Odd Gigs - Why Hire a Band?

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
We played a gig recently where we played at a pool party/BBQ in the late afternoon. Maybe 200+ kids/adults. Nice club. There was a dance area, and the band was playing dance music. Nearly everyone, understandably, was either in the pool, playing games, or eating BBQ. Very little attention paid to the band, we were not the focus. We're a dance band (70's/80's/90's/top-40 dance songs) One or two people danced at the end. I can't say that we added much over the just playing an IPod over the PA. Although, some people DID say how great the band was. The singers tried to engage people; at other venues/times it could have gone over great. I asked myself why they'd want to pay a dance band to provide background music while ate BBQ. I think the people who hired us were happy; we played and performed well.

Another odd one was when a university hired us for a "concert." Good money, and it was in the evening. The thing was, the students didn't come out of their dorms. We played to an empty quad for about 3 hours. At one point, the organizer pulled maybe a dozen kids out for a while. The intention of the organizer was to provide an opportunity for the students to gather and havd a good time. I asked myself if we were the band, playing the wrong genre (dance music) and I don't know if any band would have made a difference, no one was there to begin with.

Now, for these oddball gigs, we've played many, many more where the dance floor is packed, people are having a great time along with the band, and so on.

What I'm wondering is, for these odd ones, why hire a band? Is there a mismatch between the intent of the organizers and what the people want? Or, does the band provide value if a few people enjoy it? And, can you guys tell me about some of your odd gigs like this, if you've ever played any?
 

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
Well don't say that to the people that hire bands, or they really
will just hire an ipod in the future instead ;)!!
Gee, ya think so? ;) Obviously not. We give each gig our best and are professional regardless of the circumstance. This is the day after, and I'm posting this question to others who may have similar experiences.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Dancing in broad daylight, in large numbers, just doesn't happen, except maybe at music festivals, and even then the dancing is mostly after dark. A certain amount of anonymity and darkness are prerequisites for most. A college crowd, being under the legal drinking age, will dance in private where they can drink, but not at university-sponsored functions, which are "dry".

A band in the daytime is a good thing, but it's usually going to be more of a sing-a-long and listening party than a dancing one. And that's a good thing -- it can mean that the crowd has more patience to listen to a band that trades solos, quotes lines from other songs, plays a blues or jazz standard, plays some silly songs, etc.

If you're a top 40 band, and the band prides itself on sounding very "accurate", well, you're not much better than a DJ. If your vocalists also dance or have choreography, then your band is more of "show" than musical experience. So, its success will depend on the right set of circumstances. Maybe stick to weddings and club gigs?
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
When I've played gigs like the ones you described, I've assumed that the event just didn't turn out like the organizer/host had planned. And Brent makes some good observations of why that might happen.

Here's what stumps me: There's a venue I play regularly where I can't imagine the place is making much (if any) money after they pay us. Typically, there's maybe one table of 4 or 5, one or two couples and a couple of people sitting at the bar. The people who do show up tend to stay there throughout the evening but given the size of the room, it's pretty desolate. And there have been a couple of times when the place emptied out before our last set and they've told us we can cut out early if we'd like. Yet, they always ask us back.
 

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
Dancing in broad daylight, in large numbers, just doesn't happen, except maybe at music festivals, and even then the dancing is mostly after dark. A certain amount of anonymity and darkness are prerequisites for most. A college crowd, being under the legal drinking age, will dance in private where they can drink, but not at university-sponsored functions, which are "dry".
Thanks! This makes a lot of sense. And that university-sponsored function was most certainly "dry."

A band in the daytime is a good thing, but it's usually going to be more of a sing-a-long and listening party than a dancing one. And that's a good thing -- it can mean that the crowd has more patience to listen to a band that trades solos, quotes lines from other songs, plays a blues or jazz standard, plays some silly songs, etc.
Yes, that is more of what it was.

If you're a top 40 band, and the band prides itself on sounding very "accurate", well, you're not much better than a DJ. If your vocalists also dance or have choreography, then your band is more of "show" than musical experience. So, its success will depend on the right set of circumstances. Maybe stick to weddings and club gigs?
Not really a top-40 band, but we play a few top-40 songs. We're a dance band as mentioned. The vocalists do dance, go out into the crowd, and interact. As far as not being much better than a DJ, that's up to who hires us and specifically WANTS a live band. They know our set list and our genre when they hire us. The weddings we've gone have gone over great (not to mention pay well), and many of the club gigs have also gone over great as well. We played this same venue that I mentioned in this post on NYE that THAT went over great. On NYE, the venue had a DJ in one room and us in the other, and we had the crowd.
 

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
A band in the daytime is a good thing, but it's usually going to be more of a sing-a-long and listening party than a dancing one. And that's a good thing -- it can mean that the crowd has more patience to listen to a band that trades solos, quotes lines from other songs, plays a blues or jazz standard, plays some silly songs, etc.
The more I think about this, the more this makes sense. Some People were complimenting us, many were clapping, etc. They just weren't dancing. (And we're a dance band.) You've given some really good reasons why they weren't dancing.

Thanks again for a really helpful post.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
I think there's an atmosphere to having a real band, that an iPod or DJ just can't replace. Actually, hiring a DJ is often more expensive than a band... at least around here. There was an article about this in one of the recent International Musician issues, if you're union...

I can't imagine many people dancing in broad daylight at a pool party. I know up here in Boston it was 90 degrees out. I had all indoor gigs, and it was enormously hot.

