Music & Simchas: Hiring A Band: What Are You Doing? Part I

(As featured in the 5 Towns Jewish Times,  10/5/18)

By Gershon Veroba

It’s actually a fair question. I’ve watched parents, brides and grooms from all walks of life use all sorts of methods for hiring music for their event. The good, the bad and the confused, everything from do-it-yourself to “here’s the check, I don’t wanna know.”

There has never been a universally correct procedure to follow when planning an event, but the traditions have changed with time.The caterer, the band, the event planner, the hall and others have constantly traded places as the preferred “first stop” and they continue to change, but some that last for years never cease to amaze me. Everyone, it seems, has a better idea but what concerns me is they’re still trying to find a better way.

I found that certain underlying rules have always worked and that experience is the key, whether it’s that of the wedding professionals or the clients themselves. Now most clients are handing the decisions to the young bride and groom, rather than risk waking the conflict of taste and cultures they fear may occur if the parents take charge.

For many of these engaged optimists planning a new, exciting life on their own, high school was just a few years ago.

Of course, the event focuses on the young couple’s lives and they should ultimately be the final judges of how the event happens. The problems often come when they are left alone to a hiring process they know little about, while tempted with the cool possibilities of being given a 400 person capacity venue with their choice of food and music. After all, for many of these engaged optimists planning a new, exciting life on their own, high school was just a few years ago. Even their parents need guidance for this, but their decisions are based on different perspectives that come from a few years more.

If you’re panicking, you’re doing it wrong
No matter how old you are, keeping priorities in perspective is always the best remedy and yields the best events. Paranoia builds as deal with advice from friends, pressure from the future in-laws, general distrust of service providers to other factors that drive clients into a stressful “protective mode.”

Don’t forget…Personal trust is where you are already an expert. It’s where reputation and intuition come together. If you don’t hear it or feel it for yourself, then don’t hire them.

You have more choice and freedom than you may think, but you will need to follow a decisive path by selecting a trustworthy professional to guide your knowledge and decisions. The key word here, however, is “trustworthy,” which is the first thing your friends and family should help you find, before the actual party-specific decisions ever come into play. You need to plan for your event first and only an objective professional can guide you with this. To hire this pro, you need to understand “trust” and let them help you.

Two essential types of trust in hiring a band or any vendor:
1) Personal trust is where you genuinely feel the person you are speaking to respects your feelings, understands your concerns and will guide you with complete honesty. Do they sound like they’re more concerned with selling you something than determining what you genuinely need? Don’t ignore that. Feel free to move on.
2) Professional trust is determined by reputation and by demonstrating they know what they’re doing, even beyond the initial reason they’re hired… the detail behind the scenes behind that require so much more than pressing a button or playing a song, following a schedule as well as dealing with the unexpected. Constant teamwork between the professionals is essential and keeps the event moving forward smoothly. I found established relationships between vendors to be crucial to my entire business, before and after the event. That’s how so many of us know each other and are often good friends as well.

You may not be a big fan of trust,  but these two types should keep each other in check. Once reputation is established, you’ll agree we’re at least halfway there, but don’t forget…Personal trust is where you are already an expert. It’s where reputation and intuition come together. If you don’t hear it or feel it for yourself, then don’t hire them.

Here’s some money. Go make a wedding.
If spending thousands of dollars or more in one evening makes you nervous, then spending your parents’ money should certainly increase the pressure. The best step for you, if possible, is to include your parents in your support “team,” at least for the first stages, to find the professionals you consult with.  When that’s done, you can take full charge and discuss your wishes with someone who can apply valuable experience and foresight, while keeping you grounded. This can be a planner or even any of the vendors, who can recommend others trustworthy vendors to consult with separately. A planner will take you from the beginning to the end, eliminating many of those burdens and bring it all together by coordinating all involved and completing it with design and supervision.

Jewish music has some wonderfully-talented people, but they may not help your wedding plans if they aren’t hired with care and experience. 

If the experience and trust is there, the professional can lead you to other trustworthy vendors and soon you’ll have made a party completely unique to you. Your choices from then on will be strong and informed.

