Over the past ten years or so, the wedding and function band industry has become highly competitive, attracting some of the most accomplished musicians and singers in the industry, many with previous and ongoing record deals.
As the music industry evolved into the digital age, recording new music and engaging with fans became cheaper and easier, creating an abundance of upcoming artists, each looking for new ways to break through. Another side-effect was a change-up in the traditional business model and that’s meant more initial legwork and smaller advances for independent artists. As a result, the private event sector has become a much needed side line for many performers in order to pay the bills and continue with their originals projects.
In a saturated market of function bands, you really do have to be top of your game, treating your private events project as seriously as you would your own originals band. If you’re running a band or are considering starting something new, here are some of the most common pitfalls to avoid:
1. Picking the wrong songs and not keeping the set list up to date
In order to receive the maximum number of enquiries for your band, you’re going to need mass appeal, and that means a set list jam-packed full of the biggest and best songs from every era. That’s not to say you have to copy every other band out there, but do think carefully about each song, and if it’s not a floor filler, you can probably ditch it.
Once you have your killer set list, it doesn’t stop there. Continue to learn new material, including songs that are currently in the charts - always a big winner with potential clients, especially in the corporate sector.
2. Not investing in a video and photos
High quality promotional material is vital in order to attract booking agents and clients. If you think a low quality live video is going to cut through, you might have your sights set too low. By investing in high quality photos and video, you’ll create a positive first impression for clients who so often rely solely on marketing material as the basis for their booking.
3. Average quality PA
High quality PA is one thing that regularly gets overlooked - most bands go out with their backline and decent stereo speakers on stands, but for larger venues, you really should be investing in subs as well. Without the appropriate gear, your live sound will sound thin and you’ll be limiting yourself to smaller events in the future.
4. Using too many deps
Deps are an important part of the function band industry; with many musicians involved in multiple projects, no band can be expected to have an identical line-up at every single gig. However, whilst there is some leeway, you should most definitely have a regular line-up and avoid using more than one dep at any one event where possible. Not only will this ensure a tight live sound, you’ll also find yourself in a more favourable position with clients and booking agents.
5. Not pricing yourself correctly
Choosing a starting price can be a tricky process for new acts; I see too many bands pitching at fees equal to those who have been in the industry for years, simply because that’s what they’ve seen on agency websites. Experienced bands are able to charge those fees thanks to a reputation that may have taken years to acquire
If you’re starting out, my advise is to start at a fee that you’re satisfied with and build on it year by year. In the early stages it’s far more important to be out gigging and building up your clientele.
6. Average home studio recordings
With the rise of home recording technology, it’s now even easier to put together your own demos. I find home demos are perfectly acceptable for acoustic duos, jazz bands and soloists, but when it comes to recording a full band, I would recommend that you record and mix in a professional studio unless you’re a qualified engineer.
7. Not learning lyrics off by heart
If singing is your profession, then learning the lyrics is something that generally comes with the job. If I see a singer reading lyrics live it really doesn’t create a great impression – I’ve even seen some singers reading lyrics in their promotional videos!
There are exceptions to this, I personally always preferred to have lyrics discreetly available on my phone when performing a first dance or new song - in important situations it’s usually better to be safe than sorry.
8. Not dressing appropriately
Image can often be a significant factor when booking a band, both for private and corporate events. In general my advise is that bands dress the same as advertised in their videos unless otherwise advised by the client.
In addition to this, it’s also important to arrive at the venue in respectable clothes in order to give off the absolute best impression to venues, clients and guests.
9. Taking too long to reply to emails
In the age of social media and instant communication, there’s no longer an excuse to take days to reply to enquiries. Organisation is essential for a function band and a slow response time will undoubtedly create a negative impression before your quote even goes out.
10. Inconsistencies in promotional material
I always get slightly concerned when a band’s video features different band members to those in their photos. Even though I’m aware that band members do occasionally come and go, it still makes me question whether the band actually have a solid line-up - and that means clients may also have the same reaction.
If you’ve recently changed singers or more than one member, it may be time to breathe some new life into the band and work on some new promotional material.
11. Not setting funds aside for future investment and repairs.
When the gigs are rolling in, it can be tempting to split the money down the line, but this is a short term way of thinking. If you’re looking to take your band to the next level, it makes sense to treat your band like a business and set up a dedicated business bank account. Make a plan so that each musician receives a set fee from each booking and the rest is saved in order to raise funds for a larger PA, lighting rig, improved promo material and possible van repairs.
12. Forgetting to ask for reviews and testimonials
One major factor clients take into consideration when choosing a band is the volume and quality of testimonials from previous clients. Even if your band goes down a storm, that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically receive a written testimonial. Don’t be afraid to write a polite email the following day, asking if they were happy with the event and if they have any feedback about the service – this will most certainly be met with an email worthy of a testimonial.
13. Recording the wrong songs
Before you dive straight into recording your shiny new demos, think carefully about which songs are likely to receive the most attention from potential clients. Try to sheer away from classic 70s pub rock or recent pop songs that haven’t stood the test of time - the longevity of today’s pop music can be such a pain for the modern cover band!
Always be sure to take on board outside opinions, especially from a professional in the industry such as a booking agent; if if you haven’t already got an agent, try phoning one and asking for their opinion - it’s a great way to touch base before you even get started.
14. Not leaving for the gig early enough
The musician is notorious for being late, and whilst the majority of bands I know prove that stereotype to be wrong, there’s still a good percentage of musicians out there who give the rest a bad name. The most common excuse I hear is that the traffic was bad or that there was an accident. The truth is that when planning your route, these are all factors you need to take into account. If Google maps says one hour from the venue, leave at least two.
15. Forgetting to hello and goodbye to the client!
When booking a gig directly with a client through your website, you will undoubtedly build up a rapport with one another, creating a positive vibe on the night. On the other hand, when booking through an agency, it may sometimes feel like a ‘get in and get out’ gig if no-one introduces themselves. Always take care to say your hellos and goodbyes, especially at a wedding where the bride and groom will likely be pre-occupied with photos, guests and other formalities. Building up relationships with clients and guests is such a key part of being in a wedding band and will ultimately lead to more bookings and a solid client base.
Written by Adam Mezzatesta, owner of UK music agency Bands For Hire. Bands For Hire offer a range of cover bands, jazz bands, acoustic bands and classical musicians in every corner of the UK including Birmingham, Manchester, Yorkshire and London.