Chill out or boogie on down with the superb sounds of some of the UK’s finest soul, Motown and RnB (rhythm & blues) acts. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about booking a soul or RnB band for your special occasion.
What is a Soul, RnB or Motown act?
Soul, RnB or Motown bands play music that is like the soundtrack of your life; up beat at one moment, soulful and heartfelt at another, but always delivered with style!
Rhythm and blues (R&B or RnB) originated from adding a strong beat to jazz and adding lyrics about life, love and freedom. Now it’s a genre of soul music that stretches from funk to ska, to hip hop, and encompasses artists as diverse as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Elvis, The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, and Mariah Carey.
Soul music is the love child of rhythm and blues and jazz, with American gospel as an auntie. Born in the late 1950s, soul music combines irresistible rhythms and powerful, heartfelt vocals that have defined pop music and funk alike. Think Little Richard, James Brown, Sam Cook, Jackie Wilson. Otis Redding and the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin.
An awesome live band performing great Soul and Funk music is a formula guaranteed to make your guests hit the dance floor. Old classics or modern hits, this is funky music that everyone will want to dance to!
Motown is a type of soul music named after the Motown record label, based in Detroit USA. The Motown sound fused soul and fledgling pop into a string of massive pop hits that have filled dance floors and discos alike ever since. You’ll know the sound when you hear it and you’ll certainly know the Motown artists: Smoky Robinson and The Miracles, Diana Ross and The Supremes, the Four Tops, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Jackson 5 and Steve Wonder.
Motown music truly has that 'feel good' factor and gets all ages dancing - from 5 to 75!
- Shola, Lady Motown
What to look for in quality Soul, RnB and Motown acts
Soul, RnB and Motown bands come in all sizes, from stunning solo vocalists to full-on soul party bands, and everything in between. So, how can you tell the soulful stars from the RnB also-rans?
Check their Profiles First, check out the artist and band Profiles here at Alive Network. Their sample tracks and demo videos that’ll give you a good idea of what the band sound like. Is your toe tapping from the very start? Does the vocalist nail their notes and make it sound effortless too? That’s a good act. If you’re up and dancing around by bar eight, that’s a great act!
Wide range of repertoire Look for artists with a wide range of music in their playlist (it’s at the end of their Profile). The range and choice might sound a bit odd at first, as many mix modern and classic tracks in their sets. Actually, that’s a sign of great musicianship and will ensure everyone of your guests has something they’ll know and love in each set - and want to dance to.
A good soul band will play all the classics (Motown, Staxx, Atlantic record label artists), swing over to the funky side of things (Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Chic) and then bring things right up to date with top tunes by artists like Rhianna, Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams.
- Chris, Informer
Who they have worked with? Many of the soul artists on Alive Network’s books have performed with the best names in the music industry. They are the (literally) unsung heroes behind the best-sellers, playing on top tracks and touring with headline acts, albeit as a member of the band or as backing singers rather than in the spotlight. Of course, that means they know what audiences like, and how to deliver a great show.
Soul bands are an incredible popular choice of entertainment, especially in the top end market, and the best will have worked internationally. This means a huge amount of experience in discretion, professionalism and of course, crowd pleasing - all over the world!
- Amy, Soul Education
Budget options for top artists If your budget is more limited, or you want to create a special atmosphere in a more intimate setting, look for highly experienced solo vocalist acts who have performed for diverse audiences across the UK and beyond. If they have played good venues, or entertained brand name clients, chances are they are in demand. So, if you can book them during the week, these artists will provide superb value for money too.
What formats do soul, RnB and Motown acts offer?
These kinds of bands come in all formats, from solo artists with backing tracks to live 10+ piece groups or larger, especially if they have a brass section. However, many fantastic soul bands have just four or five members who work hard for their money, producing a superb sound and a great show for less cash. Equally, these bands can often scale up with extra player for larger venues and events. Many solo artists also offer a live band option.
