Booking a Band at a San Francisco Wedding or Party

by Robbie Schlosser · 28 comments

Thanks in advance for reading this article. I appreciate your interest and hope you get a few good ideas. I'd love to hear what you liked. Please write me a little COMMENT below. Start a conversation. Tell me what you think, and I'll reply. Promise.
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Booking a Band?  Nearly every day I help someone searching for music for her wedding or party, and as you might expect, many of the same questions come up in most of these conversations.  Especially with people who’ve seldom, or never, had to plan music for a wedding or party before.
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On my Facebook Page, I post handy tips for booking a band, and recently I wrote a brief “how to” about booking a band, listing several guidelines to help you systematically plan music for your event.

Today I’ll comment on one of the questions I’m asked most frequently, and I hope my comment will help you, when it’s your next turn to book a band for a wedding or a party.

Magnolia Jazz Band in Palo Alto, 2011Here we are, entertaining at a recent cocktail party at the Four Seasons Silicon Valley.  (We’re by the umbrella, in the lower left corner.)  Thanks for the wonderful photo, Crystal Lequang, you asked me exactly the right questions first time around.

So what’s THE question I’m asked most often?  You’re correct if you guess “Hello, I’m looking for music at my wedding — what’s your fee?

I often wonder if they’d call a doctor and say, “Hello, I hope you can fix this pain in my arm —  what’s your fee?”

I wonder, maybe their wedding budget is the only thing they’re concerned about, and ANY music will do just fine.  On the other hand, maybe they’re unsure about how music will fit into the rest of their party plans, so “What’s your fee” is the only question they can think to ask.

It’s certainly an effective conversation opener.  But in my opinion, it opens the wrong conversation.  Sure, their budget is important — we’re all in that boat these days — but in my experience, everyone’s musical preferences are more rigid than their finances.  So in my opinion, to be most helpful, that’s where we should start.  Our conversation ought to begin with thoughts about what music they love, and what role music will play in their party.

Once the basics start to clarify, then we can think about the date, time, location, number of guests, the size of the band, the number of hours, special requests, and ultimately, the band’s fee.

It’s like shopping for dinner, isn’t it?  You have a general idea, go to a supermarket, and you stroll the aisles looking for things you like.  Once you find a few possible selections, THEN you consider your options and how they’ll go together, and FINALLY you think about how their cost matches your budget.  You don’t walk into the market thinking “I need dinner — what can I get for $5?”  That gets you nowhere — you’ll still stroll the aisles.

Here’s a tip:  Booking a band is easy, if you BEGIN by considering the music, and THEN considering the band’s fee.  How do YOU reply to “What’s your fee”?

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CLICK here to tweet this post and join our Magnolia Jazz Band fans on Facebook.  You’ll receive daily tips for planning wedding and party music, and you’ll get reminders for our public events.



Thanks for reading this article. I appreciate your interest and hope you get a few good ideas here. Got one or two? I'd love to hear what you liked. Please write me a little COMMENT below. Start a conversation -- I'll reply. Promise.

By the way, does a friend need help selecting wedding or party music? Do them a favor: EMAIL this article, or SHARE it on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

And if you find my blog useful, please LIKE it, TWEET it, and SUBSCRIBE for more ideas. Use those cute little icons below.

Meanwhile, the Magnolia Jazz Band entertains at weddings and parties throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. If you are ever nearby, you’ll love catching us in action, seeing and hearing us create a great mood.

How can I help you? Call 408-245-9120 or use Robbie@MagnoliaJazz.com. Planning a celebration? Ask about our availability.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Eloquence Strings

I enjoyed reading your article and getting some insight on to how to answer this question, which as you pointed out, is the first one a person booking a musical ensemble asks.  

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Robbie Schlosser

Thanks for your comment, Peggy.  Glad you enjoyed the blog.  As we know all too well, a prospect’s first question might reveal what’s REALLY on her mind, but it might not.  So we’re being helpful when we dig deeper.  I agree, sharing our insights is good for everyone, and we ALL ought to do this more often.  What’s your best advice for everyone today?

