VIDEO: Your wedding band questions answered with Del Cotton, Hireaband Scotland

We invited you to send in your wedding band and entertainment querries in for Del Cotton at Hireaband. Our editor Natasha sat down with him yesterday to ask him all your questions…

N: Can you explain what Hireaband is?

D: We are a music marketing company for wedding bands, corporate functions, private parties, that type of thing. We focus on looking after the band, doing all the paper work, and making things easy for them.

N: So you make everything really easy for couples looking for wedding entertainment. You can go on the Hireaband website, enter your wedding date, type in the type of entertainment you are looking for, hit search, and a bunch of options will come up for you. Obviously Del, people can also email you and ask for recommendations.

D: Lots of people do, yeah. The website is there and it’s a really good tool, and of course by selecting dates you are only seeing bands that are available on your wedding date. We filter quite tightly, so you can see if the band is able to play in your area, and you can even filter by your favourite band or your favourite song.

So if you like Bruno Mars, you can find all the bands who will play a Bruno Mars tune, see if they are available on your date and if they can perform in your area, and the website will give you an instant quote. But people do contact us and ask for our advice, we’ve been doing this for a long time.

We know all the new bands coming up and there are always a few bubbling round at the edges waiting to get onto the wedding market. So sometimes there is things we know that we haven’t had time to put onto the website, so it’s always worth giving us a call. There is six of us in the Hireaband office and we all know the wedding industry and all the best bands inside and out.

N:  So we’re just going to get straight into the questions sent in over the last week. The first one is: We would like a form of entertainment while my husband and I are having are wedding photos taken. Our venue is a barn so we want something that will fit with our rustic vibe. What would you recommend?

D: That’s a popular choice now, the barn wedding. There’s lots of stuff you can do, a nice ceilidh band or a country folk band is a nice thing that’s not too loud and creates a nice buzz. So you can have a fiddle or an accordion, and you don’t have to be ceilidh dancing to that music, you can just have it as background music.

There are all kinds of piano or guitar vocalists, and never forget the Scottish harp, the clarsach, which is a lovely instrument and unobtrusive. A lot of bands who have been booked to perform at the reception now offer a daytime option, which actually saves some money because they are coming to your wedding in any case.

They will play a different type of music, like guitars or a saxophone or something like that, any kind of combinations, and you can search for that type of entertainment on Hireaband under daytime entertainment and there is a lot of really good options.

N: We are on a budget but don’t like the idea of having an iPod playlist, do you have any advice on getting good evening entertainment without breaking the bank?

D: That’s a very timely question because we have just done a blog on the Hireaband website about ways to save money when it comes to entertainment. There are five ways to save, and the first thing is to try and get a local band, and that’s really important because a big part of the band’s cost is getting to you in the first place. Another thing to do is look out for new bands on the scene, because they are determined to get their diaries busy so they are very reasonably priced, and again talk to Hireaband about that. There are bands that will save you a lot of money, and maybe in two or three years time their prices would have gone up considerably, but that happens with all the really good bands, so go for a new band.

Another thing to avoid is late finishes and early starts, there is really no need to add time on at the end or beginning. Most weddings run from eight until midnight, and if you extend past that time you’re playing to a smaller crowd because some guests will start to go home. The fact is, it is better to end the night on a bang and not a whimper, so try and finish for 12. Another thing to avoid is early set ups, because most bands have day jobs, so they have to take time off their jobs to get to you early, and they will charge accordingly, so keep your times from eight until midnight.

The last thing to do is use a smaller band if you can. Generally speaking, the fewer people who are in a band the fewer people there are to pay. It doesn’t always work like that, there are some really great first rate bands that accordingly charge more money, but generally speaking, a seven-piece band is going to cost more money than a three-piece band. There is a great band called Elwood and they are phenomenal. Having said that, there are some really great for value larger bands, so shop around. There is a band called Revolution 7 which is a seven-piece band and are a very reasonable price for the amount of musicians that they have.

N: A lot of my friends have got married over the past few years and I want a wedding band who is different. Are there any new bands that you would recommend?

D: Yes, and I can name some names actually. There are always new bands coming onto the market and new bands forming from experienced musicians. Hot on the market just now is in Tom Mcguire and the Brassholes, they are just phenomenal and are booking like there is no tomorrow.

We have signed some new bands just this week, The FunkTones from Edinburgh, and they’re a really good value for money band actually, and going back to the last question because they are new, their prices are very low.

A new band that we haven’t put on the site yet are called The Second Hand Elastic Band, and those guys are ones to watch.

