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Smackdown: Live Band or DJ?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rihanna may be fun for the bachelorette party, but what will grandma think when the DJ starts spinning it at the reception? Deciding between a DJ and a live band for a wedding reception can be both thrilling and nerve-wracking.

We discuss the unique dangers and merits posed by the live band and the DJ. We debate which musical presence helps get the party started… and which one might just clear the dance floor. This week's Soundcheck Smackdown guests include music writer Jaime Lowe and ocassional wedding DJ Mike Wolf.

Guests:

Jamie Lowe and Mike Wolf

Comments [39]

Rachel

Its a tough one, I'm trying to decide whether its worth hiring a live band or not. I've seen some really amazing djs, but i think nothing beats live music at the end of the day. Really good article here about the benefits of live bands eg sound quality, athmosphere: http://www.thatfunctionband.com/live-band-for-weddings/

Feb. 10 2013 12:57 PM
Cory from Rochester, MI

I'm at that age where myself and many of my friends are either getting married or are recently married so needless to say I've been to a lot of wedding in the last year or so. What I've noticed is a DJ is a gamble, but a band is a death sentence. In Detroit it's well established that the best wedding band in town is the same band that plays all of the Pistons games. And I've had the horror of seeing them play twice. This is where I would like to address Jaime's comment about a DJ being not much more than an iPod.
While the band may be great to play a couple in and out, and great for the stereotypical wedding songs, everything that falls in between that the couple or even a wedding guest may request literally comes off of an iPod with this particular band. After being disappointed the first time I saw this band play I decided to count the number of songs played live vs. from an iPod, as it had become a hotly contested topic while planning my own wedding. The statistic came out just over 53% live. If I'm going to shell out the money for a live band I better be getting more than that for my money, otherwise why wouldn't I just load up my iPod.
I know this is limited to a particular band in a particular city, but for my money, I was very happy with my DJ!

Oct. 20 2010 02:56 PM
DJ C-MAC (Charlie) from Bethpage

As a DJ that plays weddings and all kinds of events, I am a bit biased. Truthfully, a good DJ will meet with the Bride and Groom at LEAST two times before the event to go over music they want and DO NOT want played on their special day. There should never be any inappropriate music played even if it is requested by a wedding guest. Nor should a good DJ ever stray from a specific list you gave to him or her unless you don't give them enough music to fill up the entire reception time. OR if the music the bride and groom chose isn't getting a reaction from anyone else in attendance....then you call the bride or groom over and ask permission to mix it up a bit....

A good DJ also knows how to build sets that make sense...in other words not going from a 70's disco song to a "new" song, then back. I always do small blocks of the same genre rather than being all over the place. A lot of preparation goes into planning the music/sets by a good DJ before your event.

May. 26 2010 12:37 PM
DJ C-MAC (Charlie) from Bethpage

As a DJ that plays weddings and all kinds of events, I am a bit biased. Truthfully, a good DJ will meet with the Bride and Groom at LEAST two times before the event to go over music they want and DO NOT want played on their special day. There should never be any inappropriate music played even if it is requested by a wedding guest. Nor should a good DJ ever stray from a specific list you gave to him or her unless you don't give them enough music to fill up the entire reception time. OR if the music the bride and groom chose isn't getting a reaction from anyone else in attendance....then you call the bride or groom over and ask permission to mix it up a bit....

A good DJ also knows how to build sets that make sense...in other words not going from a 70's disco song to a "new" song, then back. I always do small blocks of the same genre rather than being all over the place. A lot of preparation goes into planning the music/sets by a good DJ before your event.

May. 26 2010 12:37 PM
Jeff from NYC

Where is the mp3 download of this show? Why have you stopped offering them? This is a big disappointment to members like me that listen to them on the subway.

May. 26 2010 08:39 AM
The Engagements Cover Band from New York, New York

We're voting for the live band! - we were featured in this piece (they played our version of Love and Happiness at the 12:10 mark).

http://www.TheEngagements.com
Brooklyn, NY
band@theengagements.com

May. 25 2010 11:10 PM
Scott

Replying to the comments that a bad band can easily ruin an event...

There's a web site called gigmasters.com where you can find bands to hire... the best thing about it is it's like amazon, you can read reviews by other people who hired the band, and the bands can't edit out bad ones, so you really get a cross section of what people thought about the band when they hired them. That pretty much takes a lot of that risk away. And you can see which bands truly cover all the styles you want to hear, some bands are more versatile than others, if that matters to you.

Someone on the broadcast also mentioned cost... but some DJs are quite expensive, and some bands are less so, so you never know!