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Eloquence Strings

II enjoyed reading your article about how to deal with this question that we all receive as musicians.  Good insight.  Thank You for writing.

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Irene Turner

Funny Robbie, and I’m not laughing. Yes, in my business I get that as a first question often. I usually respond by telling them it depends on what they want. and yes, if they are still on the subject of money after about 20 minutes I can usually determine that they are not a good match for me and my service. 

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Robbie Schlosser

Thanks Irene,
Great comment, and you describe a perfect example!  Actually everyone’s comments so far tend to agree that while the fee certainly is usually a major consideration for buying anything, it’s seldom the most important. I agree with you, that what’s most useful is to discuss whatever actually IS the most important thing.  And like you suggest, sometimes the budget is that thing.
Robbie

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Judy Stone-Goldman

I just came back from a San Francisco wedding! The music was not live–that would have been great!

I have to disagree just a bit, however, with your expectation that people will ask questions other than the budget one. People putting together a wedding are dealing with a lot of expenses that accrue astronomically, and I think they ask questions about budget to keep themselves on track. I agree that it isn’t the key question that will bring you the quality or experience you want, but it is a reality. What good does it do to fall in love with an option that is completely out of your range? In fact, many people do go food shopping with a strict budget and have to make decisions from that perspective first.

Nonetheless, I would hope that people would remember that there’s so much conveyed by the music, they need to have a really good strategy for picking the right band.

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Robbie Schlosser

Thanks Judy,
Great comment, and you describe a perfect example!  Actually everyone’s comments so far tend to agree that while the fee certainly is usually a major consideration for buying anything, it’s seldom the most important. I agree with you, that what’s most useful is to discuss whatever actually IS the most important thing.  It’s always time to confront reality.
You ask: What good does it do to set a vision beyond our reach?  That’s how we acquire an ambition to guide us. 
You mention food shopping according to a strict budget. Seems to me that would be effective if the market displayed their wares from most economical on the left to most expensive on the right,  But stores don’t do that. Ever wonder why?
By the way, where in Half Moon Bay was the wedding?  Now you’re talking about my territory!
Robbie

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Julieanne Case

This is very informative. It makes perfect sense to determine how music will be a part of the wedding, then what type, then look at the budget based on the previous criteria. I enjoyed reading this.

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Robbie Schlosser

Thanks Julieanne,
Great comment!  Actually everyone’s comments so far tend to agree that while the fee certainly is usually a major consideration for buying anything, it’s seldom the most important. I agree with you, it makes perfect sense to discuss whatever actually IS the most important thing.
Robbie

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Laurie Hurley

My tutoring clients ask me “how much?” all the time, first sentence out of their mouth after they call me. I never answer. I turn the conversation to, ” tell me about your son or daughter – what kind of student are they, remedial help, review, homework support, etc?”  It seems that once the money is put aside and I have a chance to engage them in conversation about their kid, I get much farther with them. In the end, of course I tell them my fees.  But, 98% of the time, they hire my service. Especially if they are comparison shopping because I know my competition does not ask the all important questions that I do! So much more thorough and impressive in my humble opinion!

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Robbie Schlosser

Thanks Laurie,
Great comment, and you describe a perfect example.  Excellent — something nearly everyone can relate to!  Actually everyone’s comments so far tend to agree that while the fee certainly is usually a major consideration for buying anything, it’s seldom the most important. I agree with you, that what’s most useful is to discuss whatever actually IS the most important thing.
Robbie

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Molly Perry

I think when planning a big event like a wedding, people are so concerned about money,  understandably so.  Yet, as business owners we have to be able to convey value to our product, not bargains.  Not so easy.  I try to let my tutoring clients know that our services are great and our fees are reasonable.  Of course, it is all in the eyes of the beholder!

