If you’re looking for a bold musical spectacle that will guarantee a memorable event, a brass band is a great way to bring some New Orleans or Bavarian style to your wedding, street party or Oktoberfest.
That classic ‘oompah’ is perfect for lively brass band covers of your favourite songs or traditional Polka-style pieces, and marching brass bands will get everyone dancing in step when the UK summer finally comes along.
Here are our top tips for booking the right brass band for your event and making sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.
- Be sure a brass band is right for your event
Brass bands are great, but they are also powerful. You’ll want to be sure that their power isn’t going to overwhelm your event. A bit of oompah may be the ideal statement for weddings, Oktoberfest and other lively events, but if you’re aiming for something more low-key or formal, those big, beautiful trumpets and trombones may not be for you (soul or strings are a great, quieter alternative).
On the other hand, if you want to make an impact, hiring a brass band is definitely a good way to go.
- Choose the right band size
Many bands offer options on how many of their members you want to book. Do you want a to hire a brass quintet, a full marching brass band or as few as three performers? The size of the band will affect the volume and variety of their set, but will also be dictated by how much room you have for them to perform in, which leads us neatly into our next tip…
- Know your venue
The more you know about your venue, the smoother things will go. From narrow doorways and broken lifts to the location of power points, the best parking spots and the amount of room on stage, consider it your mission to find out everything that might have an impact on your event. When it comes to contacting a likely brass band, you’ll be armed with all the information they need, and will be able to sniff out any issues well ahead of time, keeping your ready to head off any last-minute disasters.
Sound limiters1 are turning up at venues more and more frequently. These may or may not factor into your particular band’s setup, but are definitely worth taking into consideration.
- Don’t forget the travel costs
A brass band will come kitted out with some of the largest instruments a musician could be expected to carry around (travelling grand pianist not being a thing). Getting to and from your venue may be the biggest challenge for your band on the day, so be ready to factor extra travel costs on top of your booking fee.
It may be wise to find an act that is within a reasonable distance from your venue, and allow for things like the horror of navigating the North Circular or the dreaded M606 in your overall plans.
- Be realistic with your timings
The temptation is to underestimate how long things will take – in this case that means travel and setup. Be aware of this tendency, and try to create a realistic time table for your event. You don’t want to rush your brass band out on stage before they’ve had a chance for any necessary setting up and sound checking, but you don’t want to keep them hanging around longer than they need to either (ramping up the amount you owe them while you’re at it).
At any event where the wine is flowing and people are having a good time, running over is always a likely possibility. Make sure you’ve planned for this eventuality too, especially if that might affect your band’s travel.
When in doubt about timings, don’t be afraid to ask. The brass band will know how much time they need better than anyone else!
- Be flexible about the setlist
Everyone has their favourite songs, and you might have the perfect setlist playing round and round in your head, but be ready for the possibility that it might not be practical. A good brass band will bend over backwards to play the required first dance at your wedding, but your vision of a night of New Orleans-style Duran Duran brass band covers might not work for your act.
It might not work for your guests either. When it comes to playing for an audience, bands will have experience as to what works and doesn’t. By all means talk through your requests with them, but it makes sense to defer to the experts. That way, everyone will be happy.
- Feed and water the band
Your guests aren’t the only people who will be expecting food and drink. Playing music is exhausting work (for instance, playing drums for two hours is said to burn the same amount of calories as a 12-mile run!). You don’t want to be dealing with a hungry band or one too weak to play on.
They have other needs too, so make sure they have a changing room or setup space, that they know where the toilets are and where they can step out for a breath of fresh air/lungful of smoke (delete as appropriate), and anything else they might need. If your brass band feels looked after, you will get the best out of them.
- Read the fine print
Boring? Maybe. Essential? Definitely.
Checking your terms and conditions will make sure that everyone is on the same page (no pun intended) and that there won’t be any nasty fees waiting to surprise you.
Hiring a Brass Band couldn’t be easier with Headliner.
1. Sound Limiters usually appear as a box on the wall with traffic lights on the front. A red light will show if the sound in the room exceeds the set threshold. After a set amount of time (usually about 8 seconds) in the red, it will cut the band’s power for up to 10 seconds, killing the mood and potentially damaging any instruments and equipment plugged into the mains.↩