May. 25 2010 10:46 PM
reginald

this conversation would have been better with someone equal to mike w to advocate for the live music side. as a photographer i've been to over 600+ weddings.
all i can say is a perfect wedding is in the mind of the beholder.

May. 25 2010 06:21 PM
chloe from Brooklyn

I had the Dexter Lake Club Band, featured in this show, play at my wedding in 2008. It was Hands Down worth every penny. There were 350 guests at my wedding and I think about 200 of them were on the dance floor for four hours straight. The band was Totally full of energy and awesome tunes. They had something for everyone, and played with such passion and style that people ended up getting into music from generations that they might not normally love (aka my parents' friends danced to the 80's music and we danced to the 70's music). People danced who had never danced before. It was so so fun and people have thanked me many times for throwing the best wedding they have ever been to. There were many great aspects of the wedding but the centerpiece definitely was the band. Get ready for full awesome energy commitment if you hire them. They respond best to an enthusiastic crowd. :) http://www.dexterlakeclubband.com/

May. 25 2010 04:49 PM
Evan from Montclair, NJ

Well...Bands are definitely unpredictable! The band my Dad has been a part of for 20 years played our wedding; and the front man (who I've known since I was 5 years old) had a little accident...basically, he went a little heavy on the hors d'oeuvres and, eh hem...pooped himself. It wasn't discovered until the following day, when we noticed one of the private baths in the historic home we were married in, was destroyed. It was band story no one forgets! Needless to say, we learned a valuable lesson...don't take stuff too seriously!

May. 25 2010 02:36 PM
Sadie from Manhattan

Bands feel so much more special. I've been thinking back to weddings I've attended and I thought of several bands that really complemented the event beautifully, but I can't think of any DJs that were special or memorable.

May. 25 2010 02:36 PM
janice

I hired a dj for my wedding 15 years ago. I instructed him, "No TV theme songs and no Kenny G" I went to the bathroom and came back to hear Kenny G playing. Later on he played "Love and Marriage" yes it's Frank Sinatra, but who wants the soundtrack from that show playing at your wedding?

May. 25 2010 02:35 PM
karen

The Ipod shuffle analogy does not work....the shuffle is random...a good DJ reads the crowd and responds just like a band.

May. 25 2010 02:31 PM
Edward from NJ

There are the $15,000 mega-bands with 10 musicians and 4 different singers who trade off each song to create pitch-perfect simulations of the real thing. They seem so industrial.

May. 25 2010 02:29 PM
Jeff from Jackson Hole Wyoming

As a n owner of a production company in Jackson Hole Wyoming I have done hundres of wedding .
I always suggest a band . A good band is more fitting of an event like a wedding.
Far more engaging . Like a private concert.
A dj is good for the budget conscience .
Even better both .
Dj warm up , then band then dj after .
Very easy to add a dj to a live bands setup.

May. 25 2010 02:28 PM
dboy from nyc

... just 'cause a subject exists does not mean it should be "intellectualized"!

May. 25 2010 02:27 PM
Edward from NJ

I had a live jazz band at my wedding and they were great -- plug: http://www.touchofjazz.com. Bands can usually do one thing well, and if you can pick one thing, then a band can work. But if you want a mix of pop-rock-dance music, I would definitely go DJ.

May. 25 2010 02:25 PM
danielle Jensen from upper west side

Much as I love to hear the original version of a song,a live band is the best(as long as theyare decent musicians-and a lot are).For the record,the last two events I attended had DJs who were awful-they had very little selection of the type of music we had requested and were not polite to requests.

May. 25 2010 02:25 PM
Olivia from brooklyn

I agree that when a band plays you feel obligated to be quiet and watch, which sounds like such a bummer to me! We wanted our wedding to be the ultimate social event, where all the disparate groups in ours lives met and conversed and danced together, which is exactly what we got from our DJ.

May. 25 2010 02:24 PM
Raymmmondo from NYC, and now in West Orange, NJ

I LOVE to see/hear all kind of live bands, but for wedding parties, like any other dance parties, a DJ by far! Many more different styles can be played, in performances that I know exactly, and so can look better with my funky white boy moves! Who better to dance to than (the actual) (recording of ) The Temptations?!

May. 25 2010 02:23 PM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn, NY

I'd vote for both; my husband and I had musicians playing jazzy Django Reinhardt-type tunes during the cocktail hour - and a live, flamenco version of the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love" during the ceremony, then had a DJ for the reception. I'd much rather hear authentic versions of the music we chose for dancing than a cover band's; The B52's extended version of "Rock Lobster" brought the house down!

Plus to me, a wedding is not a concert, and some people go too overboard trying to make it about performance, as opposed to a celebration of a marriage...

