The Best Choice For You

Band VS DJ | 6 Key Factors

Band vs DJ - The Great Debate Rages On

In my 20+ years in the entertainment industry, I would say this topic comes up time and time again. And for good reason! Choosing an entertainment format that doesn’t fit the mood or atmosphere you’re hoping for can lead to very undesirable situations.  This article aims to make point out 6 key factors to help make your decision easier.  

This article assume that you’re choosing between a professional level Band and a professional level DJ

“A terrible DJ will just play terrible songs too loudly and kill the vibe. A terrible band will play terrible songs and sing them off-key, at a volume that hurts your ears and scares people out of the room” – David Fraser

1. Selection

DJ Vibes -The Best Choice For You
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Can you find what you’re looking for? 

A good band is hard to find: 

A great band is even harder – especially if you don’t start looking well enough in advance.

The reason for this is bands and musicians that play at a pro level spend a lot of time practicing. Most full time musicians and band members don’t typically have “day jobs” and they spend a majority of their time either out performing, recording, or further honing their craft. 

You may have an easier time finding a band that plays on a part time basis because there are more of them. However, it’s my experience that such bands are not as well practiced and usually lack lustre as compared to that of band at a pro (Full Time) level.  

Most bands are usually booked through a booking/talent agency. You’ll need to spend some time searching for a talent booking agency in your area and see what they have to offer.  

Finding a DJ is much easier: 

Generally speaking, DJs are not as difficult to book. This is because DJs are solo performers generally, since they don’t need to practice conjointly. To be frank, another reason is it’s much easier to gain the basic skills of a DJ than it is to master any particular instrument. Thus the bar for entry is much easier to attain, so there are simply more to choose from. 

That being said, I would argue that finding a talented, well seasoned, and experienced DJ could be just as difficult as booking a well sought after band. I myself am usually booked anywhere from 6 months to a year in advance. I then find myself having to turn down many inquiries as I’ve already been booked.  

In both scenarios It’s good practice to look at the reviews of the talent you’re interested in and try to find a sample of them in action, just to make sure they indeed have the vibe you’re looking for. 

2. Logistics

Great Hall picture

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

What kind of space can you provide, and where?? 

Do you have the space for a band? 

Bands generally consist of 4-5 members – Bassist, Lead guitar, rhythm guitar, drummer. The lead guitarist or rhythm guitarist will also take on the roll of lead singer, while having the other band members sing backup vocals. Bigger bands may have a keyboard/piano section, and a brass section.

A band will also need to be front and centre on a riser of some description as they will be the focal point of the evening. Generally speaking, anywhere from 12″ to 36″ is a good hight.

Some bands could require a separate sound technician as well. The job of the sound technician is to make sure all sounds coming from the musicians are at the appropriate levels. This is because it’s very difficult to perform and adjust sound levels simultaneously.  

The sound technician could need to be stationed either on the dance floor or elsewhere with the sound mixing board and other sound EFX units (This is typically known as the “Front Of House” or F.O.H. for short). Some bands take care of the sound levels themselves, or their sound technician may only need an iPad to control the audio levels. Either way it’s good to get a heads-up on what space they will require. 

Additionally, some bands may require a dressing room (Commonly known as a “Green Room” in the entertainment industry) 

Where do DJs fit in? 

The footprint taken up from a DJ is MUCH smaller, as they only require a banquet table.   Since the DJ has a smaller footprint, this allows you to have more flexibility in terms of your room layout. Although I feel it’s best the have your DJ fairly close to the dance floor, I’ve been set up off to the corner of the room or closer to the head table many times. 

Having said that, your DJ may have a large facade and choose to set up their speakers very close to the DJ table – which may give the DJ a more grand presence in some cases. However the DJ’s placement of speakers, lights, and so forth does not have to be centralized to one location. Many times the DJ will be playing your tunes from one section of the room, yet have the speakers set up closer to the dance floor, and the lights could set up elsewhere. 


3. Music Selection

Record Collection
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Who’s got more variety and flexibility? 

