by Melissa Snoza
For those clients who are facing the task of finding high quality professional musicians to perform at a private event for the first time, this guide provides some general information on how to select the right ensemble. There are many choices out there for music for weddings and events, and it is important to know the right questions to ask to ensure that the people you trust to provide the perfect atmosphere for your special day are of the highest possible standard of artistry and professionalism.
Booking Agencies vs. Self-Managed Ensembles and Artists:
There are a multitude of chamber music companies competing for your business, and it is helpful to know the difference between those that are booking agencies and those that are self-managed ensembles.
Booking agents are businesspeople who may or may not be musicians themselves. They contract individual musicians to play together for events, then take a substantial portion of the quoted fee for their efforts. The amount that the musician actually gets paid for the event is usually not disclosed to the client, and the names of the musicians who the booking agent contracts to play at the event are not always advertised. The fees quoted to the client tend to be substantially higher than those of self-managed groups because of the agent fee, or the fee the musician is paid may be lower than industry standard to keep fees competitive.
Aside from the financial differences, hiring musicians through a booking agency can have artistic implications as well. Musicians that perform together regularly develop an extremely close working relationship, and the interaction that occurs during performance is instinctive and cohesive. Musicians that are contracted through a booking agency may never have actually met each other before the event. It’s possible that they will not perform as well as an ensemble because they haven’t had as much experience working together. When hiring through a booking agency, it pays to ask whether you are booking a pre-formed ensemble or a group of individual musicians.
Self-managed ensembles are often able to provide higher quality music at more reasonable prices. The musicians of these ensembles work together on a regular basis, and therefore are able to perform seamlessly together. There is also no need for a booking agent or their fee, ensuring an affordable price quote for the client.
Professional vs. Amateur Musicians:
While you may be tempted to shop for musicians based solely on price, be sure to check any musician’s credentials before signing on the dotted line.
Many musicians who charge substantially less may be amateurs or students. Amateur musicians have other day jobs, and may or may not have had advanced training in music. You may come across student musicians from the top music conservatories in the country who are able to perform beautifully, but may lack experience.
Professional musicians hold advanced degrees in music and make their living performing and teaching music. Their resumes should reflect a wide variety of performance experience, including orchestral, chamber and solo work, as well as any awards and honors they have received. These musicians have the experience to help clients select the perfect music for any event, and to perform it effortlessly.
When you contact musicians you are considering hiring for an event, the first step is to provide the date and time of the occasion to check their availability. Many musicians book up to a year in advance, so this step is best done as early as possible.
Getting to know the musicians:
Most musicians have materials readily available so you can get to know them and their services. These include a functional website, promotional materials, a demo CD or sound clips available online. Because musician schedules can be hectic, it is not always possible to meet with an ensemble before signing a contract to secure your date. For that reason, review all materials carefully and listen to the ensemble’s recordings to ensure that they are of a desirable quality.
Getting a price quote:
Musician fees are highly individual and vary based on the type and location of each event. While many ensembles provide sample prices in their promotional materials, it is best to request a personalized quote in writing.
Signing the contract:
Once you have decided to hire an ensemble, a contract will be sent to you which outlines the terms of service and payment information. Most musicians will not secure a date for a client unless the contract and deposit are received, and considering how far in advance musicians are usually booked, this is a step that should be taken as soon as you have decided which musicians you would like to work with.
Planning the event:
Any quality music provider will schedule a consultation with their clients to select music for their event. Wedding ceremonies require particular attention because specific works are chosen for performance.
When musicians are hired for background music, however, there may not be a need for an extensive consultation because the music selections are most often chosen by the musicians. It is important in either case, however, to discuss when musicians are to begin and end their performance, and when and if breaks are to be taken, as well as any other details unique to each event.
Enjoy the rewards:
Once the booking, contract and planning stages are complete, the musicians handle the rest. The music will be rehearsed, and musicians will arrive prepared to provide a beautiful atmosphere for your special occasion!
By Melissa Snoza, Booking Coordinator and Flutist
Amarante Ensembles, LLC