So now I am going to answer the question. How much should you, could you spend on music for your wedding? My first answer is, as much as you can, it is THAT important. With that said, here is the range. I know some deejays that start around $750. (Surprised to hear me say this? Thought I would start at the $25,000 figure? We’ll get there.) Most of the deejays I use go for around $ 2500-$ 3500. There is definitely a difference between the $750 DJs and the $2500 DJs. The deejays with a following, not to mention the celebrity deejays charge as much as $10,000-$50,000 depending upon their reputation and the circles in which they travel. Then there are a whole crop of deejays in between those prices, some bring a few live musicians, some have elaborate lighting packages that can be added, staging, dancers, and emcees.
With bands, if your party will not have dancing, then the ensembles can be smaller and will certainly cost less than a larger ensemble. Two to four musicians can make a lovely presentation, whether the repertoire is classical, jazz, or pop. Anytime you add a vocalist, the price will go up because you also need a sound system (a microphone into an amplifier into speakers, usually on tripods, with cables and power cords. It is a whole set-up and adds to the cost.) If you want dancing it is important to establish a range of styles that you want, which will affect the instrumentation of the band, how much variety is needed. This is where there is a tendency for the quality to fall off; in order to fit into a budget, bands sometimes try to play music they are not properly staffed for, or not quite qualified for. If you want dancing at your party and you want live music, you must make sure that the band you hire has enough personnel to cover the different styles of music needed. One thing about weddings, there is usually a very wide range of music played, partly because there are guests of different age groups and different backgrounds, and because there is usually a lot of time for dancing. We need to mix it up, keep it moving, encourage different types of people to enjoy partying at the same time. Like an airplane, the music needs to be able to taxi, take off, ascend, cruise, and land- several times throughout an event. To continue this analogy, you might say that the band is the plane and the guests are the passengers and are on a journey toward a destination. The band is the vehicle that takes them there.
So what should it cost? Can every band be an airplane? Are the airplane bands the ones that cost $ 20,000? (I am making fun of myself now.) I have been told that there are bands in the $3500-$5000 range, but I must confess that I do not know of any. There is enough budget in there for each band member to make a night’s pay and have someone bring a sound system, and the band is probably not part of a larger organization that has internal support systems. There are probably decent bands in that range where the leader does everything himself (finance and payroll, hiring the musicians, writing arrangements, compiling sales materials, doing presentations to perspective clients… you would be amazed at what goes into putting this all together!). One might wonder, though, if the leader is so busy doing all of the administrative details of running a small business, will he or she have time to concentrate on the creative and musical elements, like rehearsing the band?
From my experience running a live music company that specializes in polished presentation and customized performance, competitive prices for the high-end market start in the $11,000 range and go up from there. Prices were higher in the past, but now, to accommodate the economic changes in our culture, and since “small is the new big,” many high-end music providers have downsized some products, and are offering smaller versions at more affordable prices.
While bands do exist at all price points, in the Luxury Bridal Market you will most likely spend over $12,000 for the music (a small group for the ceremony, a few musicians at cocktail hour, and a band of minimally 10 people) and as much $30,000 or even more for something larger, extremely unique or customized. Substantial string ensembles are also a specialty of some companies (like mine!) and add to the cost, and I will write about that in a future posting.
If these numbers seem high, here is some info to round out the equation.
Here are the (current) going rates for some headline entertainers that will perform at your wedding….for the “right price.”
The Rolling Stones $9 million*
Paul McCartney $1.5 million*
Jennifer Lopez $1 million*
(*all prices are approximate)
Believe it or not, I still have more to say on this topic. So please read Part 3 of this series, and find out what goes into some of the pricing.