Category Archives: Wedding Planning

NYC Wedding Band Prices

“How much does your band cost?”  That’s the first question we hear over and over.  With a little bit of research, you’ll probably find that prices for NYC Wedding Bands or Hudson Valley Wedding Bands can range from as little as $2,500 to well over $10,000.  Are the $10,000 bands really THAT good?  Here’s some perspective from us as an independent band, but also from us as having worked as musicians for various agencies around NYC.

If you’re working with an agency that has an office and staff working for it, consider this:  Who’s paying for their office?  Who’s paying for their sales people and administrative staff?  The answer is that the brides and grooms that book bands through that agency are.  On the low end, an agency will be pocketing at least 20% of the price that they’re charging you to book a band through them, and there are agencies that charge much more than that.  So in the end, the band is only getting a small piece of what you’re paying.

Working with an independent band has some great advantages.  Most individual bands aren’t going to have overhead costs nearly as high as those of an agency, so therefore independent bands’ prices usually aren’t nearly as high as the prices of an agency band.

Here’s a unique perspective on our band:  Many of the musicians in The Kazz Music Orchestra were a part of, or were substitutes, for a very busy band booked through two separate agencies.  Being completely honest, the agencies took a large portion of what clients were paying, and the musicians really weren’t being paid very much.  By forming our own independent band and doing all of our own bookings, we’ve put together a group that is able to charge less for performances (which our clients LOVE), yet at the same time, we’re able to pay ourselves better than if we were working through an agency.  It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Bottom Line:  If you’re looking at a NYC Wedding Band Agency, consider the fact that an independent band may very well have the same, or higher quality musicians than a big agency band, but may come at a much more reasonable price tag.  More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better in all cases, so be sure to do your research!  Enjoy the music!

Current Wedding Trends From a Band Leader’s Perspective

We’re nearing the halfway point of 2013, and The Kazz Music Orchestra has been really busy so far playing at a lot of Westchester Weddings, Hudson Valley Weddings, and really weddings all over the Tri-State Area. It’s been an incredibly fun year for us so far!

A big part of what we do to make our couples’ lives as easy is possible, beyond just providing awesome music, is coordinating the timing of everything with other vendors, and also taking care of all announcements. We also offer suggestions to our couples based on things that we’ve seen work well at other weddings, as well as things that haven’t worked so well. So, we thought it would be helpful to share what we’ve personally seen this year as a trend in the weddings we’ve played for.

The number one thing that we’re beginning to notice this year is that couples are really moving farther away from all of the formalities typically associated with wedding receptions and are telling us that they want their reception to feel more like “one big party with family and friends” rather than such a formal reception. So, the trend we’ve seen is fewer formalities, which makes time for more dance music! For example, we have not done a boquet or garter toss yet this year, and nor do we have anyone that is planning on doing this that we know about (yet).

Another thing that quite a few of our couples are completely doing away with the idea of a “Grand Entrance” with the band introducing the wedding party to their guests. Instead, we’re essentially seeing people enter the reception area and then once the bride and groom enter with the other guests, we’re typically just inviting them to the dance floor for their first dance. Actually quite often, the brides and grooms are asking us to invite everyone to join them on the dance floor for their dance as well. (Apparently not everyone likes having 150 guests staring at them as they dance alone for 3 minutes!)

It’ll be interesting to see whether the trend continues and whether any more of the “formalities” are gradually taken out of the mix, so hopefully it’s useful information for anyone out there planning their reception! Enjoy the party!

Wedding at The Montauk House – Brooklyn

Our most recent wedding was a unique one.  We played at The Montauk House in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  The Montauk House is a beautiful building from the 1880s that was modeled after a palace in Venice, Italy.  So, it was pretty amazing on the inside!

Most weddings feature a ceremony followed by a cocktail hour, and then a four hour reception.  This wedding was a bit unique, and we loved it!  There are two floors to the Montauk House.  The ceremony was held on the second floor, and immediately after the ceremony, guests were escorted out into some “overflow” rooms while the ceremony room was turned over to become the cocktail room.  During that time, the couple had a great mariachi band performing. 

