Things to Consider When Booking Music for an Event

8.12.2022
Andrew St. Royal

If you’re organizing an event, chances are you’ll need some entertainment to really get the party going. Whether you’re throwing a wedding reception, corporate event, or birthday bash, hiring a band or DJ to provide music can make a huge difference in the overall atmosphere and success of your event. But when it comes to booking music, there are certain questions you should consider to ensure you’re choosing the right type of entertainment.

How much does it cost to have music at my wedding or event?

Before you start shopping around for music, you’ll need to have a budget or budget range in mind. Depending on how important the music and celebration experience is for your event, music is typically 10%-20% of the total event budget. This will help you narrow down your options and ensure you don’t overspend. Do some research to see what types of music are within your budget and decide whether you’d prefer a live band or a DJ.

What style of music is best?

Think about the style of music that would be most appropriate for your event. If it’s a wedding reception, you’ll likely want to go for something more upbeat, fun and really engaging! Corporate networking events might be better suited for upbeat jazz or Top40 strings music. If it’s a birthday party, you may want to get the guests dancing with popular hits led by a great DJ.

What guest experience do I want to create?

Do you want a live band, a DJ, or a combination of both? Having both a DJ and a great live band is very popular - the band is the showpiece to lead the celebration and put on an incredible visual performance for the chair-dancing type. The DJ is always in reserve to seamlessly take over band breaks and any idle moments where background music is needed. After the band - if you've got a serious party on your hands it's great to have the DJ to carry the party into late night.

When hiring a musician, DJ or band, make sure to do your research and read reviews. You want to make sure the musicians you hire are experienced and can provide high-quality entertainment. If possible, try to find out what types of events they’ve played before and ask to hear samples of their work.

How does my choice of venue affect the approach to music design?

It’s important to consider the size and layout of your venue, as well as the guest flow - the movement of guests within the venue from location to location (ceremony to cocktails to reception, for example) when booking music. If it’s a smaller space, you may not need a large band or DJ setup. On the other hand, if you’re hosting an outdoor event, you’ll need to make sure the band has the necessary equipment for an outdoor setup.

The best approach to choosing the appropriate size for your band depends on many ideas:

- Available footprint in the reception space

- The energetic balance of the number of guests to the size of the band.

- The desired visual impact your guests will feel when they see the group - the larger the more impressive and the "wow" factor.

What is audiovisual equipment, and why do I need it?

This is often overlooked and can be a very mysterious part of event production - even for some seasoned event planners. The audiovisual production budget can vary widely - the sky is the limit! To recreate a concert feel at a luxe event experience can include LED backdrops, dynamic lighting displays, tiered stages and a high-quality audio system.

Make sure to find out what type of equipment the band or DJ will need for their performance, and what they can provide. Most upscale venues will have an in-house audiovisual provider who can offer a full suite of production (audio, lighting, and staging) to create the atmosphere you want. Depending on what the in-house AV company can do will help you determine if you need your entertainment provider to also provide additional equipment.

It can be a great idea to have your entertainment company provide "stage audio" - the microphones, monitors, their live mix sound engineer, and everything that goes into what the band hears on stage. A skilled event audio engineer can make just about any performance sound great but keep in mind that for high-calibre bands, the live mix audio engineer is considered just another member of the band. They have established personal familiarity with what each of the artists wants to hear on stage, which in turn allows them to develop a higher-quality sound. When the band can hear themselves well, the stage is set for the best experience for the audience.

I'm worried I'll have to chase musicians, how do I ensure my peace of mind?

The music industry is notoriously laid-back and as a result, some clients feel a sense of apprehension before signing a contract worth thousands of dollars. Music is such an integral part of every event, and even more so for a high-stakes, once-in-a-lifetime event like a wedding. Establishing the trustworthiness of your entertainment provider is a critical step, and every client will tell you post-event that having this is worth the premium. Working with an established and trustworthy music agency over hiring artists directly allows you to relax and be present at your own event, rather than worrying if your DJ will show up on time and remember your special song!

Consider: Are their emails professional, clear and responsive? Do they include entertainment coordination services? Do their reviews include mentions of the administrative team? Do they appear organized? Do they demonstrate attention to detail? Are they flagging potential schedule, venue or other concerns early in the process?

These are just a few factors to consider when booking music for an event. Think about what type of atmosphere you want to create and make sure the music you choose fits the occasion. Once you have found a musician or DJ that you like, you should book them as soon as possible to ensure that they are available for your wedding date. Be sure to discuss the details of your wedding with them, including the location, the timeline, and any specific songs or styles that you want them to play.

With the right musicians, DJ or bands in place, you can be sure your event will be a hit!

Happy planning!

-Andrew

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew St. Royal is a former professional musician and the founder and creative director of St. Royal. Andrew has taken part in over 1500 events - as a musician, music designer and producer.

ABOUT ST. ROYAL

St. Royal creates music experiences for events and celebrations. Their musicians, live bands, DJs, strings, jazz and specialty ensembles perform hundreds of events across Canada. 

Past clients include: Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Marriott, Soho House, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Special Olympics, Canadian Tire, Tiffany's, Royal Ontario Museum, Mercedes, TIFF, Royal Winter Fair, the Taste of Little Italy, and more.

St. Royal was founded by a professional musician and is led by a team of passionate event and music-industry professionals. To date, St. Royal has created performance opportunities which have put more than $4.6 million into the pockets of local music artists, the St. Royal Collective.