Talk to us, tell us who the bands are who you’ve seen before and we’ll know them, and have looked after them. It’s always changing and we are always looking for new acts, we spend a lot of time doing that. There are a lot of bands out there, but the very best are hard to find, so we spend a lot of time looking for them.

N: If someone is looking for live music for before their ceremony as guests are filtering in, what kind of options are available for them?

D: There are lots of options. You can go down the traditional piper route, you can’t have a Scottish wedding without a piper.

There are also great soul musician and singers, and fantastic guitar vocalists.

Don’t forget jazz, jazz is my favourite type of music, and you can put a really nice jazz duo or trio somewhere, and that will add a lot of class.

N: We’ve had a lot of requests from people who want to do the Love Actually thing, with the pop up choir…

D: Yes, that’s doable! The pop up choirs are increasing and you are seeing a lot more that now.

As you know, this is a trend, and these flash mob choirs are a nice thing to have. You can discreetly place these people within your guests without them knowing.

It’s a play on the old singing waiters, which you can do as well but choirs are a very popular option.

N: We cringe a little bit when we hear conventional wedding bands. We don’t want a band that is going to come out and sing Brown Eyed Girl and all the usual songs that we have heard a million times. Are there any bands that are a little bit cooler and a little bit different from the norm?

D: Papa Shandy and the Drams are the first band that pop into my mind. They are completely unlike any wedding band you have ever heard before, you can find them on their own website and on ours. There’s a great band called Real Easy which have been getting really busy lately. Another band called The Trueloves can play a heavier set if you like that sort of thing.

I know the boys from Elwood have a secret set list that they can play if you’re looking for something heavier. Younger bands, and most of the bands now are younger guys, they are aware that most of the people now don’t want to hear the same songs.

But a word of caution: the reason why you have songs like Brown Eyed Girl is because they work, and a wedding audience is the most varied audience your ever going to have- it really is eight to 80. So if a band a really struggling to fill the floor because they have been playing some really modern stuff, they will play these old songs that will fill the floor. It’s very tempting to book a band who will play music you really really like, but like I said,

I’m a jazz fan, and if you played jazz all night the floor would be empty and there would be tumbleweed going across the floor. So most bands, even the most trendiest bands, will do their version of popular songs, because they absolutely always work. And I know from being in bands for many years, that the trendiest guests will still dance to Stuck in the Middle with You because it works.

N: I think that’s really great advice. I think you can still have some of your personality in there, and you have your first dance song that can be the most obscure song in the world. Am I right in saying that bands will learn the first dance song?

D: Yes, every band will always learn the first dance song no matter how obscure it is. It might be tricky if it’s a male singer trying to do a big Mariah Carey song, it might sound a bit dodgy. But generally speaking, the band will play whatever you ask, and we are seeing bands being asked to play stuff that’s out of the ordinary, and it’s lovely to have that.

The band will put their own stamp on it, there’s no point in us having 20 managed acts and they all sound the same, so each band brings something different.

You can ask the band to drop some songs you can’t stand, and give them an idea of the kind of music you like and they will play it.

N: Yes, and a band wouldn’t be able to play every song listed on their website on any given night anyway.

D: That’s true. As soon as we post a set list on our website for a band it immediately goes out of date, because they are always learning new songs, so they will drop old songs and add new songs all the time. We update the website as soon as we are told by the band.

N: The next question is: We want to put on some surprise entertainment for our guests, something that’s really memorable and showstopping. What would you recommend?

D: There’s a band call The Rollin Drones who are a pop bagpipe band. They are phenomenal, they’ve just done a European tour, they will play modern music but with bagpipes too, with drums and guitars. It’s stirring, and for a Scottish wedding it’s a great way to surprise your guests, and you can do it at the start or in the break for the buffet.

We’re seeing a lot of tribute bookings for weddings, and if you have a type of music you really like get a tribute for that act. Usually it is a solo singer, so it’s unobtrusive and doesn’t need a lot of set up so they can come on without your guests knowing. You can have a bit of fun and put your own stamp on it, like Paolo Nutini or Elvis.

There’s also a really good Robert Burns tribute act who will do an address to the bride and groom.

N: The next question is: my partner’s family is Scottish but all of mine is coming from overseas, and I would really like to have a ceilidh… but I’m worried it will turn out be a disaster because they have never done it before. Do you have any times on making a ceilidh go smoothly?

D: You simply have to have a ceilidh band with a good caller, and they will explain all the dances, because even us Scots don’t know them all. Another good way to go is get a band who can do a ceilidh and covers, because a ceilidh is hard to do all night long.

A good ceilidh band will have you running around the floor, there will be sweat flying, it’ll be a long, long night. A good way to ease people into a ceilidh is to play half an hour to forty five minutes of ceilidh, and that gives overseas guests time to get used to a Scottish wedding.

