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How Chicago Wedding Musicians Set Their Prices

What does live wedding music cost? It’s a simple question – with a not-so-simple answer.

Booking music isn’t like buying a product at the store. Two malls might carry the same brand – but every band or musician is a little different. More importantly, every wedding is different. Your venue, your timeline and your tastes are all going to affect the kind of services you need from your performers. Which means there are no shortcuts here – you’re going to have to talk specifics with your musicians, or the company they work for, to get an accurate quote for your day.

But there are guidelines. They won’t all tell you this, but most professional musicians use a similar formula to calculate their rates. Whether you’re hiring a 10-piece dance band, a string quartet or a solo piano player, understanding the logic of live music can help you set a budget and make sure your entertainment company treats you fairly when you meet for the first time.

What did other couples book - and pay - for music? See 7 others share their  plans here.

The Formula

Your wedding music cost will depend on the number of musicians to play and on the length of their performance – with different rates applying for the first, second and third hours of music. Here’s how it breaks down at my company.

1. The first hour of music is always the most expensive. When you pay for one hour of music, you’re also paying for:

  • Artist preparation – Consultations your musicians will have with you, creating and rehearsing music for your special requests, and check-ins with your other vendors.
  • Artist exclusivity – By saying “yes” to your wedding, your performers are saying “no” to any other work they may be offered on the same date – even if that other work may pay more.
  • Travel. It takes as much gas (and travel time) to drive to a one-hour wedding as to a three-hour wedding.
  • Equipment and setup. The cost of equipment, and the time required to set it up. Expect a higher rate not only for bands with sound systems but for hard-to-haul instruments like the harp.
  • Overhead. Is there an office staff behind this musician, making your experience easier? Tools and planners to help you? Special music and arrangements unique to your ensemble? It all took resources to create and provide.

How Chicago Wedding Musicians Set Their PricesIn the Chicago area, you can expect to pay $200-$400 per musician for the first hour of music. $300 seems to be about the average.

2. The second hour of music costs much less than the first, since there are not additional expenses for the performers. You’re just paying for more performance time and, perhaps, more preparation. In the Chicago area you can expect to pay $100-$250 per musician for the second hour of service. $200 seems to be about the average.

3. The third hour of music is often the most affordable of all. Three hours is a “typical” night for professional musicians, and wedding-music companies like to give you an incentive to book in this way. In the Chicago area, expect to pay $75-$150 per musician for the third hour of service. The average is about $100.

4. The fourth hour of music is sometimes more expensive than the third. It’s hard physical work to sing or play for more than 3 hours, so some wedding companies consider this “overtime” - though the exact approach will vary from company to company, player to player and even instrument to instrument.

In addition to the above considerations, you may find that your venue or wedding-day timeline requires extra equipment or additional setup time. Expect to pay a little more for these. If your event is in the morning or on a weeknight,expect to pay less.

Making it Easy

Confused yet? Your wedding is a complex business – that’s one reason you’re hiring professionals to guide the celebration. But just as you don’t have to know how a car works to enjoy driving one, there’s no need to get lost in the details here.

Any bandleader, DJ or entertainment company worth your trust will be willing to meet with you face to face and explain which cost considerations are relevant to your wedding – and which aren’t – before you ever sign anything. At Backthird Entertainment, we meet with brides and grooms in person, listen to your needs, then present a few options to cover ALL your wedding-day music - from the walk down the aisle to the breathless last dance.

To discuss your wedding, contact us here.

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