dot the I’s and cross the T’s in advance of your event, leaving the entertainment in the hands of true professionals. Above all, enjoy your day!!"
Henry Botham, 52 Skidoo quotes "Live music makes an event special. We bring back to life the forgotten era of prohibition, Vaudeville, tin pan alley, rent parties, stride piano and hot jazz."
How do I make a booking?
To make an enquiry simply submit an enquiry form from the artists profile page on our web site (click the 'add to basket' button and follow the instructions) or give us a call on 0845 108 5500.
Once we have all your event details we will contact the artist to confirm their availability, discuss any requests you might have made, and get a confirmed quote.
Once your Alive Network coordinator sends you a confirmed quote and you're happy with it, simply let them know that you'd like to secure a booking with the artist. You can do this via phone or email. They will contact the artist to confirm the booking based on the quote submitted.
You will then be required to pay a deposit, usually over the phone by credit card, and we will send you and the artist a booking confirmation form which shows exactly what you've both agreed to and all your event logistics.
Once we've sent you the booking confirmation, both you and the artist have 48 hours in which to cancel the agreement should you no longer wish to go ahead, otherwise your booking is in place and is non-cancellable.
If you need to discuss any aspect of your booking, or if you need to make any changes, your dedicated Alive Network coordinator will be on hand to support you as much as you need.
You will be put in touch with the artist approximately 3-4 weeks before your event to run over the arrangements, fine tune the details and make any changes necessary.
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