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So you’re debating whether you want a band or DJ to perform at your wedding.

In light of the new Beauty and the Beast movie coming out, it’s possibly the only time I can use this introduction without sounding random:

 

Ah, it’s a tale as old as time….”

 

Hm… honestly, it wasn’t even that worth it…. Anyhow!

 

 

So your wedding’s coming up, and you know you want to have music, but you what you DON’T know is whether you should get a live band or a DJ.

This is probably the #1 question we get asked at Uptown Down Entertainment. And no wonder!

Obviously there are some big differences (both positive and negative) between the two, and you want to get it right.

So let’s touch on some of the pros and cons for each, and then at the end (like we do for all our posts) I’ll put in some actionable steps that will hopefully make your decision a lot easier!

 

THE PROS and CONS of a LIVE BAND

Look at these guys rockin out! Crazy.

Nothing really holds a candle (lumiere) to live music when it comes to getting your reception going. That’s one of the biggest selling points of having a live band: Your guests will be moving!

The kick drums are stompin, the bass is rollin, the horns are blazin’, the lead singer’s in the middle of a crowd of your best friends high steppin’ while rapping to Outkast- it’s like something out of a movie!

Raw energy aside, here are some pros and cons to hiring a live band:

 

PROS:

1. A LIVE BAND CREATES AN AMAZING FOCAL POINT FOR YOUR RECEPTION

The doors open to your reception area, the guests walk in, and their mouths drop.

They take in the amazing spread in front of them- tables with dinner plates and crystal glassware on them, a load of catering buffets with delicious food, waiters ready to serve, and in the middle of all that- a sprawling dance floor with a stage, drumkit, horn booth, and microphones.

You can almost feel that anticipation brewing as you read that- there’s about to be a party!

A live band creates a great focal point (or even anchor point) for your reception. It’s the ‘piece de resistance’ if you will. A stage with all the instruments set up, amps turned on, speakers lit up, sets the tone of the party to come, and gives off a feeling of elegance to your guests.

They’ll start talking about the music before it even starts up!

 

2. LIVE BANDS CAN CONTROL THE DYNAMICS OF A RECEPTION

A live band can read a room and adjust accordingly in more ways than just volume (compared to a DJ, who really can only mess with the loudness of the sound).

Maybe an impromptu dance circle starts up and people start gathering around, but the song is about to end. A DJ might have a hard time looping a section of the song and making that loop sound dead-on, but a band would have no problem!

A band can also control volume and dynamics better- they can get quieter quickly, build up to a frenzy, change a song around to fit what your guests are responding to, and on and on and on. A good band is able to get your guests dancing on their feet more than a DJ. You can feel the energy of the instruments!

They can also build up or prolong songs without missing a beat, or even take the theme of your wedding and make popular songs fit into that theme (throwing a country-themed reception? Try adding a little twang to ‘I Want to Dance with Somebody’!).

A live band is a much more customizable experience when it comes to the style of music you want to hear.

 

3. LIVE BANDS TEND TO BE MORE INTERACTIVE

A DJ pretty much has to stay posted up at his booth the whole night- he can’t walk away for a long period of time. If the song wound down, LOTS of awkward silence till the DJ runs back to his booth. Not good!

But a live band has 4, 5, sometimes 6 people that can keep the music going while the trumpet player runs out to get into the train line. Or maybe the sax player walks out into the middle of the floor to join you and your bridal party in the chorus of ‘Shout’. Or maybe your singer walks from table to table, pulling up Grandma or some of the people that are a little too shy to dance, and brings them out to join you on the floor.

With a live band, you get a LOT more interaction with the crowd. They can lead dances, and get people even more excited to be at your reception.

CONS

1. MORE EXPENSIVE

Unfortunately, all those musicians and customizability come at a price. Whereas a DJ is just one person with minimal equipment, a band is usually 4-5 members with extra equipment, and extra time spent learning songs and rehearsing them. That leads to a higher price tag, unfortunately.

No surprise here, but a good live band will most almost always be more expensive than a good live DJ based sheerly on the amount of people needed to make each one work.

2. DON’T HAVE THE UNLIMITED VARIETY OF A DJ

No matter how many songs the band knows (we can play over 500 ourselves), they’ll never be able to beat out a computer with a 500GB hard drive on it.

A live band just won’t be able to learn as many songs as a DJ can play.

Now that being said, remember that a good band will have GREAT variety and a big song list, so with enough lead time they should be able to play the songs you want to hear. It’s just harder to go up mid-set and say, “Hey, my uncle Gary from Kenosha has this song he wrote, and it’s on YouTube, can you learn it really quickly and perform it in 30 seconds?” Little more difficult than clicking a link like a DJ can!

For a look at a good, varietal song list, feel free to check ours out!

3. THE SONGS WON’T SOUND EXACTLY THE SAME AS YOU’RE USED TO

The band could play the song note for note, and sing the exact same melody lines, but it still won’t sound like the original you’re used to.

