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Hiring Musicians for an Event

Issues to consider when organising a private event, where to find musicians, when you would need a licence, questions for your musicians and contracts and cancellations.

Last updated: 14 July 2021

For a private event here are the things to consider:

What sort of music do you want?

There are many options available to you, such as: 

  • A Jazz Trio or String Quartet. Solo guitarist/Pianist for a drinks reception or to play through dinner.
  • A bagpiper to pipe your guests into dinner.
  • A ‘covers’ band for dancing to those popular tunes everyone loves.
  • A Ceilidh band for some enthusiastic dancing
  • A’ tribute’ Act for a themed or fancy dress event.

Where to find musicians

Websites are often the best starting place as most musicians and bands now use social media and web based information portals as the most effective means of selling their services.

You could also approach an Agent (a web search will bring up a substantial number). They will source the right band for you and ensure all the necessary booking details are dealt with.

Do I need a licence?

Private Events

Paragraph 15.6 of the Licensing Act 2003 Guidance document states:  - Events that are held in private are not licensable unless those attending are charged for the entertainment with a view to making a profit (including raising money for charity)

For example, a party held in a private dwelling for friends featuring amplified music, where a charge or contribution is made solely to cover the costs of the entertainment would not be "regulated' i.e licensable  entertainment.

Similarly, any charge made to the organiser of a private event by musicians, other performers, or their agents does not in itself make that entertainment licensable. – It would only do so if the guests attending were themselves charged by the organiser for that entertainment with a view to achieving a profit.  The fact that this might inadvertently result in the organiser making a profit would be irrelevant, as long as there had not been an intention to make a profit.

What to check with the musicians 

  • Arrival time (allow time for sound check.)
  • Performance time.
  • Finish time.
  • Breaks required.
  • Catering needs.
  • Does the band provide lighting and sound equipment?
  • Is the Lighting and sound equipment (or P.A) the correct one for the size of the venue?
  • Is there easy access for the musicians to unload and load?
  • Do you have a specific song you would like the band to play?
  • Ask the Musician for a rough idea of cost. 

Signing the contract

Once you have agreed on an amount, the musicians will most likely send you a contract to sign.  Once you sign and return this a legally binding agreement is forged and therefore both sides are committed.

Some bands do charge a deposit, which is then offset against the balance when the time to pay the musicians comes. Make sure as part of your event planning that you have the form of payment available on the night (cheque or cash), or have made the necessary bank transfer by the stated date and time on the contract, this is likely to be after the event.

What if I need to cancel?

In the unlikely event you have to cancel you need to be aware that this can only be done by mutual agreement in writing, if you have simply changed your mind or have made a mistake on the dates, for example, then be prepared to compensate the musicians to the full amount they would have expected to earn for that event.

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This is not a hobby - it's our profession

No-one should feel guilty about turning down unpaid “opportunities". Have you been asked to work for no fee?

This is not a hobby - it's our profession