The cocktail hour featured old 1920s or 1930s style jazz from an acoustic group with a female singer, and actually lasted for almost 3 hours.  Guests were served appetizers non-stop during that time, and that was essentially the meal.  Following that, we basically “led” them downstairs by starting our set with The Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin'”, which led guests into a two and a half hour dance party on the first floor. 

It was fun for us because the couple loved Motown / Soul music, so we were asked to only play music from that genre, which is one of our favorites to begin with!  We had our full horn section, so that made it even better!

It was an all-around great wedding for The Kazz Music Orchestra!  Only one more wedding, and a New Year’s Eve party in 2012, and then we’ve got a little break until wedding season 2013!  What a great year so far!

How Do Professional Bands Handle “Emergencies”?

Every bride and groom always wants to know, “What happens if someone in the band gets sick last minute before our wedding?”  The reality is that this can happen, along with a ton of other potential issues to us, or any band.  How we handle these situations is what makes us a truly professional band.

The list of things that can go wrong include car accidents, musician illness, getting stuck in terrible traffic, a death in the family, and a host of other things.  Occasionally as well, musicians in our band get called for major performance opportunities, including as featured in a previous blog entry, an opportunity to perform on Saturday Night Live. 

In our two year history, while our clients typically have never found out and have still absolutely loved our music, we have successfully managed through several “crisis” situations which, in addition to the last minute Saturday Night Live performance , have included musicians being called for European tours and performances weeks before a wedding, illness, and a logistical miscalculation that left one musician two hours away from a wedding reception when the reception was scheduled to begin in only one hour. 

In every situation above, including the situation where we had ONE hour to get a top-notch substitute to fill in for us, we were able to find someone on our substitute list that could step in to make sure that we were able to deliver premium entertainment for our wedding couples and their guests. 

Our clients should feel very comfortable that we are a band with a very deep listing of substitutes that are able to step into a performance situation with our band so that our clients and their guests are still able to fully enjoy the music and energy of the Kazz Music Orchestra.  You should expect nothing less from any band that you consider working with.  If a band isn’t willing to acknowledge this risk and can’t tell you how they manage through these situations, I would suggest looking elsewhere.  The reality is that emergencies come up.  Make sure your band is prepared!

Apt 3 Media’s New Wedding Promo Reel – With A Cameo from Kazz!

We worked with a wonderful and very talented videography team from Apt 3 Media back in May.  Brad and his team just completed their latest wedding promo reel, and The Kazz Music Orchestra shows up in it.  Check out their reel at:  http://vimeo.com/43652631.  If you’re looking for a videographer in the Tri-State area, I’d definitely recommend Brad and Apt 3 Media.  Check ’em out!

“We Want a Band and a DJ at our Wedding”

Once in a while, couples contact us telling us that they want to book both a DJ and a band for their wedding.  My first question is “Why would you need to do that?”  Even as a live musician, I’m not anti-DJ like many musicians are, but, I struggle with understanding why people would hire both a DJ and a band for their wedding.  The purpose of this post isn’t to try and take away work from DJs, but rather to save our clients money.    Here are a few thoughts:

  • From a cost perspective, it doesn’t matter to us if we’re going to perform less because there will be a DJ at a wedding as well.  Our time is still being booked for that date, and we still charge our standard prices.  I’m sure nearly every other band and every other DJ will do the same.  So, it’s not as if you’ll get a discount because both the band and the DJ will each be working a little bit less at your event, and therefore it’s inefficient from a cost perspective.  With weddings as expensive as they are already, this would seem like an obvious way to save money.
  • Any band that you hire should already be planning on playing recorded music during any breaks that they may take during the evening.  So, you’ll still be getting the recorded music to fill the spaces when the band isn’t performing.  While you may not get the same quality mixing that a DJ would be able to do, any band should be more than capable of playing recorded dance music for your guests that will keep them on the dance floor. 
  • Some songs sound better on recordings than they would being performed by a live band.  I won’t argue with this.  But, if you refer to the bullet point above, maybe you’d want to throw in 20 minutes of recorded dance music that wouldn’t necessarily sound as good from a live band, or perhaps that is in a style that the band doesn’t specialize in.  It shouldn’t be a problem for a band to play some recorded dance music for you as well. 
  • “DJs have special training on how to emcee an event” – I disagree with this in several ways.  Bands typically provide emcee services for all weddings they perform at.  Any person who can speak with inflection can do a good job as an emcee. 
  • “DJs have a library of thousands of songs.” – That’s wonderful, except during your four hour wedding reception, you’re going to hear less than 100 songs.  Many of the same songs are requested at every wedding.  So, if your band has a great repertoire of dance music and you still want to supplement it with some selected recorded songs, that library of thousands of songs from your DJ isn’t going to be that critical. 