May. 25 2010 02:21 PM
Tamar from Brooklyn

I have been to some weddings with great, interesting bands - a salsa group, for example. But in most cases, I'd take a DJ in a heartbeat. At our wedding, our dj played everything from Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn to Etta James to Alison Krauss to the Clash and on and on. A variation we never could have gotten with a band.

May. 25 2010 02:20 PM
davida from NJ

Good live band with a singer who is talented is always best- it is richer and fuller....But DJ wins over a boring band with a poor singer...

May. 25 2010 02:20 PM
Mark from Brooklyn

No matter how you slice it, it's a 4-hour party with a disparate group of guests, often between ages 8-80. The wedding celebrates the gathering of these people. The entertainment, while able to improve (or ruin) the party, is ultimately background. A wedding's not a club nor concert, and the lasting impression of the occasion shouldn't be the personality of the entertainer(s).

May. 25 2010 02:20 PM
Yvonne from New York

On our blog, yvonneandyvettetiquette.com, we suggest first do what you can afford and consider a mix. You can have a jazz band for listening and a dj for dancing. No matter what, music is a must.

May. 25 2010 02:19 PM
Marie

A band that plays weddings (not a wedding band) is the way to go. DJs tend to overdo the cheese factor, and wedding bands just don't have the talent. We had an awesome band for our wedding (Alive N Kickin, who actually had a hit record back in the day). They sounded amazing, played all night with only a couple of very short breaks, and had an awesome energy. All the DJs we looked at were ridiculous, and had to resort to props to get the crowd energized. I didn't want plastic noise makers and guys walking around in giant Frank Sinatra heads at my wedding; I just wanted people to have a great time.

May. 25 2010 02:19 PM
Susannah from New York , NY

The most amazing wedding I ever attended had a Full mariachi band plus other LIVE musicians throughout the evening and it was The Best wedding ever! the music was as much a part as the wedding as any other element and it was as real as anything else and it so destroyed any DJed wedding that I have ever been to.

May. 25 2010 02:18 PM
Kim from Manhattan

Start with a band and end with a DJ! Who says we can't have the best of both worlds?

May. 25 2010 02:16 PM
dboy from nyc

RU KIDDING???

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

May. 25 2010 02:16 PM
Telegram Sam from Staten Island

That guy from the band they played can't sing. Why are they popular?

May. 25 2010 02:14 PM
Jonathan Epner from West Village

A band is much better, BUT it is much easier to end up with a bad band then a bad DJ.

I'd much rather have a pro DJ than a band that sounded like the one you just played!

May. 25 2010 02:14 PM
Evan from New York, NY

I liked my wedding band, and I agree that a great band is better than a great DJ. However, as a veteran of many weddings and bar mitzvahs, a bad band will ruin a wedding far worse than a bad DJ ever could. I still have "We are Family" PTSD.

May. 25 2010 02:14 PM
Samantha from East Village, NYC

For me and my husband, the band was our wedding centerpiece. My husband leads a jazz big band (shameless plug: The Fat Cat Big Band), and we held our wedding in the West Village nightclub where his band held a longtime steady engagement. The 11-piece group, flanking the bride and groom on the stage, served as our wedding party and created the musical narrative and tone for our ceremony. We're pretty confident it was the most awesome (or at least memorable) wedding ever.

May. 25 2010 02:14 PM
Patrick from BK

Many people today have super-mega-newyear's eve-like weddings. If a couple is going to spend so much money, get both. Compromise is the key to any marriage, I know.

May. 25 2010 02:13 PM
kp

Bands take long breaks and can really mangle your favorite tunes (that's why one of Simon Cowell's favorite putdowns is that a contestant sounds like a wedding singer...). The DJ plays the versions of the songs you know and can put on a 'long' song when he needs a break without stopping the action.

May. 25 2010 02:13 PM
Alistair from Midtown

I wish my dj over-prepared for my wedding- he didn't play anything off of the long list of songs I gave him and I had to ask him multiple times to stop playing Dave Matthews and Sting. Having said that, who wants a bunch of navel-gazing hipsters playing at their wedding? Nothing says I'll love you forever like songs about not being popular in high school...

May. 25 2010 02:12 PM
Angela from Brooklyn

LIVE BAND! Not that there aren't great DJs, but it's the live music interaction that makes it special. I had a steel drum band at my wedding, they were one of the major highlights. DJs are just so.... high school. Sorry!

May. 25 2010 02:12 PM
Cynthia from long island

Band! Hands down. Live Music is always the way to go. Canned music is so sterile. You wouldn't show a video of a comedian at comedy club, why would you have a huge, important celebration without live music.

May. 25 2010 02:11 PM
Toby

Both can equally horrid.

May. 25 2010 11:29 AM

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