Soul band, Informer can provide a live 60-minute lounge set for a wedding drinks reception, and then expand to a full band set for your evening wedding party.
Lady Motown is available as a solo vocalist with authentic quality backing tracks, with a live duo, trio or four-piece band, as a Diana Ross or James Bond tribute, and will continue the cool sounds until the midnight hour with an addition Motown Diva DJ Service.
I aim to be extremely versatile and adaptable with line up options to suit all events. I can perform solo with backing tracks, or with acoustic duo, trio, quartet, or sextet options available.
- Sophie, Sophie and the Exciters
Whatever their line-up, a quality soul RnB or Motown band will be a magnet drawing your guests to the dance floor.
Soul music includes elements of jazz, blues, funk, pop and rock. Your Soul band's musicians will be seasoned, versatile musicians who can play anything!
- Chris, Informer
What equipment will my soul, RnB or Motown performers require?
What your artists require will vary enormously depending on the band size and line-up. As a minimum, they will all require access to 13 amp power, sufficient room to perform, and enough light to see and be seen by - the rest if as varied as the acts themselves! Here are a few key elements to consider:
Staging The larger the band, the larger the performance space they'll require. So, if your event is taking place in a small space with not much room for stage, choose a smaller band size. Most soul bands will require a stage to raise them up above floor level, which keeps their equipment safe and potentially dangerous trailing cables away from your guests’ flying feet! Very few bands will bring their own staging; if you're in any doubt, ask your advisor at Alive Network.
Dance floor If your venue doesn’t have a dance floor, hire one through the venue or your marquee company. Bands do not provide dance floors.
Lighting Not every soul band provides their own lighting, although those that do can turn space from a dull function room into a superb live venue with well positioned state of the art lighting. Other acts may bring some basic lighting to help supplement that of your venue. However, if your event is in a non-performance space such as a marquee, make sure you've got enough lighting to make it look special for your guests.
Sound equipment Most live party bands and solo acts come completely self-contained in terms of sound equipment. Some larger soul bands even bring their own sound engineer, to ensure you and your guests get the best sound possible. If you're in any doubt, check with an Alive Network advisor before you book. Your venue may also have requirements for sound limiters, which you’ll need to check out before the event. (See below).
Outdoor performances If you want your soul or RnB band to perform outside, first of all check they are happy to do so! Performing outside requires a different approach and different sound equipment. Some acts may not wish to perform outside with vintage kit or wearing their expensive stage clothes. If you’re planning on an outdoor performance on the terrace with a duo, or a stage with full band under the stars, check with your Alive Network advisor before booking.
What space will my soul, RnB or Motown band require?
As you might have gathered by now, the space required depends largely on the type of band your booking. Since these acts specialise in providing a visual show as well as superb dance music, chances are they'll need a larger space than comparative bands in other genres, such as jazz. What's more, the more players and equipment they bring, the more space they will require both on stage and off. Also, don't assume just because you booked a soloist they will come with just a small speaker and microphone. Chances are they will come with some very high-tech sound equipment for their backing tracks, to make sure they sound at their very best.
What performance length will my soul band offer?
The amount of time any soul, R&B, or Motown band or singer performs largely depends on what you want for your event.
For example, they may offer chill-out set for a drinks reception, followed by two performances (sets) during the evening with an interval in between for a wedding party. This ensures everyone can have a a rest from dancing and a plate full of food from the buffet. Most bands offer background music during this break either as a playlist, or a live DJ set if you prefer.
Alternatively, for a corporate event, you may prefer a dedicated act of about an hour’s duration during the middle of dinner, or a 90 minute full-on show dance at the end of a conference. Again, it's really up to you, and most artists are extremely flexible. If you have any unusual requirements, such as a band playing on a boat or at intervals during the daytime, just call Alive Network and we’ll be happy to help you.