Most of the time that’s great; you don’t just want a copy of the original- you want to show off your own take of a song, and a band is a great way to do that.

But some folks are very particular and really just wanna hear Aretha doing ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ or Bruno singing ‘Uptown Funk’. And unless they’re personally performing at your wedding with their band, it just won’t be exact.

A band will also probably have their own take on it (throw in an extra chorus, or make a solo section longer), which will also be slightly different from the original. This is usually a great thing (it adds to the unique personality of your reception), but sometimes people just wanna hear the original!

So now that we’ve gone over some pros and cons of hiring a live band for your wedding, let’s do the same for a DJ.

 

THE PROS and CONS of a DJ

band or dj?When it comes to variety of music and affordability, a live DJ is the absolute go-to. Let’s take a look at some of the ups and downs of hiring a DJ for your wedding.

PROS

1. MORE AFFORDABLE

This is an obvious one (and usually where people land when it comes to picking between the two).

A DJ is just one person with a sound system, whereas a band is 4 or more skilled musicians with a sound system, instruments, rehearsal time, etc. Of course it will cost more!

So if you’re on a bit of a budget and trying to choose whether to spend on catering or entertainment, a DJ is usually the better option- in our experience they’re often about 40-50% cheaper in the end than hiring a band.

 

2. ABLE TO SET UP IN A MUCH SMALLER SPACE

Because you’re dealing with less people and equipment, a DJ is ideal for events where space is limited.

They can set up in a corner of the room or on a single 4-6 foot table against a wall.

Also keep in mind that just because they’re not taking up as much space as a live band doesn’t mean they can be made a focal point for your reception if you so desire. It just means you won’t have to rent some big stage and clear out a ton of tables and chairs to fit a band, especially if you’re limited on square footage and need room for your 10-tier cake!

3. A DJ CAN PLAY PRETTY MUCH ANY AND EVERYTHING

Probably the second-biggest selling point of using a DJ (behind price) is the DJ’s ability to play anything.

Want to hear 100 custom songs for your wedding? They can just find them online and drop them in a playlist. Decide on the eve of your wedding that you want to use the alma mater of your college as your exit song to the honeymoon? Just send the DJ a text and they can add it to the mix. Have a guest that wants to hear a random song mid-reception? A DJ can probably pull it up and play it.

It’s true, you’ll get the most song variety from a DJ. He doesn’t have to rehearse the song to make sure it sounds good- he can just cue it up and hit play!

 

CONS

1. DOESN’T GIVE OFF THE SAME ‘WOW’ FACTOR AS A LIVE BAND

Despite all their abilities, a mobile DJ set up against a wall or in a corner just doesn’t have the same ‘wow’ to it as a full band set up on a stage.

It’s a little bit less of a custom, high-end feel to your wedding.

Now a great DJ will be able to make your reception look and feel awesome- using lights, strobes, decorations, etc. to crank up the excitement, but a laptop and a controller between a sound system just doesn’t have the same effect as a full band setup.

2. A DJ IS A SINGLE POINT OF FAILURE

This one’s coming from personal experience: a DJ potentially has (multiple) single points of failure in its nature.

Barring that the DJ has backups for all these things, there are a lot of ways your party can go from bumpin’ to grindin’- to a halt.

If the cable connecting the laptop to the mixer goes bad, if the laptop dies, if the mic goes out, or if one of the cables is bad; if any of those things happens and your DJ doesn’t have a backup, you just went from a loud crazy dance party to playing 80’s tunes out of your Uncle Billy’s Jambox.

If that happens with a band, the drums and horn section can play WITHOUT amplification, giving the bandleader time to replace any broken cables/speakers. Or if a microphone goes bad, the bandleader can use one of the other musicians’ microphones till they can grab a replacement.

Also if your DJ is a bad MC (announcer), they will kill a party quick as a flash. They won’t have the reinforcement of other musicians to back them up if they’re having an off-night with hyping up the crowd.

3.  IMPROVISATION IS TOUGHER

Most of the time a DJ will have a little bit tougher time improv’ing than a live band.

They might not have the technical skills to be able to loop a section of a song, and they definitely won’t be able to individually decrease/increase the volume of particular instruments in a mix- they can either turn the song down or turn it up!

They also can’t always go out to the middle of the floor to really engage the audience- due to the nature of the work, they usually have to stay behind the DJ booth and man the mixer.

 

A FEW OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Finally, there are a few other things outside of these reasons to consider a band vs. DJ.

Consider the vibe you’re going for in your wedding. A modern, more hip wedding might benefit from hiring a DJ, whereas a more elegant, Gatsby-themed wedding might be boosted with a live band.

Also consider the size of your room/space for your event- a smaller space with limited seating might be a little bit better for a DJ, whereas a big room might feel a little empty with the same setup.

So there you go! Hopefully that makes your decision a little easier. And if it happens, here’s a little bit of a quick breakdown:

 

 

Band or DJ for your wedding?

 

 

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