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Robbie Schlosser

Thanks Molly,
Great comment, and you describe a perfect example!  Actually everyone’s comments so far tend to agree that while the fee certainly is usually a major consideration for buying anything, it’s seldom the most important. I agree with you, that what’s most useful is to discuss whatever actually IS the most important thing.  And as you suggest, to help the beholder look at their options with clear eyes.
Robbie

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Donna McCord

Love this! We run into the same thing with our business all the time too…”How much will a brake job cost?”, “My A/C isn’t working; how much will it cost to fix it?”, etc.  And just as you so clearly illustrated for your service, the same is true for ours…asking about cost is not the place to start. What has to happen first, in our case, is to make sure that whatever the customer thinks is wrong with their car, or whatever they think their car needs, is actually correct. We need to look at it and evaluate the problem before we can recommend and estimate the fix. There are, of course, some services that are more standard such as oil and filter changes or a manufacturer recommended interval service, but even then, today’s cars have so many variables to them (ie. how many quarts of oil, the type of oil, what the particular make and model vehicle requires, etc.) that until we do a little research we can only give a ball park figure. Also, many people want to know what our hourly fee is…again, that varies according to the complexity of the job. With more complex services our going rate is at one level, but for a standard oil change, we would be charging way too much if we stuck to that same rate. We determine labor cost based on each job. So, when people ask us first off about cost, we ask some questions and do some educating…in most cases, people understand and appreciate our thoroughness; in the case where price is really all someone cares about, then we know they are not our customer! It’s interesting to me to see that even in your line of business that same challenge exists!

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Robbie Schlosser

Thanks Donna,
Great comment, and you describe a perfect example!  Actually everyone’s comments so far tend to agree that while the fee certainly is usually a major consideration for buying anything, it’s seldom the most important. I agree with you, that what’s most useful is to discuss whatever actually IS the most important thing.  Like you suggest, EDUCATING might be the best advice!
Robbie

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Alara Castell

I agree with Judy that sometimes money is such a big concern especially when planning a wedding because there are so many other costs involved. But then I also look at it as if we really want our wedding to be fun and you are the band for us can we move around the budget to have good music.

It goes the same for when clients ask me how much. First we really have to see if we are a fit and if I can really take you where you want to go and you are sick and tired where you are…wouldn’t you find a way to get the money?

Like they say there is always when you really want something…it’s about the value you put forth if it really is worth the investment.

xoxo
Alara

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Robbie Schlosser

Thanks Alara,
Great comment, and you describe a perfect example!  Actually everyone’s comments so far tend to agree that while the fee certainly is usually a major consideration for buying anything, it’s seldom the most important. I agree with you, that what’s most useful is to discuss whether you’re the best fit for providing whatever actually IS the most important thing.
Robbie

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Pat Zahn

Robbie, my first thought was, “That’s not such an odd question.” But then, I thought about it and my first question would be what kind of music you play – no point in talking $ in my budget if my musical tastes don’t match what you provide. In the part of my business that involves fees, I have an hourly rate, but I don’t quote that way. I quote a job cost, so I really need to understand what is needed and asking good questions is the only way I can determine that. Effective questions is an art and a skill.

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Robbie Schlosser

Thanks Pat,
Great comment, and you describe a perfect example!  Actually everyone’s comments so far tend to agree that while the fee certainly is usually a major consideration for buying anything, it’s seldom the most important. I agree with you, that what’s most useful is asking good, effective questions about whatever actually IS the most important.
Robbie

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Tracey Fisher

I had to smile at your comment about shopping for dinner: You don’t walk into the market thinking “I need dinner — what can I get for $5?”  There have been occassions when that has had happened to me, sad to say.  You would be amazed at what you can get for $5.00! 🙂 LOL   

I too have been asked quite often, how much is a certain item if a customer does not have a brochure handy.  If I sense that the price might not be in their budget, I try to find that item at a past sale price or suggest a product that is similiar but is more cost friendly.  Is choosing music for the big day the same as choosing what bath and body product you like?  Sure.  You just have to figure out what is right for you and your budget and sometimes that may involve asking the dreaded question: “How much?” 