I’ve been to many weddings where there were DJs, and they were a LOT of fun.  So once again, I am not downplaying how great a DJ can be for entertaining a crowd.  However, I think in nearly every instance, if you want some recorded music at your wedding along with a live band, that a good band will also be able to successfully manage your recorded requests as well.  Enjoy the music!

First Dances – Should the Band Play, or Should You Dance to a Recording?

One of the considerations in planning a wedding is whether or not to have the band perform your first dance together, or whether you should dance to a recording of your first dance song.  From a bandleader’s perspective, here are a few thoughts:

  • If you’re going to take dance lessons and learn a routine for your song, you may want to consider dancing to the recording.  You’ll be spending many hours practicing to the recording, and that’s what you’ll feel comfortable with.  When a band plays a song, even if they play the exact same arrangement of the recording you’ve practiced to, it’s still not going to sound quite the same as the recording.  If you’re going to be focusing really hard on your footwork and getting your steps right, having something that doesn’t sound 100% familiar might be a bit of a distraction.  Even if you’re not taking dance lessons together, dancing to the recording still allows you to practice prior to the wedding, so it still may be the preferable choice for you. 
  • If you’re not going to take dance lessons and are just going to dance together and truly enjoy the moment, having the live band you hired perform your song can make for a very special dance. 
  • Most bands, The Kazz Music Orchestra included, will learn a set number of special requests for an event.  If you’ve got a lot of other dance songs that you’d like the band to play, dancing to a recording for your first dance may not be a bad idea, so that you can have the band learn another one of your song requests. 

Overall, there’s no right or wrong answer.  It ultimately comes down to your preferences and what you feel most comfortable with.  The most important thing to remember is that it is your first dance together as a married couple, so while not tripping over your two left feet, the most important thing is to savor the moment!  See you on the dance floor!

Favorite First Dance Request

One of the most fun things about performing at weddings is learning special requests for the bride and groom, whether it’s for their first dance together, or just songs that they really enjoy.  Many times, we are introduced to new artists, or to songs that we’ve never heard by artists that we already know quite well, so these requests turn into a great education for us. 

While speaking with a couple whose wedding our band was going to be performing for, the bride asked, “What is the best song request you’ve ever been asked to learn?”  I was pretty quickly able to answer Krystle Warren’s “Circles”, which we played for Lexi and Christophe in Easton, PA in July of 2011.  It was a song I had never heard of, and it was by an artist I had never heard of.  But, when Lexi and Christophe shared the link with me, I fell in love.  It is definitely not a traditional wedding first dance, but it is still an incredible song, and it was fun and challenging for The Kazz Music Orchestra to do the song justice.  We received a thumbs up from Christophe after the performance, so I think we did OK.  Here is Krystle Warren’s performance of the song. 

Are Preferred Vendors Really Preferred By Your Venue?

Weddings aren’t cheap.  I know.  I paid for my own wedding.  So, if you’re going to be relying on your venue to recommend vendors to you, wouldn’t you expect those vendors to be people that actually provide a high quality service at a value compared to other similar vendors?  With some venues that’s not necessarily the case.  Please understand that this does not apply to all venues and all preferred vendor lists that you will come across.  However, for me it is an ethical issue that I feel is worth writing about to educate the couples that we work with.

