Best way to book a band for a wedding
February 21, 2005 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Should I book a band for my wedding through a talent agency?

We are getting married this Fall, and have been told that we need to book a band ASAP. We were given the name of a talent agency, and after looking through their website I noticed that the same bands are listed through a bunch of different agencies, and many have their own websites that allow you to contact the band to book a show. I'd imagine it is cheaper to book the band directly, skipping the talent agency. Why would(n't) I want to cut out the middleman and book the band directly?

This is in DC if it makes a difference.
posted by i love cheese to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
 
Try going through the band directly. It's an agent's job to get the most money for an act as possible, because they will typically get 15% of the booking fee.

But, depending on the popularity of the band, they may not deal directly with you. It's worth a shot to go direct, though.

The only benefit of going through an agency is they usually have their act together, so double-bookings and the like would be less likely (but still possible).
posted by nitsuj at 11:36 AM on February 21, 2005


Maybe if something happens with the band (someone takes sick, car accident on the way to the wedding, etc.), the talent agency will supply a backup act? You'd want to confirm that's the case before paying anything extra, though.
posted by xo at 11:40 AM on February 21, 2005


When bands book with talent agencies, many of them sign an 'exclusive representation' contract that gives away the right to make bookings themselves. If the band is a bigger one, you're going to need to go through their agent. Even if you get in touch with them directly, they'll forward you their agent's info as they're not allowed to make the booking themselves.

If it's a smaller band, though, you should be okay. As a promoter, most of the acts I deal with I contact directly, but the ones that already have a talent agency almost always require me to go through the agency.
posted by Jairus at 11:50 AM on February 21, 2005


I do some of this work in NYC, and I can tell you that the markup fees that the agencies charge are EXORBITANT! If at all possible, try to deal directly with the band. You should be able to save yourself a lot of money and still pay the band very well.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 12:02 PM on February 21, 2005


P.S. - you should ask for a contract, be prepared to pay half up front, be very specific about who will play what when (i.e., keyboards and trumpet show up early to play Wagner's Wedding March for the ceremony, then perform for 60 minutes during the cocktail reception. Then the whole band performs two dinner sets of Jazz followed by three dance sets. Or whatever.). Be specific about songs that you want to hear, what will be the first dance, when will toasts happen, when will breaks take place, and how long they will be.

You should be able to find sample contracts online.

And for God's sake, feed the band. There's ALWAYS extra food at these things. ;-)
posted by fingers_of_fire at 12:07 PM on February 21, 2005


Is the band a relatively well-known one, or a local act?
posted by Jairus at 12:26 PM on February 21, 2005


I know some good bands that play DC. Do you know what type of music you want? I could give you some recommendations for the DC area of awesome regional bands. Some of the smaller regional bands are pretty easy to book yourselves. One bit of warning: watch out for riders. Even regional small bands might try to back end something into the contract.
posted by dios at 12:58 PM on February 21, 2005


Jairus: We're looking at local bands, nobody big.

dios: We're looking for a band that can play the standard Jewish wedding stuff (e.g., Hava Nagila) as well as some Motown, some Sinatra, and some 80s/90s pop/funk stuff. Basically, a band that can keep the gen Xers happy while thowing the occasional bone to the old folks. Not a lot of detail, I know, just looking for a band that can keep things fun. We'd appreciate any suggestions. Email address in profile.
posted by i love cheese at 1:55 PM on February 21, 2005


Do yourself a big favor and go through a booking agency. I have many friends in many bands. I also have friends who run booking agencies. One lesson that I've learned over the years is that the ability to perform music has nothing to do with the ability to show up at the right place at the right time and play the right music at the right price. Booking agencies make sure that this happens. If your band is too hung over, they'll find another band to play.

It's kind of like having an agent when booking airline tickets: totally unnecessary, unless something goes wrong. And something always goes wrong.
posted by waldo at 1:59 PM on February 21, 2005


You should try the Washington DC American Federation of Musician's Local. They may or may not have something for you. Union musician's tend to be pretty darn good and many seem to specialize in wedding-type gigs as they're far more lucrative than bar gigs. They may be willing to recommend a booker suitable for a wedding band if they don't have anyone on their roles.

This is assuming you'd like a wedding band that specializes in background music for corporate or wedding gigs rather than a group that plays originals.
posted by stet at 2:27 PM on February 21, 2005


There's truth to what waldo says - playing a wedding is a skill in and of itself which overlaps but is not completely the same as being a good musician. And if you go through an agency, you will definitely get people who have a lot of experience playing weddings and who know how to handle it professionally. But you will also pay a lot more money for it. What you are looking for is (I say this without any judgement whatsoever) pretty basic, so any experienced musician will be able to pull this off. The trick is finding one you trust, who you feel comfortable with and who you can communicate with. They are out there and they can save you money while still making a great wedding for you. It may be harder to find them, so you need to decide if that time is worth the money you save by not paying an agency's fees.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 6:57 PM on February 21, 2005


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