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Robbie Schlosser

Thanks Tracey,
Great comment, and you describe a perfect example!  Actually everyone’s comments so far tend to agree that while the fee certainly is usually a major consideration for buying anything, it’s seldom the most important. I agree with you, that what’s most useful is to discuss whatever actually IS the most important.
By the way, I agree we can all be pretty frugal at the supermarket when we need to.  Reminds me of my years as a graduate student, when my diet often contained lots of oatmeal and canned fish.  Ugh!
Robbie

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Louise Edington

 I must say that I have to disagree a little also. I would want to know if there was any point in pursuing the possibility of hiring that particular band for my event but then I’m not a big lavish event type of person and think that ridiculous amounts of money are spent on weddings. I myself had, by choice, a very small and low key wedding.
However, from your perspective I agree that the value and benefits must be put across to the people inquiring.
Louise Edington
Fearless For Freedom
http://louiseedington.com

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Robbie Schlosser

Thanks Louise,
Great comment, and you describe an excellent reason to be cautious about spending your money!  Actually everyone’s comments so far tend to agree that while the fee certainly is usually a major consideration for buying anything, it’s seldom the most important.  For most people, you included, and me nearly 37 years ago, what’s most useful is to discuss whatever actually IS the most important. 
Robbie

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Julie Labes

Robbie..This is usually the first question i get when i get inquiries from parents who might be considering leaving their child in my care for 10 hours a day 5 days a week and it never ceases to amaze me….The fee might be negotiable what is NOT negotiable is the care they will get while with me,  and in your case the quality of music they will get if they choose you. These are what is important, the main questions should be “does what you have fit what I need? And while costs and fees are important, sometimes you get what you pay for!

Julie
Labes,…The Fierce over 50 feels much younger point and click junkie
loves to travel does not use a jogging stroller and before you ask this
is NOT my granddaughter..Woman

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Robbie Schlosser

Thanks Julie,
Great comment, and you describe a perfect example!  Actually everyone’s comments so far tend to agree that while the fee certainly is usually a major consideration for buying anything, it’s seldom the most important. I agree with you, that what’s most useful is to discuss whatever actually IS the most important.
Robbie

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Maridelbowes

I’m so surprised that this is such a frequent first question, Robbie, and i agree that it doesn’t reflect the most important issue. I’d love to know how you redirect it to move the dialogue to more significant ground. The cost is important isn’t finding out if you’re working with the right person good to know first?

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Brandy Mychals

Hi Robbie,
I think most people approach these situations with the attitude of not wanting to have a conversation or “entertain a possibility” that might be out of their budget. So they want to know that upfront so they don’t get their “hopes up” only to discover they can’t make it work. It’s a “let me check and see if this is possible” mentality and super common (I’ve been there!) What I do now is operate from the “impossible is possible” mentality and it is amazing what happens with that subtle shift. I think if you reassure your couples/clients that terms are negotiable depending on what they need and find out what they want you can go from there…I just mentioned it because I would suggest not taking it personally (even if challenging at times) because it is a default reaction for so many people…it isn’t about you. When I think of the first coaching program I signed up for – it as a “No” because there was “no way” I could afford it. I ended up saying “Yes” and just going for it and life has been a series of Yeses along the way…the impossible is possible! 🙂
Brandy

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Anonymous

Hi Robbie – I think most of event planning comes down to cost for a lot of people.  They need to pick and choose options based on price.  Those lucky enough to not need to ask the questions about cost make decisions purely based on wanting a specific product, venue, musician, etc.
I do agree, as a business owner, I don’t like starting conversations with “how much will this cost me.”  I prefer to address value and the experience first.
Debbie Goldberg
ManhattanBeachMomma.com

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