It may be that the people just like live music, and wanted a band.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I recall doing many bar band gigs where I'd arrive at the bar, and people were sitting at the bar drinking.

We'd set up, play for 4 hours, packs up and go home. And the same people still siting at the same bar. And while they may have complimented the band, it was pretty clear they were there to drink, and the band was after thought.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
They know our set list and our genre when they hire us.
True, the venue knows of your past successes, and is familiar with your repertoire, but that in no way means they also know what's going to please a daytime, outdoor crowd versus an indoor, nighttime crowd.

In any case, it sounds like the crowd enjoyed you all just fine, but you can use these gigs in order to stretch out in the musical sense. Play songs where you allow every member to solo over the form (this can work well on certain pop tunes, and obviously on jazz and blues numbers). Organize and develop sections where soloists trade off with one another, and where vocalists trade off with a guitarist or horn player. Showcasing the virtuosity of your band, rather than merely playing the songs well, is what a DJ can't do, and a relaxed crowd that wants to listen will love it.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
One thing I've learned over the years is just because people aren't up dancing and reacting does not mean they aren't enjoying the music. This was probably the case with the outdoor event. Sounds like they wanted live background music. If the intent was to get guests to dance, then maybe the organizer should have had ya'll play later and maybe had a light rig. People are really hard to read sometimes.


Playing for college kids? Forget it. Unless you are well known (either national or at least regional) OR you are one of their peers/roommates/classmates, they simply won't care. While there are a few college kids out there that like music, the most that I see are way too involved with video games and social media to do much else (I work on a college campus).


I've played a lot of gigs like the ones you are talking about. You show up, play, and get paid. Their reaction is on them.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
People can listen to music, and enjoy it, without dancing. My brother in law is the sax player in a trio that do wedding functions. They are not paid to do the evening stuff, just play music during the meal. They get well paid and the guests enjoy having a "Real: band playing and creating an atmosphere while they are eating and chatting.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
A lot of times "live band" gets chucked into the planning of events like the ones you describe for any number of reasons. There might be a perception that live band automatically equals hip, cool, or interesting. They may have seen a similar event with a great live band that went really well once, and they booked your band without doing any of the other little pieces of event planning that might have made you more integral to the proceedings. And sometimes the organizers have no idea what the audience might really want to listen to.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
I can't find any pleasure in gigs like that.

Some people thrive on them and it's good/easy money but I'm not one of them.

Lats year I played an early evening gig at a car dealership showroom. We played a couple sets, and were packed and driving home by 8PM with $200 each in our pockets, but I was left feeling empty.
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
I've got an out of town (2 hours away) gig coming up, & I'm pretty sure we'll be in for a lacklustre evening. It's for a teenage cancer charity. We agreed to the gig because of a personal connection with a band member. The venue / hall is a sound nightmare scenario, the stage is an issue too, but more than that, the audience absolutely aren't there to see the band. There's other stuff going on, & the audience demographic is likely to be everything from grandparents to young children - so not our type of gig it's untrue.

Of course, I always root for a positive, & definitely don't approach these things with a negative attitude, but sometimes you just know how it's likely to turn out :(
 

Juniper

Gold Member
Going back a few years back in 1999 or so I played in a covers band that was booked to be play in the club house at Cheltenham Town Football Club’s stadium.

When we got there the gig wasn’t advertised and it was late afternoon if I remember correctly and we played to a room packed with about 10 old chaps, there sat with their pints of bitter/pork scratchings watching Sky Sports and a televised Darts match.

Still, had fun being 16 years old and felt like we were playing Wembley Stadium (ha!) as the club house overlooked the pitch and if I remember we were paid for it but that's one gig that springs to mind. I think we may have just annoyed everyone in the room for an hour and I'm not sure why we were booked- it made no sense.

Oh for youthful Naivety again! Sure there are other more recent ones I have deleted from my memory though!
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I can't find any pleasure in gigs like that.

Some people thrive on them and it's good/easy money but I'm not one of them.

Lats year I played an early evening gig at a car dealership showroom. We played a couple sets, and were packed and driving home by 8PM with $200 each in our pockets, but I was left feeling empty.

I really think that it depends on the genre of music you are playing too.

If I'm doing a hammered dulcimer gig, I love being paid well to be background music. No one is paying attention, so if I mess up, it's really no big deal; I just keep going.


However if I was in a rock or pop band, I would definitely want to place to get up and enjoy it. I've played many rock shows where people just sat there. It IS really frustrating.
 

GeoB

Gold Member
The Big Band I was in while up in D.C. had a quintet spin-off and we did a lot of parties, office parties, seasonal stuff etc... we were never the focus. We were background. I was also in another spin-off Trad Jazz (Dixieland) that did lunch gigs, fern bars etc... we were never the focus.

Did I want to be the focus? I think initially in my youth I did, but later on I realized that these casual's were more about the atmosphere, the background etc... moving air, putting vibrations in the room, is something unique to live music. DJ's can simulate that and sometimes with shear force (wattage) can overcompensate but it's never the same as a live band.
 

vxla

Silver Member
I sometimes have the feeling of the OP, but the sound of money hitting my bank account distracts me from caring. The collective appreciation of live music has fallen so low…might as well make a few bucks here while we still can.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Back when our band travelled in a Conestoga wagon, we played an afternoon at a pool party for mostly teens, and they danced the entire time we were playing and the place was crazy. One of the adults came up and offered us four times the money for two sets at a corporate affair that same night. They fed us, gave us booze, but no real other contact. No one could care that we were there, if dancing was any indicator, but for the money we were as happy as hogs in mud.
 
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