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Function Junction, Helpful Advice – Booking advice for hiring a live band

Before you book

Can I provisionally book an act?

We are happy to ask an act to hold a date on first refusal for you. This means that if someone else wants to book them, you are first in the queue. It is only fair to warn you that first refusals are not 100% reliable (such as when an act member takes another booking without first checking with the act leader) so are not a substitute for a signed contract.

If I book a band do I also need to book a DJ?

This is very much a personal choice. Nearly all bands provide recorded music during their breaks, but an iPod or compilation CD cannot mix tracks on the fly, play requests and respond to an audience like a DJ! On the other hand, it is worth bearing in mind that in our experience guests are usually not in the mood to start dancing until 8.30 or 9.00 pm, or even later if it's a summer evening. So where the music has to finish by midnight, a DJ will probably only be required to provide an hour or so of music for dancing, and may not be worth paying the extra for.

Can I see an act at a live performance before booking them?

A few of our acts regularly play at pubs and clubs - in which case they are fairly easy to see live - but the majority only perform at private functions, where viewing is extremely difficult. Occasionally an act may be performing at a private function at a venue (such as a hotel) where there is still access for the general public, and in these cases it may be possible discreetly to see a few minutes of their performance. But most people can appreciate that it is awkward to have strangers intruding at weddings and other private functions, and that therefore viewing an act in advance may not be possible.

Why have you quoted me a price which is higher than the price on the Function Junction website?

Prices say "from..." because a number of things can affect the price. Most acts charge to travel to a venue which is more than 25 miles away from where they are based. Many acts also charge more for playing on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from May to the end of September, and most acts charge double for New Year's Eve. For evening bands, we quote for the band arriving at 6.00 pm and finishing their performance at midnight, so if you have asked for an earlier set-up or a late finish, this will also be reflected in the quote.

There are noise restrictions at my venue. Will a band still be able to play?

Some venues have restrictions on how loud the music can be. They may check this with a sound meter, or more commonly they may have a noise limiter installed. Noise limiters are pre-set to a certain level (eg: 95 decibels) and if the music exceeds this limit, after a brief warning, the act's power is cut off altogether! A lot of things can affect how a noise limiter operates -the positioning of the limiter, the acoustics of the room, noise from the audience, etc - so it is difficult to know to what extent the act's performance will be affected. Also some bands can cope better with noise limiters than others, particularly bands which use electronic drum kits. The first thing is to check with the venue what sort of bands regularly play there. If they say that pop/rock bands play there without problems then you should be OK. If they say that some bands manage and others don't, then you will need discuss this with Function Junction so that we only suggest appropriate bands. We have built up our own database of venues with sound limiters, so we usually have a pretty good idea of whether a band will be able to play there or not.

Can I book a band to perform abroad?

Function Junction have provided bands to play at weddings and other functions in France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Portugal so we have considerable experience of international bookings. In most cases, the band members travel by air to the destination, which means that they can bring smaller instruments with them (such as guitars, trumpets, etc) but not drum kits, keyboards or amplifiers. These therefore have to be hired locally along with PA system (loudspeakers, mixing desk, microphones, etc) and lights. As well as the band's fee, the customer must expect to cover all travel, accommodation and subsistence expenses, plus any equipment hire charges. If practicable and economic, occasionally a band may be able to drive to the destination bringing their equipment with them.

The booking process, contract, etc

Can a band arrive earlier than 6.00 pm or finish after midnight?

We usually quote for an evening band arriving no earlier than 6.00 pm and finishing playing at or before midnight. This is because these times are suitable for 80% of our bookings. Most bands can arrive earlier and finish later if necessary, but they will usually charge extra.

What happens if a band member is ill on the day of my function?

Under the terms and conditions that our acts sign in order for us to represent them, they must be able to provide "deps" or substitutes if anyone in the band is ill.

What happens if the act I book breaks up before the date of my function?

This is extremely rare, but in the very unlikely event of this happening, Function Junction would attempt to offer you an alternative band. As we have a large roster of acts, this puts you in a much more secure position than if you book a band direct.

How do I actually book the act I have chosen?

When you confirm that you want to book one of our acts we will draw up an online contract between you and the act. As well as including the date, price and venue address, we will need to know the act arrival/set-up time, and the nominal performance start and finish times. The actual set times can be confirmed later using the online coordination form. The contract also gives details of whether the act will be providing PA, lights and recorded music and whether they will require hot meals or light refreshments, etc. Once we have all the details we will set up the online contract and will e-mail you your login details. You will then need to log in, check the contract and the Terms and Conditions, and then, assuming you are happy with these, agree the contract and pay the booking fee, which is usually 20% of the total fee. After the contract has been agreed we will then set up your online coordination form.