As a general rule, if you've asked for two sets for your performance, they will perform two sets of an hour each. If you've asked for one set, this is usually about 90 minutes. However, it does depend on what each individual artist or band offers, so again if you have specific requirements, check before booking.
Our 8 piece band with brass section perform 2 x 1hr high energy live sets including funk, soul, Motown, rock ‘n’ roll, disco, r ‘n’ b and house anthems.
- Birmingham-based soul band, After 8s
Finish times Do check if your venue has a cut-off time for live music performances. This is often dictated to them by the local authority, and going beyond this time could infringe their live music license. If you are holding your event outside, similar restrictions may also apply. You will need to check with your venue, as the rules can vary from vneu to venue, let alone authority to authority. Also check if the band requires any extra payment for playing later in the evening, i.e. a post midnight supplement.
What options do soul bands offer?
Apart from the various lineup options, soul and RnB performance can also offer options in terms of the kind of music they play. So, if you're particular lover of Motown, or early R&B, or particular soul artists, there's bound to be an act that will cater for your exact requirements.
Having aid that, soul bands are often booked simply because they breach in musical interests of a wide group of people, including brides and grooms!
So many rock and pop tunes of today have been inspired by Motown and Soul from the 60s and 70s. I've performed at weddings where the groom liked rock/indie and the bride liked pop so they settled for Soul and Motown as a compromise they both enjoyed!
- Shola, Lady Motown
Often, it's best to leave the band to select which music they play for your occasion, as they will have so much experience choosing the best tunes to fill the dance floor.
Our soul band's repertoire is humungous and not just limited to soul and older music either. If it's a big tune and it's got a good beat, it's usually in the set!
- Amy, Soul Education
How much will a soul band, R&B band, or Motown bands cost?
At the risk of repeating ourselves, the cost of your soul act will depend on the lineup.
The most popular lineup for the soul band Informer is a six pieces band, with hire prices starting at around £1500.
Leeds-based soul band Funkytown, will provide a superb six piece band for around £1600.
Lady Motown, who comes with original Motown backing tracks, can delight your guests from as little as £520.
For a high quality soul band such as the 8 piece band After 8s, you'll need to spend at least £2000.
Costs can increase dramatically for one of the top bands featuring the best session musicians, such as the 10-piece Soul Education, whose prices start at £6400.
For a top quality Soul band you should be looking at spending £2k minimum for smaller line ups, but depending on the size of the event and the size of band required this can increase drastically and can be more around the £4/5k+ mark for larger corporate style events. It all depends on when, where and audience size so prices often vary radically. When enquiring, as much information as possible from you will result in the most accurate of quotes.
- Amy, Soul Education
What are the differences are there between the various soul, RnB and Motown acts at Alive Network?
As stated before, there is a wide diversity of acts to choose from here at Alive Network. So, if you're struggling to choose between two or three bands that sound superb, take a look at what they look like! This is particularly important if image is key for your event, such as a product launch, or themed wedding. You want to ensure that your band not only sounds the part, but looks it too. The best way to judge what a band looks on stage like is to take a look at their photos and videos here at Alive Network. If in any doubt give us a call.
Due to the nature of the musicians work elsewhere, image is key! You can guarantee your girls will be incredibly glamorous and the boys will be pretty dapper to boot. With a soul band, there are usually more musicians [than in a function band] which has a stunning visual and audio impact. The bigger the band, the more of them there are to help get everyone up and dancing!
- Amy, Soul Education
Anything else I need to know?
As experienced performers, most soul bands and singers acts, are perfectly happy to take care of themselves, and required very little input on the night. However, thinking of your artists’ needs in advance will be greatly appreciated. These include;
Someone to greet them on arrival. Your soul band may not have played at your venue before, especially if it's a marquee in a field! So, assign somebody in your wedding or event party to meet the band when they arrive, to show them where they will be performing, where they will be changing, and where the toilets are. They made also need someone to show them how the sound limiters operate if required (See below).
