There is something undeniably appealing about listening to music live, an almost tangible connection to those around you that just isn’t present when you plug in your iPod to some speakers. As a musician, it is those connections that make my playing truly magical and without an audience, they just don’t exist. I love what I do because I can play for and with people, not just a microphone in a recording studio.
The most common reason I get from people planning their event as to why they are not looking at live music runs something along the lines of “There is no way I can afford it!” Well, if you want to book a major pop musician, then I agree with you. However, if you just want a solo player, or even a small ensemble, this really is affordable, as long as you know where to look and what questions to ask. For most of my gigs, I am only playing for part of the event. This is a great way to keep costs down and still have that special touch of live music.
Here is a breakdown of some important topics: the questions to ask, where to look for answers and how to be prepared to talk about them.
1. What sound are you looking for?
This starts with how big is your event. Is it an intimate 30 person wedding or a large reception with 300 attendees? Do you want an acoustic sound or amplified? Is it outdoors or inside? Are you a fan of single melody lines or do you prefer more complex harmonies?
2. What is your budget?
Many groups offer different pricing categories based on what type of event you are having as well as your budget. I offer both an event/package price option as well as hourly pricing. This usually allows me to work with your budget and get you as much as possible for your money. Small events where I am only playing for a short while are more affordable with hourly pricing while larger/longer events can be more reasonable with a package price. Be sure to ask any musicians if they have any deals going on; periodically I offer 20% package pricing and it never hurts to ask. If you get a referral from someone, be sure to mention that and it may also give you a discount!
3. What music do you want?
There are literally hundreds of “classical” music selections appropriate for any type of events, including weddings, anniversary parties, bridal or baby showers, you name it! Often I work with clients who have a specific idea of a few pieces they would like (Canon in D, Ave Maria, Jesu, Joy of Mans Desiring, and the wedding March are examples for a wedding) and then I can build up a “playlist” from there including those as well as a variety of other pieces that fit with them. One of the benefits of working with a live musician is that we already have a great idea of pieces that work well together for different events. Even if you don’t know what you are looking for, I can usually offer guidance on which pieces to pick and where to look to find more of them with a phone call or conversation with you. I can also incorporate different styles (classical, fiddle tunes, pop songs) in much the same way a DJ can, not limiting your choices.
4. How do I know if the musician or group is good enough for my event?
One of the best ways to know is a referral from someone you trust. This word of mouth is the best advertising I have, and I don’t pay a penny for it! The other great way to know what a group or musician sounds like is to ask if they have any videos or audio files you can listen to. Personally I have clips of several commonly asked for pieces for weddings on my website that anyone can listen to. It may be a money saver to use your coworker’s high school aged kid’s string quartet, but they may not have the sound you were hoping for.
So, as long as you know what your budget is and what you are looking for, there is no reason not to explore the possibility of live music at your next event!
Melissa Barru, Violinist