My function is in a marquee. When would be a good time for the band to set up?

When a function or wedding reception is being held in a marquee there are a number of ways to organise the band's set-up. These will be affected by the timings of your event, the layout and size of the marquee, and whether there is outside access to the performance area (usually a removable tent flap) without having to go past the guests. Generally there are three options: Firstly the band can set up before the guests enter the marquee. The advantage is that the band will then be available to start whenever you want, and that their PA system will probably be available for speeches and recorded background music during the afternoon/evening. The disadvantage is that the band are likely to charge more for an earlier set-up time. Secondly the band can set up after the wedding breakfast or celebratory meal has finished. There is usually a natural break at this point in the proceedings and guests are not going to be too bothered about a band setting up in the background. The disadvantage of this might be that if things are running late, the band's performance start will also be delayed. The third option is for the band to set up in an adjoining music tent or behind a curtain in the main marquee. This means that the band do not need to arrive early, but will still be able to start in good time. The setting-up can be done quietly and (assuming there is external access to the performance area) the guests are unlikely to be aware of it. The disadvantage is that the space available or layout of the marquee may rule this out, or that this might increase the cost of the marquee.

Why does the contract ask us to provide hot meals for acts performing in the evening?

To play at an evening function, with a typical set-up time of 6.00 pm and a midnight finish, the musicians will probably leave home in the early afternoon and will not be back until 2.00 or 3.00 am. These times may even be extended where more travel is involved or where there is an early set-up or late finish. This means that musicians will typically be away from home for 12 hours or more, and this is why they need something fairly substantial to eat to keep them going. The most convenient option is for the act to eat at the venue, where they can be on hand to see how things are progressing. They would not necessarily expect to be served the food you are serving your guests, as we realise this can be very expensive, but equally a plate of sandwiches is not going to be adequate. We suggest some bar-style meal (such as chicken and chips) or even something microwaved. If it is not possible for meals to be provided at the venue, most acts are willing to accept a meal allowance of around £10 per head, in order for them to get their own food at a nearby pub. Eating from a buffet during one of their breaks is generally neither a popular nor practical option for most acts, as this puts them under excessive time pressure to eat quickly and start playing again.

Act/venue requirements

How much space does a band need? Do they require a raised stage?

Bands do not usually need a raised stage as such - this is up to you - but they will require a performance area generally of about 4m x 5m (13ft x 16ft). That said, many bands can squeeze into a smaller space if necessary, especially when this can make the difference to whether they get the booking or not! Where the event is being held in a marquee or similar, the band must have a level hard floor, as grass or matting are not safe surfaces.

How long does a band take to set up?

Bands with PA systems and lights generally need an hour to set up, though some need longer and a few are quicker. The ease of access to the performance area can also have an impact on how long they need. Acoustic acts, such as string quartets and acoustic jazz bands, only need around 15 minutes to set up.

What are the electrical power requirements for a band?

Our acts only require domestic-style three-pin 13 amp sockets. A jazz trio or ceilidh band will only need one or two sockets, bigger function bands would prefer a few more sockets if possible. Where more than one socket is required, we recommend that these are supplied from different ring mains so that the power is evenly distributed. For marquees, the contractor should be able to provide a 15 amp supply which is then split into separately fused 13 amp sockets. For marquees and outdoor events a surge protection device must be fitted. Total power loading will not exceed 6kVA and will probably be a lot less.

Can the act perform outside?

Most bands are able to play outside as long as they are provided with shelter from the elements and a safe reliable power supply. Because their instruments are so valuable, string quartets generally require a shelter or gazebo with three sides. Acoustic bands - such as "trad" jazz bands - do not need access to power and weather-permitting, are able to stroll or move around to play in several different locations.

Do I need a licence to have live music at my function?

No licence is required if you book an act to provide music at a private home. Public entertainment is now covered by the Licensing Act 2003 and the guidance from The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is very clear: "Any performances of live music that take place in private homes and gardens for private parties and weddings will not be licensable unless the host takes the unusual step of charging his guests to attend and with a view to making a profit." If your function is being held at a hotel, restaurant or similar sort of venue, the venue themselves should already hold an appropriate licence which covers both the supply of alcohol and what sort of entertainment is allowed. If you want to hold an event at some other venue which is neither a private home nor licensed premises, you can apply for a Temporary Event Notice from your local authority. Check with your local authority or at The Department for Culture, Media and Sport for more guidance. Similarly PRS for music (formerly the Performing Rights Society) who collect royalties on behalf of composers and publishers does not require a licence for a private event. PRS for music states: "PRS for Music does not make a charge for functions of a purely domestic or family nature, such as wedding receptions, christening parties or domestic birthday parties, when: attendance of guests is by personal invitation only (except for staff, performers, etc.); the function is held in a privately-booked room, not at that time open to the general public; there is no form of charge made for admission; there is no financial gain to the function's organiser or host (e.g. the person hiring the venue)." See PRS for music.

