“Why is Wedding Music So Expensive?” … How to get the most band for your buck

When you begin to look for wedding music, price quotes are thrown at you left, right and centre. “1,500…€2,500….€5,000…Are you for real? It’s only a few songs sure”. Yes, those figures are not uncommon for Wedding Bands in Ireland. At the end of the day, everyone’s budget is different and it’s understandable to be selective about the music that is played on your big day. After all, you only get married once… hopefully… (we do offer discounts to repeat customers)! It is important to do your research, decide how much you are willing to spend and if it’s really worth it.

This blog post will hopefully provide guidance to some future brides and grooms as they navigate the murky waters of wedding entertainment. It may also be useful to suppliers getting started in the business, who don’t yet know what to charge. All aboard? See you on the other side of this post!

Breakdown

When deciding on a wedding band there are three main factors that will affect the price.

The first, and most important, is the size of the band. Please don’t be surprised that the eleven- piece swing band you are eyeing up is charging between 3 and 5 thousand euro for one nights entertainment. When you tally up expenses and other business costs (which we detail later), there really isn’t much left at the end to split between the musicians. For your average wedding budget, a 4 or 5 piece band is the ideal size. Some bands can perform with as little as 2 or 3 members and can be aided by pre-recorded tracks to fill out the sound. These are an excellent option for those on a tight budget who want to have something different before the D.J takes over. As a member of a 6 and sometimes 7 piece band, which is larger than most, it would be easy for me to begrudge the smaller bands because they can provide lower price quotes. However, I appreciate the role they fill within the industry – more power to them, it’s just not really our thing. We like having a full band and playing everything live. That being said, there are larger bands with full brass sections who may feel we are undercutting them. There is always a bigger fish, just don’t get eaten!

The next most important factor is the time of year you have chosen to get married. Similar to most wedding services, some days are more in demand than others. In Ireland, the peak times for wedding bands are August and December. August, due to the weather and December due to the variety of Christmas parties and work functions that we many bands will be committed to. January, November and February are, for the most part, a bit quieter. So there, we have expertly established that weather is an issue in Ireland…I bet you’re glad you clicked on the link now! Hope is not lost if you have booked your wedding during a peek month. The price can also be determined by the day of the week. In our experience, 99.9% percent of weddings in Ireland take place between Thursday and Sunday. Thursday weddings have become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly for younger couples. A lot of money can be saved by opting for a Thursday; bands are more likely to be available on a Thursday than a Saturday and therefore may be willing to offer you some form of discount. It gets the band off the couch when they more than likely would have had the night off. Win for you, Win for the band… kind of… Depends on the traffic!

Ah yes, the last of the big three. You guessed it, location, location, location! A very divisive issue for band members and managers alike.  Some musicians will flat out refuse to travel for more than an hour to get to work but for others, this is not as much of an issue.  In my experience, it’s a little bit easier doing the driving, than being in the passenger seat, at least you have something to do! That tip is more for the musicians reading… if anyone is still reading.  So, once a band has agreed to drive the two and a half hours from Dublin to Sligo, they now have to decide what to charge for this service. A minimum charge would usually be the cost of Fuel, Tolls and €10 or €15 per head for food along the way. This could work out at roughly €150/ €200 for a 5 or 6 piece band travelling in a van and a car. This is before anyone is paid for the time they have spent travelling… I’m sure you can see how quickly the money adds up! So, if we were to pay each musician €10 per every hour spent in the car (a policy we go by when possible) between Dublin and Sligo, this would amount to an additional €250/ €300 in travel expenses. To summarise, if the band you want for you wedding in Sligo is based in Dublin, you can expect to pay anything from €200 to €500 extra, depending on their travel policy and that’s before any one has tuned a guitar or sang a note. There is of course a way to negate this expense – shop local. In the interest of saving a few trees and whales, it’s probably better for the environment to have a band from Sligo play at a Sligo wedding.

Set Length

Another hot topic for wedding bands is the question of how long they should play for at a wedding. This can vary a lot. The minimum is usually 2 hours and the max is about 3 hours, based on other bands we know and have worked with in the past. For ourselves, when we started, we offered 3 hour sets at weddings as we were all very young at the time and thought this would be a good selling point. We thought we could play for longer than those older bands who have sore backs but this was a little naïve on our part. At that point we weren’t used to doing weddings night after night and singing for 3 hours multiple nights in a row will do damage to vocal chords, guitar fingers and… backs. We learned that the hard way. We now offer 2 and a half hour sets with a short 10 minute break in the middle which coincides with tea and coffee being brought out by the hotel staff. There’s a natural lull in proceedings at this point. By playing for a little less time, we find that we can keep our own energy and that of the crowd up for longer. This way the crowd is on a high when we pass over the baton to the D.J and everyone is happy. Having said that, if a couple specifies that they want the band to play from 9.p.m to 12a.m, that can be accommodated but it is another factor to be considered when we are providing a quote.