Brides & Grooms: Decide what it’s really all about.
Jewish music has some wonderfully-talented people, but they may not help your wedding plans if they aren’t hired with care and experience.  I find that many young couples apply their enthusiasm with entertainment to their weddings, inquiring into celebrities, flashy guitar soloists and drummers, all before they’ve even considered their budgets or discussed the band, who will be handling the music for the remaining 90% of the event.

One question they often miss is “where do you expect your guests to be when that person is performing during the dancing?” It is a sobering moment, as the bride and groom realize they will be left sitting in the middle of the dance floor while a large portion of their guests are distracted to the bandstand.  I’ve seen many enjoy this experience, having these artists perform to them as their guests look on, but many of my clients have strongly resisted this, fearing that after paying for this large event it will suddenly become unclear who the guests of honor actually are.

Money is no object, even for you.
My general rule for all event planning and hiring is to decide what you want and need, without regard to budget limitations. That’s right. This way, you’ll be starting off with the first priority, the dream you aspire to. If budget reality doesn’t allow it later, then you can carefully trim it all down, step-by-step, to the bottom line. The bandleader or representative can help you do this while maintaining as much musical quality as possible. Anything you eliminate will now be something you consciously decided on, rather than immediately taking the discount plan and discovering forgotten details later.

It works both ways, in fact. I’ve often planned bands for clients that had, for example, 7 pieces and, when they saw there was still plenty of room in the budget, we added as many as 4 or 5 pieces, ranging from grouping horns or strings to percussion or harp.

No matter how simple or elaborate, our vision is the one we reach for, so that’s the best place to start.

When you plan a personal event that means so much to you personally, you are passionate about getting the most for less. Why? Well, there’s a reason we say it in that order, 1) “most” and 2) “less.”   Those are our priorities. I want my daughter’s wedding to have the “most” of what we want as possible. There’s no question about that, no matter how simple or elaborate, our vision is the one we reach for, so that’s the best place to start.

If you trust the person guiding you, make them your “point man” and run everything by them. Have them explain things to you so you can plan together with more knowledge and less stress. I’ve been in this business for over 30 years and I still defer to my event planner and my vendors because they are specialists. Use the privileges you paid for and let them help you.

The Crystal Ball
Working with the right professionals (see my previous article, “Hiring A Pro…”), will always get the job done right plus they’ll help you predict and deal with the unexpected.

From the perspective of a band owner, there’s nothing like the customer who trusts your judgement. We will ask each other questions and never stop until we’re all sure everyone’s happy. Yes, everyone, including the band. A happy and involved band works hard for you, delivers heartfelt performances and will look out for you at every turn. It’s a relationship that the client should fully take advantage of.

Similarly, great relationships between the vendors is a huge advantage for the client. The days of competing purposes, caterer vs. band vs. photographer are long gone. We’re war-torn veterans of the wedding business and, as such, we’ve grown closer and work together for everybody’s benefit.

It makes picking up the phone and talking, for instance, to the caterer, that much easier and it gives us a chance to come up with more solutions for the client. By the time we all arrive and set up, the pros feel welcome and are confident we will have another smooth and successful event together.

Next time, “Hiring A Band: What’re You Doing? Part 2”

Gershon Veroba has lived in the 5 Towns/Far Rockaway area for over 30 years. A composer, producer, musician and singer since childhood,  Gershon has been featured by most most major wedding bands since 1980. As a solo artist, he’s performed on stage and in the studio with virtually all popular Jewish performers. He has produced & appeared on over a hundred albums, including over a dozen of his own, in concerts and festivals in around the world. His company, Town 6 Entertainment Corp., provides music and video production services worldwide, now featuring G-Major Events, an orchestra and personal event planning service.

Gershon is also a public speaker, a former copy editor and now a contributing writer for 5TJT.   Visit gmajorevents.com for information, videos & SM links.

Also posted on 5TJT.com and facebook.com/gmajorevents, where you can catch up, comment and share. 

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