Are the acts covered for public liability insurance?

Under the terms of business that we have with our acts, they must have public liability insurance cover. If they are Musicians' Union members they receive automatic cover, but if they are not MU members they must have an alternative valid policy.

My venue has asked for a PAT certificate. Can you provide this?

PAT stands for Portable Appliance Test and covers the electrical safety of any piece of portable electrical equipment used in the workplace from a vacuum cleaner to a laptop computer. This is not a specific statutory test like an MOT, but comes under various Health and Safety at Work, and electrical safety regulations which state that any electrical equipment used in the workplace must be properly maintained and regularly inspected to ensure its safety. The frequency of the testing and the qualifications of the tester must simply be appropriate to the type of equipment and the environment in which it is being used, but most venues expect tests for a band's electrical equipment to be carried out annually by a qualified electrician. Under the terms of business that we have with our acts, they must be able to provide a PAT certificate where required.

Can I speak directly to the act?

We will provide you with the act's emergency contact number near the date of your event, but we don't provide you with the act's phone number before then because given the nature of their work it is often difficult for act leaders to talk on the phone. That said, if you feel the need to discuss things with the act on the phone, we suggest that you e-mail them via the online coordination form and ask them to call you, or ask them to e-mail their phone number to you.

Performance and other on-the-day details

After booking, who do I speak to about the on-the-day arrangements?

Function Junction have established an industry-leading reputation for making sure that our acts have all the information they need to do a great job on the day. Originally with our paper form, and now with our unique online coordination form, you will have the opportunity to tell the act how you want things to run, and they will then be able to confirm the arrangements. The online form also enables you to e-mail questions direct to the act.

Will a band perform my first dance - or other requests - if not on their song list?

There is no hard and fast rule and some bands are more willing than others to learn first dances and other requests. A key factor is whether the band feel that they can do a good job and that the song fits the genre of music they perform. They will also be more willing to learn a song that is not too obscure and which they will be able to use again. In all cases, the more advance warning the better. So ask early, even at the time of booking, if this is really important to you.

Can I use the band’s PA system and microphone for speeches?

Once it is set up, most bands are happy for their microphone and PA system to be used for speeches. Not many bands use radio microphones, so there will need to be a lead from the microphone to the PA and this may make it impractical if the speeches are taking place more than 15 metres (50 feet) from where the PA is positioned.

Can I choose the band's play list for the evening?

As well as booking a band for their musical excellence, you are also booking them for their extensive experience in knowing what will keep the audience happy and the dance floor full. You are welcome to make suggestions to the band - perhaps five "please play" songs and five "please don't play" songs - but the final play list needs to be left to them. This is because there are many factors involved in determining the order and composition of the play list, such as key signatures, tempos, the order of electronically sequenced backing tracks, etc. If this is important to you, it is worth checking before you book, as some bands are more flexible than others.

How long do bands play? Will this be enough?

The vast majority of bands will perform live for two hours. This is because performing for longer than this can risk damaging the lead singer's voice. The two hours is usually divided into two one-hour or three 40-minute sets. Many people are initially worried whether this is going to be enough live music for a whole evening, but in our experience two hours ends up being just right. Bear in mind that for an evening reception, people are usually not ready to start dancing until 8.30 pm or later. If a reception is finishing at midnight, the band's two hours of live performance plus recorded music during their breaks will fill the time without any problems. If your reception is finishing after midnight, you might want to consider hiring a DJ too. Some bands (especially if they have more than one singer) may also be able to play an extra 30-minute live set for an additional charge.

Can I or one my guests sing or play along with the band on the day?

This varies from band to band. Many are happy for you or a guest to "sit in" with them, but they will need advance warning and it is best to have agreed beforehand what songs are going to be performed.

Can I select the recorded music a band plays in their breaks?

This varies from band to band. A few have the facility for you to pick from a playlist, but the majority have pre-recorded compilations which cannot be easily edited. If it is important for you to select the recorded music then it may be easier to burn your own compilation CD or play your own MP3 player or iPod through the band's PA system.