Side note: It is very rare for a wedding run on time. This means that if a band is due to start at 9.30 and the speeches are still going strong at 10.00, you may feel a bit short changed when the band only play for an hour and a half before having to wrap up. We have heard stories of weddings running so far behind that the band only started at half 12 and as a result they only played a handful of songs before the venue imposed their 1a.m curfew. Don’t let this happen to you – keep the speeches to a minimum, you’ll have more time for dancing!

Package Deals

Like most bands and wedding suppliers in general, we offer package deals for couples that wish to avail of more than one of our services. Using the one supplier for all of your entertainment can be an excellent way of saving some money. Our full day package includes ceremony and drinks reception music, provided by our lead singer Heather accompanied on an acoustic guitar. As well as this, we offer a D.J for when the band finish up. Logistically, choosing one supplier makes sense because you will only pay for travel once. We will also charge less for services such as Ceremony music, if we know we will be performing at the afters for the same couple that evening.

Sample Wedding Pricing

“Hi Guys,

Just looking for availability and Price for our wedding on the 21st of March 2020 in (Blank) Hotel, Kilkenny.

Thanks,

Bride & Groom”

Let me break down how I would price this:

It’s a Saturday in March, the week after Paddy’s Day, not particularly on or off peek. Google maps indicates it will take roughly an hour and a half to get there from Dublin, which I know from past experience is approximately €70 in fuel. This is rounded up to €100 to pay for other expenses such as the rental of a rehearsal space and sheet music for song requests. Then we move on to paying the musicians. This will generally come in at €250 per head in an ideal world. We sometimes charge more and we sometimes charge less but it won’t stray far from this number. An additional €30 per head is added for travel time. Finally, €200 is added which we take as a deposit to secure bookings. This is put towards the general running costs of the band i.e. Public liability insurance, storage rental, equipment maintenance, equipment purchase, website costs, marketing…the list, unfortunately, does go on!

Musician fee’s – €280 x 6 = €1680

Expenses = €100

Deposit = €200

Total = €1,980…€2,000 for an even number.

Don’t hold us to this number because as you know by now, it varies from booking to booking but it’s good to know as a ball park figure before you get in touch with us regarding you’re event. We have done weddings for less and we have also don’t them for more. It all comes down to the factors we have listed above. A wedding on New Year’s Eve in Cork will cost a whole lot more than a Wedding in Dublin on the 11th of January.

“That’s a lot for one nights work, some people don’t make that in a week!”

Let’s tackle the elephant in the room – why is a musician getting paid an average of €250 for his night’s work? First ask yourself, is this a lot of money? To some people, it is. To others, especially some musicians, it’s not really and I’ll tell you why. €250 is simply a figure that we feel the market can bare. It’s not so low that we are gigging every night and making no money, nor is it so high that we are pricing ourselves out of the market entirely. Similarly, this figure of between €1900 and €2100 for our band is where we are happy working. We have enough customers to stay in business, but not so many that we can’t give each client the necessary attention.

Now let’s break down that musician fee. Each member of our band has spent a number of years learning how to play their instrument, before going on to complete a 4 year B.A in music performance. The cost of this education alone is €12,000, all in the pursuit of becoming a better performer. As well as this, with the exception of singers, every member of the band lugs around 3-5k of equipment with them each night in the form of Drums, Guitars, Keyboards and Amplifiers, all of which needs to be maintained and in most cases, insured. This is not to say that singers get off lightly (I can feel our singers preparing to give me a scolding), proper maintenance of the voice can cost thousands each year. It also requires constant vigilance regarding what’s put into their bodies. It’s not an easy life, Manuka honey is f**king expensive! Since we are not Metallica or U2, we have to haul and set up all of our own equipment; no roadies for us. This is an additional hour before a gig, and half hour after. Furthermore, each musician must learn upwards of two and a half hours of material and perform for that time. For weddings, our work day generally begins at 6pm and we get home at 3am or later. I’m sure you’re exhausted just reading this list of tasks… hopefully not due to boredom! After all of that, does €250 really still seem like a lot of money?

As usual this is just our take on pricing a wedding gig. In the greater scheme of things, what do we know? About anything? Well, whatever we do know we are happy to share, feel free to drop us a line and we can shed some light on any issues raised in our posts. 4till6@gmail.com or find us on Facebook. We also have a shiny new website, 4Till6.net

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