One thing that venues won’t necessarily tell you (even if you ask…) is how vendors get onto their preferred vendor lists.  Unfortunately, it’s not always necessarily because of the great service that the vendor offers.  It’s because the vendor has paid to be on that list.  Many venues have preferred vendor catalogs or lists and they essentially sell space in those catalogs or lists to vendors.  Before you immediately turn to a venue’s preferred vendor list, find out what the process is to get onto that list. Make sure the vendors you’re looking at didn’t pay to obtain their preferred status. If they do pay, that doesn’t mean you will be getting great service or bad service, it just means that you should be aware of what the label “preferred” really means. Many vendors who do pay for “preferred” status are fantastic.

If a venue does basically sell “preferred” status as if it were an advertisement, make sure you do your research on the vendor. Call up past clients. Check independent websites, like Wedding Wire or The Knot to see what other people have said about them. Doing your homework can help make sure you’re getting the best quality service for your investment in your wedding.  Happy Planning!

How to Make An Informed Decision About Choosing A Wedding Band

by:  Joe Kaczorowski – Saxophonist / Director of The Kazz Music Orchestra – www.kazzmusic.com

Click HERE to download this article as a PDF file.

As someone who has been working with wedding bands both as a leader and a sideman since I moved to the New York City and Hudson Valley areas in 2001, I’ve had many opportunities to work with couples on planning the music for their wedding, so by this point, I’d say that I feel pretty comfortable about the process.  However, if you’re getting married, chances are that choosing and booking bands isn’t something you do every day.  So, it’s natural that most brides and grooms aren’t incredibly comfortable in knowing the right questions to ask or things to consider when booking a band.  This article will provide you with insight into what you should be considering when choosing a band for your wedding. 

The Importance of a Good Band

Ever been to a wedding where the music was bad?  If you have, I don’t need to say anything else.  If you haven’t, consider yourself lucky.  It has been my experience that the things most often talked about after a wedding are the venue, the food, and the music.  The music can absolutely make or break it in terms of your guests having a good time, so I’d say it’s a pretty important decision to get right!

“How Much Do You Cost?”

Every wedding professional will tell you that this is almost always the first question that we hear.  There are a lot of mediocre bands that are cheap, and there are also a lot of really good bands that charge in excess of $10,000 to play at a wedding.  There are also a lot of mediocre bands that charge a lot of money.  The tricky part is finding a band that is a good value – one that sounds amazing, is priced right, and will be there to help you constantly through your planning process.  That last part is really important, because the planning that you do up front with your band, venue, caterer, and wedding coordinator can really help to ensure that things flow smoothly on your wedding day!

Comparing Band Videos and Audio Recordings

There are a lot of standard songs that almost every wedding band performs, and any serious band should have videos, or at least audio recordings of some of those songs online.  See if you can find a common song that the bands you are considering have all recorded.  Then, do an apples-to-apples comparison between the bands to see what versions you like best.

If you are considering a band that only has audio, but no video, one very important question to ask would be whether or not the band uses a set group of musicians (particularly singers), or a rotating cast of characters.  With no video, it becomes easy for them to pull the old switcheroo on their clients since you can’t actually see what the band looks like.  There are agencies that use this technique all the time.  If you see or hear a singer in a video that you like, ask to make sure that’s the singer you’re going to be getting at your wedding.

See the Band Live

The ideal place would be to see a band performing at a wedding, but this isn’t always possible.  You may occasionally get a couple that’s OK with you coming to see your prospective band play at their wedding, but keep in mind that this may not always be possible.  The big benefit to seeing a band at a wedding is that you can see how they work the flow of events for the reception, and also how well they keep the guests on the dance floor. 

If that’s not possible, see if the band holds monthly showcases, or performs at a bar or club regularly.  These options usually leave plenty of time to talk to the band members, and to get to know them a little bit.  Are they the kind of people you’d want your guests interacting with?

Some other considerations for when you go hear a band play live:

  • Does the band stop after every song and take time between songs?  This can kill the dancing in a hurry at a wedding.  A good wedding band should be able to string songs together in the same way a DJ so that they’re not stopping all the time. 
  • How loud is the band?  Could you picture your grandma with her hands over her ears because the band’s subwoofer is about to knock her wig off of her head?  Or, do you think you’d be able to talk comfortably with guests if you were sitting at a table, or standing at a bar with them while the band was playing?  
  • Are they playing well-known hits, or are they playing obscure songs off of their playlist that only audiophiles are going to recognize? 

