I run a wedding DJ business (duh!) and I used to play drums in a wedding band. This has placed me in a unique position where I have seen the pros and cons of each option. If you’re struggling to make up your mind, this article is for you!
First, answer this question before you go any further:
Do you have a strong preference for electronic or guitar-driven music?
Don’t hire a band if you are a hip-hop head. Don’t hire a DJ if you are a country bumpkin. It’s really that simple.
Tip: look at the band’s song list. It should be available on their website. Do you like their vibe? Or do you want to ask a classic rock covers band if they will play a bit of Jay-Z? I can assure you that the band has picked the type of music that they are good at performing. Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Are you a fan of numerous genres? Eclectic taste of music? Diverse Spotify play history? You sound like me. Let’s dive in!
The general rule of thumb is that DJ’s are cheaper than bands. This is because you are paying for less people and less equipment.
I think that nothing can beat a live band when everything goes according to plan. The drums are thumping, the sweat is dripping and the energy is primal. It’s the preferred option for artists like Eminem, Rhianna, Usher etc. Despite the fact their recorded music doesn’t usually include live drums. It’s just better.
Bands usually have 3-6 musicians. This means that more things can go wrong (e.g. singer gets the flu, drummer’s car breaks down, band breaks up etc). Murphy’s Law says: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”.
Musicians are also rather unreliable at times. I suggest you hire an experienced band that has a good track record of showing up. Read their reviews and ask for recommendations from your vendors. They have seen it all before.
Note: DJ’s can get sick and still perform. Singers can’t sing at their best if they’re fighting a cold.
DJ’s can handle a wider variety of music and accept song requests on the fly. Bands are less equipped to deal with a random request for Cardi B’s latest top 40 hit.
Go through the band’s song list and figure out if you like the majority of their repertoire. This is the stuff that they are best at performing. If you love it, that’s awesome. They might be the right band for you. I said this earlier, but it’s worth repeating.
- Does your venue have noise restrictions? If so, I highly advise against hiring a band with live drums. It’s just too risky. I have played at venues with tight noise restrictions. They usually have a device that will cut off the power when the volume hits a certain level. This is devastating and incredibly frustrating. These devices also HATE the drums. Fact: live music has a wider dynamic range. The loud bits are louder and the soft bits are softer. Recorded music is compressed. This means that the volume doesn’t change much throughout the song.
- Do you have limited space? Ensure that your band or DJ can fit in that space. Request measurements from the venue.
- Does your venue have bad acoustics? Concrete, tiles and really high ceilings. These are generally terrible for live music. It’s also bad for general conversation. The sound gets lost in the high ceilings and bounces off the reflective surfaces. However, an experienced band will know how to deal with this. DJ’s don’t have to worry about it as much because recorded music is already mixed to sound good through bad speakers and bad rooms.
It comes down to what type of music you LOVE and how much RISK you are willing to take.
I would probably hire a DJ for my wedding. This is because I can’t be bothered with the extra responsibility involved in hiring a band. It’s risky and expensive.
If you find a band that ticks your boxes and you are prepared for the risk, then I wish you all the best.
I truly hope it goes well and you have an amazing experience.