We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams, wandering by lone sea-breakers, and sitting by desolate streams;—World-losers and world-forsakers, On whom the pale moon gleams: Yet we are the movers and shakers Of the world for ever, it seems. Arthur O’Shaughnessy
Choosing a Band or DJ…So, how do you find the right music for your wedding?
The question as to whether to hire a band vs DJ for a wedding reception isn’t a new one. Let’s be honest – the band was and still is king of wedding entertainment as far as most couple’s perceptions go. The DJ has been playing catch-up since making a significant presence in the wedding industry during the 1980s and the gap is definitely closing. Though our company’s bread and butter is our DJ service, we have two bands on our roster that we book out regularly.
There are a few different factors that you should consider when deciding on your type of wedding entertainment:
BUDGET: Most wedding bands will be composed of at least 4 pieces but will more likely be a minimum of 6-7 pieces. Based on the sheer amount of people in the band, plus rider requirements, there is often a wide margin between the cost of a live band versus a DJ/MC for your wedding. Depending on the amount of production (including a lighting tech, separate MC, etc.) and the talent level/name recognition, a DJ could get close to the band rate but often this is not the case.
THE LIVE ELEMENT: There is something to be said about the “live” element of a band. The music can feel more alive and the great bands have vocalists that are fantastic at interacting with the crowd. That is a huge positive for a band. One drawback, however, is that bands typically will take breaks throughout their events utilizing an iPad or house music to fill the time they’re gone. DJs don’t require breaks and live-mixing tracks can give guests the feeling that the entertainment never stops. Couple this with great crowd interaction from a talented DJ/MC and you can have an entertainer that feels every bit as present.
SPACE: Depending on the size of both the band and the venue, this should not be overlooked. Bands aren’t just the talent and their instruments. There is significant more “backline” (amps, monitors, staging, etc.). If you have a big ballroom with a modest crowd size, this is no doubt a positive as it’ll fill the space and make it feel like a packed house. However if your venue has limited space. the live band may take up too large of a footprint. Conversely, a DJ has lower space requirements, only needing enough room for speakers, lighting and their DJ equipment.
MUSIC LIBRARY: For some, this is a deal breaker. A band will provide the couple with a playlist of what they can play at their wedding. This is fantastic if you like everything on their list. Another advantage is that you know the boundaries of exactly what they will/won’t play. The negative is having guests ask for songs not on their list or if you want a specific song for your formality dance(s) and need the band to learn some material. Not all bands are willing to learn new music and those that do, may charge for it (understandable, as it may be a song they will only ever play for your event). A DJ, on the other hand, should have more music on hand than can possibly be played at your event. This advantage has your wedding DJ ready for any request that may come their way or if they sense a shift in where to take the crowd and need to make adjustments during the reception.
MC VALUE: Not always talked about, the MC component is critical. The great bands have a lead vocalist trained in wedding protocol to make the traditional announcements. The same could be said for DJs. The great DJs should have gone through an MC course to know how to segue through formalities and lead the evening. Our entire staff goes through an 18 week MC course before ever stepping in front of a wedding crowd. It’s that important to us. As an entertainment expert, let me say this: The MC component will make or break the entertainment portion of your event. Worst case scenario, the DJ or band loses power, are they trained to deal with being able to keep the party going somehow? One wise person I know said, “You should entertain as if the whole crowd is blind and can’t see what’s happening on the dance floor. If you’re leading them with your voice and not just the music, they’ll know how good the party is.” There’s a lot of truth in that. The best way to check the skill set is to ask for video. Here’s a simple video from a go-pro of one of our DJs and within 2 minutes you can tell this MC is extremely proficient.
Band or DJ: Why not BOTH?!
Here’s an idea: why not combine the two and get the best of both worlds? In this scenario, the band generally takes the lead (at least in the beginning of the night). Here’s a few ideas of how this could work:
BAND PLUS MC ONLY: As stated above, the great DJs should be polished MCs. If nothing else, hire someone for this element along with the band. They will take off the pressure from a band where this may not be their strong suit. The MC can handle the grand entrance, formality dance(s), and other necessary announcing as needed in an articulate, professional manner. With no DJ gear necessary, this could potentially warrant a discounted rate as well.
BAND PLUS DJ/MC: The advantage to this is not only can you address the MC concern mentioned above, but now you have the DJ to fill in the gaps musically when the band goes on breaks or they need to play songs that the band doesn’t know. The shift back and forth in energy from band to DJ can be a good thing with excellent entertainers that know know how to work off one another. NOTE: It’s critical for the DJ to get the band song list ahead of time and not step on toes and play music that the band is planning on playing. DJs have more flexibility music-wise and should adjust around the band’s song list.
BAND PLUS AFTER PARTY DJ: For those that don’t want the party to stop and are looking to add a twist to the entertainment, this is a great option. As soon as the band is done, the guests walk to a different room or venue and a DJ is there ready to rock the hardcore party crowd. Add in some late night snacks and beverages and it has the potential to be what everyone is talking about the next day.
Every couple is unique and your wedding entertainment should fit what you’re looking for. We offer both Bands and DJs for that very reason. Need more ideas? Contact us and we’ll be glad to talk through what your vision is for your wedding day and guide you as best we can.