Give them a proper changing room. You would be surprised, and probably shocked, at the number of people who spend large sums of money on highly professional artists and bands, and then expect them to change in the loos...or even portaloos! Always put aside a room for your band to change in, and ensure it is theirs for the duration, so they can leave their day clothes and equipment boxes in safety. In a hotel, this could be a conference room, or for a marquee, a small tent at the side of the main marquee. Always check if there is sufficient room for all your band members, and sufficient chairs for them to all sit down at the same time. (Again, you'd be surprised how often this doesn't happen!).
Food and water. At the risk of making artists sound like race horses, all performers perform better when they are well fed, have plenty of water to drink, and a supply of soft drinks throughout the evening. A proper meal before the show, or at a point to be agreed with your band members, will help fuel them through their performance and keep them from the perils of 3am petrol station pasties on the way home! A running tab at the bar for soft drinks (never alcohol) would also be appreciated. You might like to offer your artists a cold beer or a glass of wine after the show, but don't be offended if they turn this down; most artist have to drive quite long distances home after the show and will not want to risk their license.
Parking spaces. Instruments, costumes, and sound equipment are heavy and expensive items. So, the shorter the route between the performer’s vehicles and where they will be performing, the better. If you can, reserve parking spaces right next to the doors into your venue, and leave a clear path through to your marquee if required. If parking is difficult at your venue, find out where the nearest loading bay is, and inform your artist where they can park once they have unloaded.
Access to a power supply. Very few soul bands or performers can manage without access to a 13 amp power socket, and most will require considerably more power for their sound equipment, lighting, etc. Most modern wedding venues and party venues have plenty of power sockets and a good capacity for the band to use, but marquees may be a different matter. Historic venues such as castles and stately homes may also have a limit on the amount of power that can be drawn. Check with your venue what is (or is not) available and if you're in any doubt, call us at Alive Network.
Sound limiters. These are electronic devices that cuts the power to a band or DJ if the volume exceeds what is allowed by the council. In theory, these systems are designed to protect both your guests hearing and to maintain the quality of life for those living there the other venue. In practice, they are a bit of a pain, but experienced live groups often adapt their lines up if required to ensure they don't go over the decibel (dB) limit.
However, be aware that the bigger the band, the more likely sound limiters are to be an issue. Even unamplified live instruments, such as trumpets, can set off some of these systems if your audience are cheering loudly too. All professional bands will have had some experience of getting around the issues with sound limiters, but since levels and types of limiters do vary, always ask your venue in advance if one is in place.
How to book your soul band, R&B band, or Motown experience from Alive Network
Booking a live act from Alive Network couldn't be easier. Simply read any band profile on our website, and add your favourite bands to your WishList. Take time to listen to their demo tracks, view their videos, and read reviews from other happy clients. Often these reviews give you a really good idea of what the band is like in performance.
What you've made your choice, simply click on the links on the website to get a free quotation online, and to check the band’s availability. Simply click again to book your favourite artist.
Relax, that's the hard part done!
Once we receive your booking here at Alive Network, we will check the availability, and call you back to get more details of your event. Once all details are confirmed, you pay a small deposit upfront, and we issue with a proper, legally binding contract.
If you have your questions, queries, or concerns between making your booking and event, simply ring your dedicated Alive Network event coordinator, who will be happy to help you with any enquiries and extra details you require.
Around three weeks before your event, you'll be put in direct contact with the band manager, who can help with any further details and discuss those final last-minute details.
Before the actual event day, you simply pay the balance and relax, so you have to worry about paying the band or carrying large cash amounts around with you.
Talking of cash, if you like two bands but just can't decide which one you'd like to book, here’s a hint. Choose the band that’s based closest to your venue as it will usually the cheaper of the two. Travel costs money in terms of time, fuel, and wear and tear on vehicles, so the less bands have to travel, the better most bands like it. This is reflected in the prices they quote you, proving that often, local bands for the local people really are cheaper!