You don’t have to have all the ceilidh at the one time; you can drop it in throughout the night. So you can have the best of both worlds.

N: Just before we went live we were discussing the logistics of hiring a band that you wouldn’t necessarily consider. Del, what do you think a couple should be thinking about when they are hiring a band, which they might not have thought about before?

D: From a band’s point of view, and I can say this from being in bands, access is an issue. So wherever you wedding is going to be, especially if it is an older building which hasn’t been built with modern entertainment in mind, it can be difficult to get the equipment in which can weigh over a tonne. So they have to move it from wherever the van is into the performance area, so that takes time. Then they have to set it up and check it all. The last thing you want is for the music to go during your first dance, and when a band are rushing to get their equipment together it can be a simple thing like one cable not being plugged in and the whole thing can be a disaster.

So if your wedding is running late, and most do, and your first dance is booked in at 8pm (as most are), but things aren’t running on time, don’t panic- the guys will get in and set up. But most bands need about an hour, and if the speeches have ran over or the photographer has taken a bit of extra time to get the perfect shot- which is fine- it might mean that the band can’t get access to the room because you are still eating dinner. The latest I’ve ever started was 11pm, many many years ago.

Also when the band are setting up they physically need the space, and one thing we have at Hireaband is a knowledge of all the big venues so if you are worried that your band won’t fit, call us up and ask us.

Rachel: We have some questions from viewers. What are sound limiters and how to bands cope with them?

D: Sound limiters are pieces of equipment at venues which control the electricity supply where the band is plugged in. They are set at certain decibel levels, or DP levels, and if the band reach those levels for a length of time, it will trip the power to the stage area and the band will suddenly have to stop playing.

In terms of coping with them, it depends on what level the DP level is set. Sound limiters are very common now, and it’s understandable thing for venues to have. Some bands cope better than others. Some bands just will not play in a venue with a sound limiter, and that is their choice.

Bands can play more quietly- it’s certain frequencies that cause the most trouble. Big horns, saxophones, the human voice can quite quickly trip these things. There is usually a traffic light system that bands can see, so if it is green then everything is fine, if it gets to amber then you are getting closer to the level, and if it gets to red and stays in red, it will trip the sound.

A good idea is to ask us at Hireaband what bands suit venues with sound limiters best, there is actually a section of our website that goes into great detail about how sound limiters work.

R: We also have: what is the funniest or weirdest first dance song request you have ever heard?

D: We get bands all the time that comes to us say, “you won’t believe what we got asked to play!”. Now, if I tell you, the people will know who I’m talking about. We have had some weird ones, but have whatever you like, it’s your first dance.

People sometimes choose songs that are less appropriate for first dance songs than they realise, there are certain songs that were written without meaning to be romantic tunes. One that was really popular for a while was Every Breath You Take by The Police. It’s a great song, but it’s about someone stalking someone else. Then there’s Perfect Day by Lou Reid, which is about heroin- apologies to people who had or are going to have those songs as first dance songs!

We’ve had bands been asked to play songs written by the bride or groom, or someone in the family. You have to be flexible to play them in the first place- I’m trying to be polite here because some of the songs are dreadful!

N: Another thing I wanted to ask is, if a couple are overwhelmed by the choice, what’s a good way to whittle it down?

D: If you are going to do it on our website, use the filters because they are really extensive.

If you’re struggling, just give us a call, and the team at Hireaband have been doing this since 1999 and we’re really good at it. The choice can be overwhelming, if you just Google it there are hundreds of thousands of choices.

The thing to do, is give us a call because our advice is free, and the guys at the office really know their stuff. Sometimes it comes out in conversation and we say, ‘this is the band for you.’ Or, you might enquire about a number of different bands and we’ll say, ‘well, there’s actually another option,’ and we usually get it right. There’s really nobody who knows the industry better.

N: Another thing to do is go to a band showcase, where you will see several bands play a short set of about four songs. Do you have any showcases coming up?

D: Glad you asked, because yes we do! 30th of May at the end of this month. It’s a Tuesday night at the Holiday Inn in East Kilbride. We have five bands confirmed and are hoping to confirm one of our new signings as a sixth.

The format is really good, and it’s free- bring family and friends with you and have a drink at the bar. It’s a bit like the Jools Holland show, so you will probably see me introducing the bands. It gives you a flavour of how they are going to sound.

Importantly at our showcases, the bands bring their own equipment, so they are not coming through some fancy PA system, they are there with the gear they will have at your wedding, and you get to have a chance to chat to any of the musicians and can even make a booking there and then.



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