Planning an event can no doubt be a stressful process, and with a whole array of suppliers thrown into the mix, it's important to know exactly where you stand when it comes to the nitty gritty details.
Just like booking a venue, the process of hiring a band comes with its own set of T&Cs that you'll need to take care of before signing on the dotted line. With this in mind, we've come up with some essential questions to ask your venue at the very start of your event planning journey.
1. Does your license allow live music?
Let's start with the obvious – does your venue even allow live music? With noise pollution, aggrieved neighbours and stricter laws taking effect, many venues simply aren't granted permission to host live music as part of their license agreement. Having said that, this will often only apply to amplified live music and so if you've already committed to your dream venue, there may still be options on the cards such as unplugged acoustic acts, string quartets or perhaps even a quirky gypsy jazz band in the corner.
2. Do you have a sound limiter?
Sound limiters are simply all the rage these days; with those pesky musicians pushing the volume at every available turn (apparently), sound limiters have now become the must have tool in the venue arsenal. But what are they are how do they work?
A sound limiter is a small device that detects the volume of the room by way of an attached microphone. Should the volume go beyond the set limit for more than a few seconds, the power source will automatically be cut – much to the disappointment of the musicians and guests!
Sound limiters are usually set anywhere between 85db and 105db, depending on the venue's circumstances. Most professional party bands these days are familiar with sound limiters and accept them as par for the course, however, some bands do have a threshold on what they feel comfortable with and simply won't perform below a certain volume; this is due to the negative effect this can have on their sound and also the potential damage a power cut can cause valve amplifiers.
3. Do you have a built-in PA system?
Many venues have their own sound systems built in and so if this is the case you'll need to run the PA spec past your chosen band to double check everything is a-ok. Similarly, your venue may also request the band's tech spec in order to confirm suitability.
If the venue does have its own PA installed, you'll need to find out if this is purely optional or if the band are obliged to use it. If so, the venue may also require you to hire their own in-house sound engineer with knowledge of the system in order to ensure that things run smoothly.
4. Are there any other sound limitations?
There are numerous other limitations that may come into play. For example, some venues only allow electronic drums rather than a traditional live drum kit. This is because an acoustic drum kit is often the loudest element of the band and keeping the volume down can be extremely difficult, even with the use of 'hot rods’ (softer sounding drum sticks).
Going one step further, certain venues don't allow the use of guitar or bass amps, instead, bands may be required to go straight into the in-house PA system and use in-ear monitors instead of on-stage speakers.
5. How much space is available for the band and how many musicians can you accommodate?
This is an important one – on more than a few occasions we've experienced clients who have booked a large band only to find out that their venue will only accommodate a trio or 4-piece line-up.
Always ask your band for their required space requirements and double check with your venue before deciding on your line-up. As a general rule, we usually recommend a minimum of one meter width for every member and around three meters depth in order to cater for the drummer.
6. Is there access to a sufficient power supply?
Whilst an obvious one, it is something to think about, especially if you're planning an outside event. With many musicians open to outside performances, the majority will require power supply, whether that be from an outside socket, extension from the main building or from a generator.
7. Are you able to provide meals and soft drinks for musicians?
Musicians and bands will invariably have a rider built into their contract requesting meals and soft drinks. To avoid any awkward conversations further down the line, check with your venue to see if this is something they can accommodate. Some venues may not have the facilities in which case I'd encourage you to speak with your musicians beforehand in order to work out an alternative arrangement.
8. Is there sufficient unloading and parking available for the band?
This query is targetted more towards central city venues where unloading and parking is often a little more restricted. Your band will most definitely need a legal space to park their vehicles when loading in, so do check with your venue to ensure you'll have access to a loading bay. Further more, if parking isn't available on-site, you may be required to cover the band's parking fees – another thing to take on board when working out your entertainment budget.
9. Is there a green room available for musicians?
Many bands do require a comfortable place to get changed into their performance gear, and whilst the back of the van is an obvious firm favourite, you may be asked to provide a green room at the venue as well. Most venues will be able to accommodate this but it's always worth investigating early on.
10. Is there a live music curfew?
Always ask about your venue's curfew, as whilst most offer a midnight finish, some venues do require live music to end a little earlier in order to adhere to their license agreement.
This list is by no means exhaustive, there may be numerous other things that come up during the planning process, but this should put you in good stead for a smooth run up to your event.
Written by Adam Mezzatesta