Many clients have a mental picture of what they want for their musical entertainment, but they don’t think about what will really work at the venue. What looks good may not sound good. Budget limitations may be a concern but it’s not the greatest concern. Venue SetUp and Accommodations, Instruments, Sound Amplification —among others— are all more important. Adverse conditions can kill any event.
If adverse conditions exist, discuss them. It’s all about spending a little extra time to examine the space for the performers. Pretend that you’re the performer for the event, put yourself in their place, and offer them the same comforts you would offer the guests in attendance. Then, you’ll be spot-on to know if your preferred entertainment and the venue are a match.
An absolutely true fact: You’ll have very happy musicians who will bend over backwards for you when you offer them the same creature comforts as your guests. Remember, if you need to juggle your entertainment budget to accommodate the entertainers, do it. Your decisions may be crucial to the success of your event!
Consider the following:
1. Do the size of the venue and the size of the guest list make sense for the instrumentation that interests you? It might be a tight squeeze but note the size of the performance area. Make sure if outdoors it’s on level ground and not on sand, wet grass, or a slope. If indoors, confirm stage dimensions. If stage is elevated, stairs are a must. Give the musicians enough space to do their job and be seen. Can you now clearly see where to place them and how many band members will fit the space?
2. Can your musicians see the action? It’s incredibly frustrating for musicians to be placed in an area because “they’ll look pretty there,” but they cannot see the dance floor, bride, master of ceremonies, or cannot see someone giving them important cues regarding the agenda of the event.
3. Can your musicians see their music? Consider the lighting in the room. Adding a spotlight for your musicians allows the guests to see them, and it allows the musicians to see what they’re doing. If the event takes place outdoors, place the musicians in a lit, insect free area.
4. Is electricity available? In the case of a high energy dance band, musicians will need to amplify the sound so everyone can hear. Musicians also need to mic their instruments. Check to determine whether electricity is available, and if so, map out where the outlets are located. Once the musicians are hired, they’ll need this information so they’ll have the proper extension cords or will know ahead of time to make the necessary preparations.
5. Can the musicians easily load in? If the musicians are forced to double park on a busy street or park three blocks away, then you may be stuck with an extra charge for their set-up time. It might be a good idea to plan to prepay your musicians’ parking lot or valet parking charges. More importantly, in the case of independent sound companies loading in, venues should be willing to accommodate parking; otherwise, the client may incur inconvenience fees.
6. Can the musicians easily get to the performance area once they have arrived at the site? A drummer once told me, “You haven’t lived until you’ve had to climb three flights of stairs carrying a drum set.” Check to see if service elevators are available at the venue when the stage isn’t in a first-floor room. Are handicap access ramps available so that equipment can be rolled in? Some musicians will not even agree to perform if they would need to hire a team to carry their equipment on the long hike to the performance area. Others may only agree to do so for an extra fee. Keep in mind: If the musicians have a difficult time accessing the event site, you might want to search for event sites that can be easily accessed from the parking lot.
7. Is there shelter for your musicians? Musicians may charge extra for outdoor events. Some refuse to perform at all. Most musicians will not perform in adverse weather. They aren’t being wimps when a storm looks like it’s brewing — they just don’t want to risk ruining expensive instruments and electrical equipment.
8. Will the instruments stay in tune indoors (and outdoors)? Air-conditioning and heating vents that blow directly at instruments can cause tuning issues, so think about placing the band or ensemble in a temperate yet comfortable part of the room. Worse are outdoor events during cold or inclement weather. Whatever the case, be considerate or you may lose your entertainment.
9. The most important question to consider: What is not allowed? Make sure there are no restrictions or regulations about sound levels because venues located within residential zones may have noise ordinances. Therefore, you may be confined to using acoustic instrumentation only (i.e., unplugged instruments). For insurance and liability reasons, some venues provide house production teams and backline equipment. If that is the case, they are obligated to inform clients of the band restrictions (limits on band size, equipment, etc.). Venues should also be able to accommodate band requirements for an effective delivery of their music. Concerns should be discussed with the entertainment well in advance, certainly before a client secures the venue.
10. Are there additional restrictions regarding music at the venue? Ask this final question before making any final decisions.
Finally, restrooms are not dressing rooms! However, easy access to restroom facilities are important, as is bottled water for band members. Total disclosure is at the top of the list. It’s all about common sense.