Most bands that have played bar gigs for a few months eventually get the itch to move on to a higher pay grade. It usually starts when a musician who hasn’t had the wedding/country club/festival/corporate party experience talks to another one who has. As the tale of great working conditions, great pay, and free food unfolds, the musician who has never played for such occasions suddenly begins thinking his band could do that. Why not?
But before you start calling four-star hotels and resorts to book your band, all the musicians need to collectively take a breath and take stock of where they are now. You must honestly answer this questions before you proceed: is your band really ready for an upscale gig? You may think so, but consider that some wedding and country club gigs can pay anywhere from $300 to $500 per musician, depending on location, performance duration, and the size of the band. Then consider the following:
- Does the band have the right look? Do you play gigs in shorts and t-shirts, or do you make an effort to dress up and look like you’re actually worth the money you charge? You don’t have to wear tuxedos, but wedding planners will balk at a press photo that shows a band dressed in clothes that look slept in. Have some quality promo shots made with everyone in business casual or similar attire. Hand out those photos only to individuals who book top-shelf venues or events.
- Does the band have adequate PA and lights to pull off a show in a large banquet hall? Lights and a sound system may come with the venue, but don’t count on it. And if you wind up bringing an underpowered PA, or if your mixer is unreliable, you’re going to run into problems. You may have to rent better equipment or hire someone to run sound for you, in which case you’ll need to add that into the budget as well.
- Do band members have the necessary equipment to play a large banquet hall? Musicians will need to do some serious investing if the drums are warped or sound dead, the bass player’s amp crackles, or the keyboard player’s horn and string sounds are too cheesy.
- Does the band regularly update its repertoire? Danger, Will Robinson, if you rely on the same, tired set list you’ve had for the last year! Those at the reception will have requests, and you’ll be expected to be able to play at least a few of them. You’ll probably have to learn some new songs for weddings, and if you’re a rock band, chances are you won’t play “Butterfly Kisses,” Stand By Me,” “At Last,” or “Because You Loved Me” at your regular venues. If some in the band don’t learn new music well, you had better pass on such gigs. In fact, if some in the band can’t do that, you have (or will have) other problems besides booking higher-paying events.
- Does the band have regular rehearsals? If your band has a “learn it at the gig” approach, you have even bigger problems.
If you answered yes to these questions, you’re worth the big money. You’re ready to take the plunge and start networking with wedding planners, resort owners, and anyone else you know who might be able to help you land one of these shows. If you’re not, figure out where the band needs to upgrade and do it. From a dress code to regular rehearsals, from investing in new equipment to investing in new personnel, it’s easier than you think – you just have to take the long view and make it happen.
And remember: if you seriously want to earn better money as a musician, you can’t afford not to take the long view.
In my next post I’ll discuss some networking techniques that can help you book weddings and corporate events.