“How Many Singers Do They Have?”

Some people think that if a band has five people that sing, that this is going to make the band that much more amazing.  Here are a few perspectives on the number of singers:

  • If there are five singers and they can all sing in harmony together, then you might be in for a treat with some great five-part harmonies.  If they don’t harmonize well, you might get a lot of unison backing vocals, where it doesn’t really matter if there’s one person or three people singing the same backup lines.
  • Some bands need five singers because each singer can only sing really well in one style.  You should be able to see this just from watching a band’s demo video.  Odds are that each singer will typically only sing lead vocals for one or two styles of music because they just don’t sound that great on other styles.   
  • Rather than find a band with five singers that can only sing in one or two styles each, it can be a lot more cost effective to find a band with fewer singers, but ones that are more versatile and that can sound great in any style.  From a cost perspective, the singers are usually the highest paid musicians in the band, so the more and more singers you add, the bigger and bigger your bill is going to be. 

Band Marketing Tricks

“We feature a Grammy-nominated guitarist!”  There are all kinds of tricks like this that bands will use to promote themselves that aren’t really relevant to what you need for a wedding, which is a band that will get your guests up dancing and keep your wedding flowing smoothly.  Do you need a Grammy-nominated guitarist?  Odds are that your guests aren’t going to walk out of your wedding talking about an amazing guitar solo on “Living On A Prayer” for years to come.  They’ll likely remember the singers, because they’re the most identifiable “sound” of the band.  So, you may want to ask about the singers’ credentials, but you shouldn’t base your decisions on what bands or artists people have recorded with.  In the end, just because a band has played the Super Bowl halftime show doesn’t mean that they’ll be a great dance band for a wedding.  At the same time, a band that doesn’t need to have any huge credentials to really know how to work a crowd at a wedding.  Keep the focus on the sound of the band as a whole, and how they will fit into your vision for your wedding.

Talk To Other Brides and Grooms Who Used the Band

If you’ve found a band that you like, ask them for some references to call.  If they can’t give you some names and numbers, then the band may not have much wedding experience.  The same questions that applied to seeing the band live could be asked of these references too.  Here are a few others you might also want to ask:

  • What was the band like in terms of the planning process?  How responsive were they?  How organized were they?
  • Were they accommodating in learning requests? 
  • What did you like most about working with the band? 
  • What did you like least about working with the band?  (You need to hear the good and bad about every group… No group is perfect!)
  • Were they on time?
  • What did your guests think of the band?
  • How well did the band do while emceeing the wedding?

Online References

Every band is going to tell you how wonderful they are and highlight their best reviews on their website.  But, what kind of reputation do they really have online?  A lot of brides and grooms will write reviews of their vendors online after their weddings.  Spend some time looking for your band on different wedding websites and see what people are really saying about them.  Two of the most common places to look for reviews are Wedding Wire and The Knot.  See what you can find!

The Planning Process

A good bandleader will be a huge asset to you in the planning process for your wedding.  Planning involves a lot more than just figuring out what your first dance is going to be.  A top-notch band will utilize a planning document that will make the whole process easy for you and lay out all of your key decisions, including a timeline, music requests, introductions and announcements (and phonetic pronunciations of everyone that will be introduced), as well as other key aspects of your wedding. 

A well-organized bandleader will also share this document with your other key vendors prior to you wedding.  It will be very helpful to your photographer to know that your speeches and toasts will be happening at a certain time, so that he or she doesn’t run off for a bathroom break and miss all of the speeches!  Ask the bands you are considering what they typically do during the planning process, and how they will work with your other wedding vendors prior to your wedding.

Ceremony and Cocktail Hour Music

Odds are that in addition to reception music, you will probably be looking for music for your ceremony and cocktail hour as well.  A good band should be able to provide music for both of these aspects of your wedding.  The band should be able to provide this music much cheaper than if you were to look to other musical groups, as the band will already be on-site for your wedding. 