DJs wins this point HANDS DOWN

A professional open format DJ will be able to go from song to song, and genre to genre very easily, swiftly and seamlessly. Especially one that has been honing their craft for some time.  To add to this point, a DJ will have thousands upon thousands of songs to choose from at a moments notice. This means playing your guests’ requests and changing the mood of your evening can be done at a whim. 

On the other hand, bands only have so much time to practice and learn new music. With this in mind, a band’s catalog and selection is very limited when you’re comparing it to that of a DJ.    

4. Presents

Young girl singing
Photo by Wendy Wei from Pexels

Who puts on more of a show? 

Bands got this one for sure YES… Some DJ’s are more charismatic than others. Other DJs have a separate MC accompany them to help interact with your crowd.  But this still pales in comparison to seeing and experiencing a band rocking out! Bands are able to interact with your crowd much more than a DJ could. While DJs can interact with your guests (“Hey check out gramma cutting a rug!!”), the experience of having a live band rock the night away is unparalleled. Bands can interact with your crowd better for several reasons:
  1. They are front and centre, so all eyes will be on them.
  2. Since there are several members all doing different things, there is more going on to keep your guests entertained.
  3. The one thing that a band can give you is a music solo. Crowds LOVE when a band is in the middle of a great song and all of a sudden there’s a drum breakdown accompanied by an amazing guitar or piano solo.
  4. Bands can draw on your guests to be a part of the show. It’s a great experience to see your loved ones become a part of the show, living their best life! This also make for great pictures to be taken, stories to be told, and memories to be made. 

5. Breaks

Taking a break
Photo by Kerde Severin from Pexels

Who keeps it going all night long? 😛

The Reality Is…

Bands can only play for a limited time. While they’re on stage, they’re rocking the night away and giving the experience of a lifetime. This takes a toll on their fingers, feet, and voice boxes. As a result, most bands are only able to give you 2 45 minute sets with a 15-20 minute break in between. Some may do a third set, but it’s rare.  This break allows them to recuperate after exhausting their energy on stage. As a result, you’ll need to come up with another form of entertainment while your band is on break. As the band is taking a break, it’s a great time to play music off Spotify and open up your “midnight table”. Another option is to deliver speeches, raffles tickets, or another type of interactive game. Keep in mind you’ll need a host for this to take place.

Do DJs need breaks?

On the contrary to popular belief, DJing does get fairly tiresome. Not to the same extent of a band member but several facts are still in place. They’re on their feet for a large portion of the evening. They will constantly be thinking of the next song to play. Once the next song is cued up, they will be next thinking of how best to mix it in so that it’s pleasing to the ear. Plus some DJs will act as your MC as well. Not to mention the task of setting up prior to everyones arrival takes a fair amount of energy as well. With all this said, DJs do take periodic breaks. However, the breaks are much shorter and are taken in between songs. As a general rule, DJs tend to take breaks during slow dances or when a super popular song is being played. This allows for the music to be seamless and for it to appear as though the DJ hasn’t taken a break at all!

6. Cost

Putting money into piggybank
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Let’s find out who costs more?

Bring on the band!

There are usually 4-5 members in a band, plus a sound technician. The average cost for a professional band will cost anywhere from $2500.00 – $5000.00, depending on factors including the time of year, venue location, and how sought after the band is. This cost usually excludes the provision of a sound system and lighting. So, if you go with a band you will want to see if your venue provides sound and lights.

DJ Pricing

DJs are far less as a general rule of thumb. $1000.00 – $3000.00 tends to be the going rate for most DJs, including lights and sound. A DJ’s rate is generally determined by the package you’ve selected and the calibre and experience of the DJ. You can check out my wedding prices here to give you an idea of what to expect. Just keep in mind that prices fluctuate from region to region.

The Bottom line

Your 6 key factors at a glance:

  1. Bands are harder to Book than DJs
  2. Bands take up more space than DJs
  3. DJs have more music selection
  4. Bands give a FAR BETTER show
  5. Bands need to take breaks
  6. Band cost more than DJs

So there you have it! These are the 6 key factors that come into play when deciding whether to go with a DJ or hire a band. I hope I’ve shed some light on this topic. 

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