Thursday, January 5th, 2012 by Faye

Band vs. DJ

The battle between DJs and wedding bands rages on! Who will you help win? OK, the situation is really not that dramatic, but people can have (overly) strong opinions about this one. Whether this will be a tough or an easy decision for you, read on for the pros and cons to each!

Live Music aka The Wedding Band

Spontaneity and Fun - Quality live music is really fun, and people notice and respond. Plus, a good band will react to your audience and adjust their playlist and tempo to the mood of the room in a way many DJs can’t.

Style and showmanship - a live band, the type of music they play, and their presence are often the finishing touch to a well-styled wedding. Planning a rustic outdoor event, an old-timey country western band will fit right in. Going glamorous, find a 1940s swing band or orchestra. A little offbeat? Enlist a rock n’ roll or voodoo lounge group to give you the extra edge.

Include your heritage - If music is a deeply embedded part of your culture or faith, hiring a band that specializes in this tradition honors it but also brings the entire celebration together in a way nothing else can. Examples include, but are not limited to traditional Celtic, Jewish, Greek, or Italian music and accompanying dances.

Rich sounds - Nothing beats the full sounds of a live band, especially if your venue has good acoustics.

Cost - A popular wedding band will take a big bite out of your budget.

Need more breaks - Real people get really worn out playing live music and will need to take multiple breaks. The larger the band, the longer the breaks needed, and the more gaps in music you will need to fill.

Can’t play it all - A band that frequently plays weddings should have a solid repertoire of wedding hits and favorites, but they won’t be able to play it all. You can bet a country band will have a hard time with funk, but check with the band to see what their limitations are.

The good bands book quick - Well-known wedding bands are like popular venues-they book up quick! The moment you decide you want to hire a band start searching for top-rated wedding bands near you!

Size can be a limitation - Maybe the band you want is just to big for your venue or the opposite, the band you want is to small to play loud enough for all your guests.

Hey DJ!

Budget-friendly - A DJ should cost anywhere from one-third to half the cost of a live band. The only exceptions would be  “celebrity DJs”. Often DJs can double as your emcee too.

Thousands of songs - Almost all DJs will have hundreds, if not thousands of songs in their music libraries. Many DJ’s now play Mp3s, so you can give them a CD of your favorite songs they don’t have. Thousands of songs means the DJ can radically adjust the style and mood of the moment.  Does the dancing need an injection of Disco or Hip-Hop? The DJ can do either.

Takes requests and creates playlists - When not playing at a nightclub a DJ should take requests. Make sure you get them a list beforehand and go over their playlist to ensure you get the style of music you want included.

Fewer breaks - A DJ is still human and will need breaks, but they can also put a song here and there on autopilot to handle the shorter breaks and if they bring an assistant the two can alternate on the longer breaks. 

Size is no limitation - A DJ should have access to enough equipment to handle any size space, making sure all your guests can hear the music.

Less style - A DJ can dress up to match your theme, but they can’t quite match up with the showmanship of a live band.

Equipment - DJ’s can sometimes bring in huge amounts of technical equipment! While musical instruments usually add style to a venue, loads of cords and electronic items don’t. You will need to make sure the DJ area is decorated to hide ugly extra cords.

Takes a little more effort to get guests dancing - A live band is energetic (or should be) and their energy will get your guests on the dance floor. A DJ has a harder time projecting their energy onto the crowd without venturing into the realm of corny MC, think back to your high school dances for a good mental picture!

Less vibrant sound - even with the best equipment and speakers the richness of live music cannot be found with a DJ.

Who Wins?
We beat this drum a lot, but it comes down to priorities. Is a live band close to the top of the list for you? If so, you will need to allocate more money towards the band and away from something else. If a DJ suits your style, party, and budget better, find a fantastic one. Neither is definitively better than the other, they are just different!

Pros and Cons aside, the process for finding the DJ or band for your wedding reception is the same. First check vendor-listing sites like OneWed to find out who is in your area. Ask friends and family for their recommendations and check with your venue too, they might have pretty good recommendations based off past weddings they have seen.

If you know you want a certain type of music go straight to the source. For classical music check with the local orchestra or a nearby musical conservatory, orchestra members often have side groups they preform with and music students often form groups and work for great prices. For jazz music ask around at jazz clubs and for DJs check in with your favorite nightclubs.

When you find a few candidates seriously check them out! Ask for videos of live performances, meet face-to-face, get references from past weddings and parties, read their reviews, look on Facebook to see if they have positive feedback, visit their website, and if possible see them play/spin either at another wedding or a show. If you are given a CD double-check that the band you will hire is the same band playing on the recording. 

Decide if you want your DJ (or band leader) to be the emcee. If you do, you need to be interviewing them for this job too. We’ve all been to too many weddings where the emcee makes us cringe. To avoid this, ask questions about their emcee style and see if conversation with them is natural. In our opinion, a really great emcee is like a great waiter: confident, graceful, charming, but never the center of attention.  

Once you have found a band or DJ you like it is time for the contract. Every wedding band or DJ will have one. Here are a few things to look out for.

-Make sure the date, location, start time, and end time are clearly stated.
-Make sure the total fee, deposit amount, and due date for final payment are clear.
-What is their cancellation policy?
-What equipment will they bring, who will set it up, and what equipment do they need provided?
-Are they available to stay past your expected end time and what is their overtime rate?
-What are the frequency and length of breaks required?
-How many people in the band? How many people are coming with the DJ? What are their names?
-If the “Do Not Play” list is very important to you make sure it is in the contract.
-What will they wear and if applicable, will they agree to wear something that matches your theme?
-Do they have limited liability insurance?