Most commonly, ceremony music is provided by the pianist from the band.  If you are interested in classical music for your ceremony, there are a few things to consider:

  • You may want to ask what sort of classical music background the band’s pianist has.  As a performer, classical music and reception music are very different styles in terms of performance requirements. 
  • Does the venue have a piano on-site?  If they do, and you’ll be using it for your ceremony, make sure you work into your agreement with the venue that the piano is to be tuned the week before your wedding.  Having beautiful ceremony music played on an out of tune piano will take the beauty out of the music in a hurry.
  • If you’re not familiar with classical music selections, ask the bandleader.  They should be able to recommend some common wedding pieces.  If the pianist is well-versed in classical music and you’re looking for something a little less traditional, ask the bandleader or pianist for other recommendations outside of the norm, and then to listen to them online. 
  • You don’t have to have classical music played at your ceremony.  Your ceremony musician should also be able to play instrumental versions of more contemporary pop music as well. 
  • If you are getting married in a church, keep in mind that many churches may require you to use their organist, and that many churches may not allow secular music to be played at the church.  Find these things out before booking your band’s pianist to play for your ceremony.

For the cocktail hour, a good band will probably give you several different options for music.  The most basic would likely be a solo pianist or guitar.  Most cocktail hours don’t have anything more than a jazz trio at their largest.  In nearly all cases, there are no drums used at the cocktail hour.  One thing to remember is that during the cocktail hour, you’ll want your guests to be able to talk without yelling over each other.  So, ask the bandleader to keep the music soft and light for the cocktail hour. 

Band Breaks

Some bands are going to take a break every 45 minutes no matter what.  Others will provide continuous music the entire night through – even providing a solo instrumentalist during dinner for you.  Others may take a few strategically-timed full-band breaks.  If you’re going to be paying thousands of dollars for a band, you should probably try to gauge how much music you’re actually going to get out of the band.  Ask the bands you are considering when they will be breaking.  If it sounds like too many breaks, then talk to the leader and see if you can work out a compromise. 

Insurance

Any serious band is going to carry an insurance policy.  If the band tells you that insurance isn’t necessary, or that they don’t typically carry a policy, this may be an indicator that they’re not very actively involved in the wedding industry, as this is becoming an increasingly common requirement for bands. 

The policy that many venues require of bands is a $1,000,000 liability policy that basically covers the band in case one of their PA speakers falls and crushes a bridesmaid, or in case the groom trips over the drum set, or in case the band somehow trashes and destroys the venue.

A Note About Wedding Music Agencies

There are many wedding music agencies that represent a variety of bands.  The prices quoted by agencies will include what is typically a pretty hefty agency fee.  This fee can easily be at least 20% of the price, and is usually well over $1,000.  The agency fee will typically far exceed what any musician in the band will be getting paid.  This fee will cover the agency’s time for working with you on the planning process for your wedding.  With some agencies, you may have little or no actual interaction with the actual band until right before your wedding.

Agencies use several selling points:

  • Access to premium bands – It is true that many premium bands are booked through agencies, and this is really what much of the premium you will pay will go towards – being able to access these premium bands.  However, there are also many top-notch bands that do not work through agencies, and these groups can potentially save you thousands of dollars if you can find them.
  • Agencies have access to a network of substitute musicians in case one of the musicians in the band you have booked is unavailable at the last minute.  This isn’t a great selling point, because any good musician in any band should have a half dozen names that they can recommend in a pinch to fill in for them, so don’t let agencies fool you into this being something that only they are able to offer. 
  • Agencies are fully insured.  We already discussed that any serious band that is very involved in the wedding industry should have their own insurance policy.  So, this isn’t a great selling point.

Conclusion

Finding the right band takes time and research.  There are many great bands on the market.  You don’t have to pay $10,000+ to get an amazing band for your wedding.  In fact, some of the bands that cost half as much as those bands are twice as good in my estimation.  So, don’t assume that the more expensive a group is, the better they are.  Use your eyes and ears.  Listen to the band.  See how they interact with people.  Talk to other people who have used the band.  Then, decide which band is right for you and your budget.  Enjoy the music!