How to find the perfect live music act for your office Christmas party.
Being put in charge of the office Christmas party is by no means a small challenge, and you want to be sure that your event will be talked about for years to come.
That time of the year is rapidly approaching…. get ready to dig out the Santa hats, fairy lights and furiously Google where to get catering-sized trays of mince pies!
Whether you have the backing of a large company or just a quick whip round from your co-workers, a fantastic way to really add to the atmosphere of your event is by putting on some live music.
If you are part of a big company you may have to organise a party for people who don’t always interact on a daily basis. Live music is a great talking point to help new co-workers get to know each other and facilitate conversation. Equally, if you work as part of a small team, booking a band or act can really help transform a small gathering in your office or venue into a really memorable event.
That said, there are a couple of things worth thinking about, when you’re looking to book your band and when you’re planning the event. Here are our top five things to consider when organising a Christmas band for your office party.
1. Think about the space you have to work with
The space you are using will affect your choice of act in several ways. To start with, you have the obvious practicalities of fitting your band on stage – even if your “stage” is just a corner of the office canteen! Depending on the type of act they are, your band will usually have a full PA system with them, comprising of at least two large speakers and a mixing desk.
You might also have to factor in a drum kit and guitar amplifiers, not to mention space for the musicians to perform in. As a general rule, the more space you can give them, the better. If your space is particularly restricted, consider booking a smaller band like a solo singer with backing tracks or an acoustic act.
If you have hired a Christmas party venue, speak to the venue manager about their provision for live music in advance. They may have specific curfews in place or possibly sound limiters and volume restrictions, all of which should factor into your decision.
Top tip: A simple way to help transform an office space into a performance venue is by thinking about the lighting. Consider turning off the main lights and using some candles and mood lighting. Above all, remember that no one wants to dance under bright office lighting.
2. Do your research
There are plenty of sources for live acts, from traditional ways like word-of-mouth and entertainment agencies, to Entertainment Directories. The most important thing is to do your due diligence – listen to the band’s recordings and read their reviews.
It sounds obvious, but it’s important to consider your audience when you’re booking your band. You might be a huge fan of heavy metal or ceilidh dancing, but your boss and his clients might feel differently.
If you’re stuck for ideas, there are some traditional themes that might help. For instance, Jazz and Classical acts can add a real sense of class to more formal black-tie, Christmas parties. Whereas function bands will generally have a large and varied repertoire, with a little something to get everyone up and dancing.
3. Be realistic with your budget
It’s important to realise that hiring professional musicians can be a costly business, but it is definitely not an area where you should be looking to skimp.
Professional bands not only have the experience to read and respond to an audience to ensure they are having the best time possible, but they will also have encountered all manner of circumstances and practical problems that you might not have even considered.
Top tip: If you’re on a small budget but desperately want a full sound, consider acoustic duos, or party trios that can often pull off a particularly rocking event at a lower cost.
4. Get any requests in early
Many bands will have learned and rehearsed Christmas songs for this time of year, but musicians are not jukeboxes and you cannot just expect them to automatically know your favourite Christmas number.
That said, most bands will happily take requests. If you have any particular songs you would like to hear, make sure you speak to the band in advance – this will give them a chance to learn and rehearse the material.
5. Consider your timings
When you’re structuring your party, there are a couple of things worth keeping in mind. For a start, your band will have to set up and sound checks in advance of their performance.
This is always best done when people aren’t around, as no one really wants to see a bunch of flight cases being dragged in and “One! Two!” being repeated down a microphone. Set up time will vary, but it’s worth factoring in around 2 hours for a traditional 4 or 5 piece band.
When working out set times for the performance, remember that it is always best to schedule your band around any food being brought out. Simply put, food will usually take precedence over most things and, if you’re looking to avoid wasting one of your band’s sets by having them playing to the buffet queue, it’s generally better to leave a gap either side of food’s arrival.
Top tip: Professional bands will often travel with lots of very heavy and bulky equipment, so try to consider how and when they will load this in and out, reserving parking near any entranceways if needs be.
At its simplest, whenever you’re booking live music, it’s important to do your research and remember that if you aren’t sure about anything, just ask. Professional bands will usually try and be as accommodating as they can and hopefully together you can create a truly memorable office Christmas party.
By Jon Fellowes of Last Minute Musicians