Category: Planning & Etiquette
For many Central Texans, music is a priority – in life, and for weddings. The sound of wedding music is a big deal, which is why it doesn’t hurt to seek some professional help for hiring a wedding band.
Few know the local music scene better than Nancy Coplin. In 1999, Coplin launched the now renowned live music program at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and over the course of 14 years she produced more than 7,000 shows in the terminal. Her passion? The music, of course, but also the musicians themselves – as she always strives to match singers and bands with great venues and good pay. Because of her leadership in turning up the volume on live music around the city, Coplin was named the first recipient of Texas Music Association’s “Hardest Working Person in Show Business” award. She later co-founded Women in Music Professional Society in 2007.
Now retired but still as busy as ever, Coplin books shows all over the country, among them the dozens of musical performances that make up the soundtrack to Austin’s Armadillo Christmas Bazaar each December. She also runs several businesses of her own – Public Space Music and Office Space Music, which exist to bring live music to other airports, business settings, special events and more.
All of this is why Coplin is the best go-to on hiring a wedding band. Here, she offers insights to help you find the right kind of rhythms (and avoid the wrong kind of blues) for your big day.
What to Consider When Hiring a Wedding Band
- Why Music Is Like Other Line Items: The caterer won’t come down, and the florist won’t come down, so don’t expect the band to come down. Like food and flowers, music is a commodity – and it’s important to set your priorities and establish realistic expectations.
- How to Budget for a Live Band: The cost for live music isn’t just about the length of the performance – there’s transportation, setup/teardown, sound system, sound check and being at the ready to perform, not to mention the waiting time before and between performances. A few considerations:
- Who, When and Where: The bigger the name, the bigger the cost. Secondarily, the size of the band. Next, as with hotels and plane tickets, bands are in higher demand on weekends, which means the price tag is higher. Lastly, consider the location – that is, where the band lives or is touring in relationship to where the wedding is taking place.
- Sound and Light: If you’re having the band tackle their own sound, they’ll need to bring in and set up their gear – and likely want to have a sound tech for quality assurance (potentially another fee, but a worthy one). Couples Beware: Sometimes your venue will offer you gear and a sound tech, which may seem like an opportunity for cost savings. Keep in mind that the venue’s equipment and sound tech may be better suited to PA systems than live music. Not to mention the fact that your band may prefer to work with sound techs they know and trust. Ask questions of the venue and the musicians for the best outcome. As for lighting, find out what the band needs – and mesh that with the stylistic ambience you’re looking to achieve.
- The Refreshments: A band will often receive complimentary food and beverages during the show, so you’ll want to clarify whether that’s an expectation and part of the contract. It’s definitely a nice-to-have, and sometimes a must-have.
- Dollars and Good Sense: It’s probably safe to assume you cannot afford Willie. FYI, $1,500 to $2,000 is the point of entry: $2,000 gets you an up-and-coming band, and $5,000 helps you secure a well-established band. As The Stones said, you can’t always get what you want, but you can get what you need – and something you’ll really enjoy.
- How and When to Work with Booking Agents: The options can seem endless, or at least as vast as the state of Texas, so it may be ideal to work with someone who can fine-tune your options for you. A booking agent has the savvy and ability to make the decision-making process easier and more turnkey. If you hire one, it’s helpful to have a genre of music in mind in the beginning, along with a couple of bands you like in that genre to provide a little guidance. For example, saying you want a “country” band isn’t specific enough, especially in Texas where there’s Western swing, classic country, red dirt country and much more. It’s also good to share the names of a few artists you like and songs you love.
- Why the Playlist Isn’t an Afterthought: If you have particular tunes you want your band to play – say, a certain wedding first dance song – make that known BEFORE you sign the contract. The reality is that some bands won’t know your favorite songs, let alone know how to play them. By presenting your musical must-haves at the start, you or your agent will be able to ensure you get what you want and avoid disappointments.
From Nancy’s Mouth to Your Ears: A Few Wedding Band Recommendations