A Guide To Band Fees
Great live music is fantastic! We’ve all been to gigs, concerts, festivals, parties or even weddings and seen some amazing bands. They work really hard to share their talent so we’d like to explore what goes into a performance, why live band prices are what they are and what you should expect to pay to hire a good band.
I’ve worked in the entertainment industry for around 12 years and last year, the average cost to hire a live band was, give or take, £1360 for a 5 piece performing 2 x hours of live music plus DJ playlist when not performing. At first glance, this might seem expensive at £136 per hour per person. Sadly, this is nowhere near what each band member earns on a typical function. Let’s break down the figures…
The band may play for two hours but it’s likely the event – let’s say it’s a wedding – for approximately 7 hours. Here’s a pretty standard itinerary:
- 4 – 5pm: Unrealistic travel time (based on each member living an average of 45 miles from the venue)
- 5pm: Band arrives, stretches legs. Taller band can now unload all equipment
- 5.30 – 7pm: Band sets up and sound checks around 1 tonne of sound and lighting equipment
- 7 – 8pm: Band have a quick bite to eat, freshen up, get changed and finalise set list
- 8 – 9pm: Band put on DJ playlist are on standby in case they are called early
- 9 – 10pm: First set
- 10 – 10.30: Put on DJ playlist, freshen up, grab quick refreshments and loo break
- 10.30 – 11.30: Second set plus extra request or two
- 11.30: Midnight: DJ playlist whilst band gets changed, grab refreshments and prepare to set down
- Midnight – 1am: Band de-rig, load up and begin drive home
- 1 – 2am: Travel Time
Total time: 10 hours
Revised price per person per hour: £1460 ÷ 5 ÷ 10 = £27.20
This still isn’t the band fee – there’s a lot more to consider. These are all the other expenses we have to consider when hiring a live band.
Professional bands need to have Public Liability Insurance as most venues demand it now. They also need to have all their electrical equipment PAT certificated. Both of these need to be done annually and, whilst not particularly expensive, add another £420+ to the band’s annual costs.
It costs money to look good. A lot of clients actually hire live bands based on their image as well as how they sound. Brides don’t want to see jeans and trainers at their wedding so members have to ensure they look smart for every function. Some bands even have suits / clothes designed especially for their performances. This is all part of what’s included in the cost to hire a live band.
Travel costs. It’s not true that all band members live in the same house and a 5 piece band has their own band van or can fit everything into 2 x cars. It is likely that each band member lives in a different town and that they can’t travel together because the venue isn’t en-route plus it’s not easy to share a car whilst you have all the sound & lighting equipment or drum kit loaded. If each band member only had to travel 45 miles each way then that’s an additional £75 in fuel between them. Let’s not mention the cost of vehicles, tax, insurance and maintenance.
This live band is amazing! Everyone said how good they were. Thank you so much for making it the best party.
Equipment is another reason why the band sound so good. A decent sound and lighting set up for a 5 piece band (keyboards, bass, drums, guitar and vocals) will cost around £4500 – 8000. A good Shure Microphone can cost anywhere up to £1800.
Promotional material also needs to be paid for. Studio recordings, videos, website costs, branding, photography, marketing…the list goes on. A band is a small business and the band fees have to go towards paying for everything – not just the 2 hours we see them at an event.
How much does a musician earn in a live band?
The £136 per person per hour mentioned above is nothing like what a decent musician earns at each event. It’s a lot nearer £15 which, considering the years of training at music college / university, countless underpaid gigs on the pub / club circuit that help make a band as good as they can be, is extremely good value. Sadly, there are bands who will work for a lot less than this. In doing so they are giving a false impression of how much it costs to hire a live band. They may be starting out or letting a venue take the burden of their costs. They might not have PLI, a regular line up or pay their musicians properly and need to constantly get new members.
All these things determine how good your band is likely to be. The phrase you get what you pay for is rarely applied to hiring a live band. The reason being is most clients get far more than they paid for. Band prices haven’t changed dramatically over the last 10 years that I’ve been booking them for events. For anyone who has ever seen an amazing band perform you’ll know they are worth every penny. The cost to hire a live band is a fraction of what you’d pay any other professional – just ask your plumber, mechanic or solicitor.
Jay: Event Co-Ordinator and Artist Liaison manager for Wow Entertainment.