Whether you’re planning a wedding, a corporate event, or a holiday party, the music you choose plays a significant role in the overall guest experience. Music impacts our emotions and well-being. It has the power to uplift spirits, raise energy levels, and foster a peaceful ambiance.
But choosing the ideal entertainment for varied events is challenging, and the sticking point is often the choice between a DJ or live band music. Which is better for your event? Read on for our rundown of the pros and cons of each, best practices for hiring, and questions to ask every music vendor.
The pros and cons of whether to hire a live band or a DJ:
See the pros of hiring a live band for your event
1. Motivation skills. A live band can get your crowd motivated. This is perfect for weddings, parties, and high-energy events with dancing.
2. Better interaction. Talented band leaders can rally the crowd and switch gears on a dime. Bands can also alter the tempo for a variety of songs to accommodate the audience.
3. Entertained for all. A live band is fun to dance, listen to, and watch. Even guests who don’t dance will enjoy the performance.
4. High-quality sound. A live band just sounds better. This isn’t going to make or break your bat mitzvah, but if you’re hosting a corporate event with important stakeholders, you want to give them the best possible experience.
5. ‘Wow’ factor. People creating music together is uniquely dynamic and exciting. Bands also deliver and evoke more emotional engagement, which is exactly what you want at a party or wedding.
See the cons of hiring a live band for your event
1. More expensive. Bands are costlier because you’re paying several members for their services. If you’re already working on a tight budget, this could stretch it thin.
2. Less variety. No matter how amazing the band, they only know a limited number of songs. Plus, they likely play a specific genre such as rock, R&B, or country.
3. More space. A live band takes up more space in your venue because they have more equipment. Do you have the space available? Use a floor planning tool to see how much space you have for musicians.
4. Volume. Most bands pump up the volume, which can overwhelm some guests—especially in smaller spaces.
5. Last-minute changes. The lead singer wowed you. If they get sick, you could end up with a substitute.
Explore the pros of hiring a DJ for your event
1. Cost. A DJ typically costs less than a live band.
2. Customizable setlist. A DJ has access to thousands of songs so you can customize the playlist to suit the event and any special requests.
3. Easy replacements. If your DJ gets sick, they’ll (hopefully!) have a backup who can take their place. Spinning CDs is easier than hitting the high notes of an Earth, Wind, and Fire tune.
4. Less space. A DJ and all of their equipment can fit into a smaller area than a full band requires.
5. No breaks. Your DJ will keep the music going all night long. Even if they need to take a quick break, they can queue up a few songs to cover their absence.
See the cons of hiring a DJ for your event
1. No improv. A DJ can’t slow down tempos or play an extended solo to accommodate for time.
2. Too much improv. Your DJ might think that cracking jokes will engage the crowd, but this could have the opposite effect.
3. Volume control. While a DJ can control the volume to keep things reasonable at a small-to-medium sized indoor venue, large and outdoor venues pose a different problem. You’ll need a sound team to minimize distortion.
4. Equipment failure. A band can play without a sound system (or even electricity). A DJ cannot. If something goes wrong with the equipment, there is no music.
5. One-person show. A DJ is not as showy or flashy as a live band. And some prefer not to talk at all, silently spinning tunes as requested.
How to decide if your event would benefit from both a band and a DJ:
For large-scale events (and providing you have the budget), hiring a band AND a DJ lets guests enjoy the best of both options.
- Hosting a wedding? Have the band play for cocktail hour, the first special dances, and through dinner. Set up a DJ for dancing through the night.
- Planning an all-day corporate event? Use the services of a DJ during the day for casual background music and hire a band for the evening reception.
- Use both a DJ and a band at the same time. When the band breaks, the DJ comes on for a few tunes. Or, let the DJ accommodate special song requests between sets.
7 Steps for Hiring a Band or DJ for Your Event:
1. Hit the internet for ideas.
Have no idea where to start your search? You’ll find a DJ in your location on a site like gigsland.com. Get an idea of what a DJ sounds like on sites like Spotify or Soundcloud. And there’s nothing like a Google search to help you find a band or DJ for an event near you.
2. Check out the DJ and Band websites.
A polished, informative website indicates the DJ or band has the level of professionalism you want. The website should have videos and playlists that give you a detailed idea of their talent, style, and how they vibe with guests.
3. Meet in-person.
Before you hire any type of entertainment for your event, meet with them in person. Websites and demos can tell you a lot about their skills, but nothing beats a face-to-face interaction. (See our list of interview questions below.)
4. Stick with experienced professionals.
You have a friend who can spin a few tunes. You know a guy who plays with a bar band on the weekends. But do they have the level of professionalism to make your event a success? Check for people who have been in the business for three years or more.
5. Match the entertainer to the event.
Do your research and find DJs and bands who specialize in the event you are planning. A band accustomed to wedding gigs, may not be the right choice for a professional conference after-party. If you’re planning an anniversary bash or a small fundraising gala, a DJ experienced with large-scale events may be beyond your budget.
6. Ask for referrals and check out online reviews.
Ask for recommendations from people who have used their services before. Also research business review listings, such as Google Reviews and Yelp.
7. Consider the cost.
Established and proven DJs and live performers will cost a bit more, but they are often worth the extra expense. For small-scale events, you can consider emerging entertainers and DJs—but it’s essential to see them in action.
6 Questions to Ask your Entertainer During the Interview Process
Always interview your vendors before hiring. This helps you determine if they’re the right fit, their communication skills, and their willingness to adapt to your needs. Ask the following questions:
1. Tell me about your favorite event jobs or performances?
Their answers give you a window into their passion for their work, and the types of events that suit them best. If you’re planning a 25th wedding anniversary party, you want someone who loves to play to a mixed-age crowd. When planning a corporate event, you want someone who works well in a professional setting.
2. What happens if you or a team member is out on the day of the event?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, as long as they have a plan. If they say, “I’m never sick, so it’s not a problem”—move on to the next interview.
3. What do you see as your role at this event?
Different band leaders and DJs have different philosophies. Some see themselves as entertainers; others believe they’re just there to play the music. Think about what you want in advance so you can choose someone who can fill the required role.
4. What do you and band members wear to this event?
You want your band or DJ to fit the image of the event. Ripped jeans and Chuck Taylor sneakers won’t look professional at a formal gala, and a tux is over-the-top for a casual rock n’ roll event. If they ask for your preference, be up-front and honest.
5. Do you have any equipment requirements?
Good to know in advance because add-ons like extra mics and speaker rentals will impact your budget.
6. Who will perform or DJ at my event?
If you hired a band because the singer has a fantastic voice, you want to make sure they’re the ones who will play your event. Many bands swap out players for different events, and some DJs have others who work in their place. There’s nothing wrong with this practice, but you want to make sure you’re getting who you’re hiring.
Need more advice about hiring a band or DJ for an event?
1) Research and consider your audience
2) Pick music that resonates with your location
3) Be sure to consider what moods you want to evoke with music at different stages of the event
Consider your budget first. Live music is more expensive and impactful, but often has a narrower range of options than recorded music or a DJ. Consider working in a mix of live and recorded music to reap the benefits of both!
On average, a dance band will cost between $2,500 and $7,500 for an event, and a DJ can run anywhere from $200-$300 for a part-time DJ to $2,500 for an experienced, full-time DJ. Do you research beforehand, and most reputable bands and DJs should have their rates easily accessible on the internet.
Now You’re Ready to Hire the Best DJ or Band for Your Event!
Next up, learn 4 ways to pick the best background music for any event. Or, discover how event planning software can help you design layouts that accommodate the entertainment, the dance floor (if necessary), and all your guests in perfect harmony.