Ensuring entertainers perform
Today we’d like to introduce to you Susan Heaton Wright of Viva Live Music who talks to us about making sure entertainers perform – something I know many planners and brides worry about when it comes to weddings…..over to you Susan:
At Viva Live Music, part of our selection process for new entertainers and musicians to join the company, is to be interviewed as well as auditioned, to ensure the quality of performer is high quality. Occasionally, we decide not to use a particular entertainer based on their interview, since although they are talented, they don’t have the necessary ‘people skills’ to work with the client to ensure a wedding goes well.
However, recently an interview resulted in me being quite shocked – prompting me to write this blog. The musicians concerned stated that “They have every right to refuse to perform” – even after signing a contract. Although I looked physically shocked at this response, they didn’t provide an example of this – even when prompted. Of course I didn’t invite them to work for Viva Live Music!
However, it did lead me to consider why a musician would refuse to perform, and how to avoid this situation. Naturally we would want to prevent this to ensure a wedding goes well, and the last thing we want to happen is that a wedding is spoilt by a petulant musician or entertainer.
Thinking about recent events and proposals I have written, there has been specific information I have needed to include, to ensure the bride includes this in her plans. For example, flamenco dancers won’t dance on carpets or concrete floors (it is difficult to stamp your feet on those surfaces and make the standard Flamenco sound) – so the bride had time to plan where the dancers would perform. Likewise string musicians won’t play outside in the sun shine because this can damage their instruments, so a bride will be warned to locate them in the shade or under a gazebo.
But, not everyone is focused on these details, whether they be the musicians, the venue or the bride. Recently, one of our musicians was booked to play at a Historical venue; the well known agent hadn’t told him of specific venue requirements, and he had to work very hard on the day to ensure he could perform in the venue!
I believe, as ever, avoiding these situations is down to good communications: asking the right questions; anticipating problems before they start and confirming any points on paper. So here is my toolkit for ensuring musicians and entertainers DO perform and have NO reason to refuse.
- Early on in the planning process, ask if there are any specific requirements entertainers could have for performing. For example providing a gazebo to perform under if outside.
- Be honest about where the entertainers are going to perform; problems are more likely to occur if entertainers are told they are performing somewhere different (for example outside) at the last moment.
- Be proactive in giving information to entertainers early on in the process and drive information being given to you. Normally an agency will be anticipating the correct questions and will flag up any potential problems, but don’t rely on them to do this: you need to be proactive.
- For dancers, they will need somewhere private to change and the floor should not be slippy or concrete. Ask questions about the best floor covers for their dancing.
- Are there awkward places to carry equipment or instruments? Warn them well before the event and if necessary, request that someone from the venue helps the musician (normally a harpist) in carrying the instrument.
- If performing outside, are there safe power sockets to use close to where the performing will take place? Will the electrical equipment be covered by a canopy or gazebo in case it rains? If there is any risk to the performers, guests or equipment, the performers are correct in not performing. The venue should have a risk assessment for performing outside and be able to advise you where to locate the performers.
- If the venue has any restrictions such as decibel levels; times to stop performing or using covers for spikes (for cellos) or dancers not wearing stiletto shoes, you should pass this on to the entertainers and also put this in writing asking them to confirm they have received this information.
- Fire eaters could refuse to perform outside in particular weathers (for obvious reasons). I would recommend that you discuss with him or her early on in the planning, what conditions would prevent the performance taking place and to suggest an alternative location – with the venue too – in case weather conditions are a problem.
- Many musicians have problems performing in extreme cold. We had a string quartet who were located next to the outside door of a venue, which kept opening. Their instruments kept going out of tune and their fingers froze. It wasn’t ideal! They carried on, but were worried that their playing was affected by the cold. Some quartets would have refused to play! I would recommend checking if there is a draft free location within a venue, in the winter, to place the musicians.
- Be realistic in any demands of entertainers: we have heard several situations where brides wanted bands to set up at 9am in the morning, or even the night before: leaving their valuable equipment at an insecure place. This is unreasonable; not only could the equipment be damaged or at worst stolen, but the band is essentially working for that entire time. These situations are actually operational problems for the venue and there is always a solution where the venue could set up the evening room later in the day.
- Guests fiddling with instruments: unfortunately harpist and drummers are particular victims of this! The musicians’ instruments are their essential equipment for working and whilst they love interacting with guests that are interested in their instrument, they don’t want them damaged. One of our harpists had a small child pulling strings, whilst his parents laughed. A string broke and she had to stop playing whilst she restrung the harp. She carried on, but other musicians would probably have refused to continue playing whilst the child was anywhere near them!
If you wish to discuss any live entertainment options for weddings you are planning, I would be delighted to take your call.
Susan Heaton Wright © 2012