The Holiday season being one of the most common times of the year for businesses or individuals to hire musicians/a band to perform at parties and events, I thought it timely to give you all a sort of ‘how to’ on hiring musicians. You may think that it shouldn’t be that challenging, but you would be surprised the things that people don’t realize. So here are some helpful tips to keep in mind year round when you consider hiring musicians.
The first and most important thing you need to be ready to do is pony up some money – just like for your photographer and caterer. Musicians are trained professionals and we don’t perform solely for the fun of it. Music doesn’t come cheap. You may think you are just hiring a few people to perform for an hour and that hour is all you are paying for, but there is more to it than that. There is the performance time itself, plus they are probably arriving an hour or more ahead of the performance to set-up and do a sound check, they are going to be there half an hour or more after the performance packing up their equipment. That is just time you will actually see. You are also paying for the hours of rehearsal, both as a group and individually, the cost to get to and from the performance, and the cost of any equipment that needs to be rented for the performance, just to name a few. There are any number of costs factored in, so be prepared! This goes for ALL individuals, companies, and organizations. Fundraisers are not exempt from paying for musicians; I would be willing to bet you aren’t getting everything else for free. One of my university professors told me that the only place that one should perform for free is in their own church. This is the standard that I hold for myself and that I would like to see across the whole industry. Since I am not a religious man, I won’t be playing for free anytime soon.
If you find musicians online or hear about them through word of mouth, make sure you have listened to at least one of their recordings before you contact them. It is incredibly frustrating to have someone phone you to inquire about your band and they have no idea what it is that you actually do! We live in an incredible age where you can type the name of any individual or band in to Google and find out all kinds of things about them. Use this to find exactly what you are looking for and then make contact. It will be less painful for both you and the musicians.
Now that you have found the performers of your choosing and they have agreed to perform at your event it is time to work out all of the little details. I know a lot of musicians who are terrible at doing this so if you are prepared it helps everyone. These details may include: what time the show starts, what time it ends, where it is taking place, what time the performers can set-up at, are there any times during the performance that you need the performers to stop for someone to speak. These types of details not only help the performers to prepare, but they also make your event run smoothly. There may be other details that need to be settled; it will be different with each event. Be prepared!
This next point only applies to events that are open to the public. Smart musicians will advertise on social media at the very least when they are performing at public events even if the number of people in attendance has no effect on how much they get paid. They want people to see the cool things they are doing and they want people to come out and see the cool things they are doing. They are doing you a favour by bringing more people out to your event, so why not return the favour and advertising that they are performing at your event? It will likely attract people who weren’t interested in your event before, but are not because of who is performing. It helps all of us, so why not just do it?
On the day of the event it isn’t so much about what you have to do, but what you need to have prepared. The most important is that when the musicians arrive at the venue at the previously arranged time, that you aren’t now changing their set-up or performance time. They are busy people and they live on schedules like everyone else. Changes complicate things, so try to avoid changes on the day of the event, and if unusual circumstances arise, let your musicians know as soon as possible! You should also know where the band is to set-up if it’s not in a space with an obvious spot such as a stage. You should also consider having a green room (pre/post performance space) for the performers. It isn’t always possible, but it is always appreciated when there is a spot to store our cases, to change, to relax, and to warm up. At the very least have a place to store cases, because nobody wants those randomly strewn about or stacked in a corner of the room. As well, if you have someone acting as MC at the event, make sure the musicians are included in the “thank you’s”. It can be pretty disheartening as a musician to hear the venue, the caterers, the photographer, and everyone else be thanked publicly and the musicians are forgotten. It happens more often than you would think, so don’t let it happen. The last, but most important, thing to do on the day of the performance is have the performer’s payment ready for them. Payment before the performance is a great vote of confidence, but payment immediately after the performance is generally expected. “I’ll mail you a cheque” all too often means the money isn’t coming, so spare everyone the hassle and have the payment ready to go.
After the event is done there is nothing you are expected to do, but it is nice to receive a follow up phone call or e-mail. If you were happy with the performance, we want to hear about it. If you weren’t happy with the performance, we probably don’t want to hear about it, but we probably should. It’s just a small detail that helps to build a good business relationship.
Here are a few other small things to keep in mind through the whole process: Don’t try to change aspects of the artist’s performance; you should be hiring them because their music is what you want for their event. If there is a meal involved with your event, offer to feed the musicians - it’s just a nice thing to do. Don’t leave booking music until the last minute because it will probably cost you more.
I hope you find this guide to booking musicians to be helpful. These are my own opinion on the matter and they may differ from others. If you are a performer or event planner (professional or not) and have additions, disagreements, or questions, please post a comment. I would love to hear from you!
What would an artistic professional’s blog post be without a little sales pitch! It’s not too late to book me and the band for your holiday parties! If you are reading this after the holiday season, it’s not too late to book us for whatever you may be planning. Visit the contact page to get the ball rolling!