Top Tips for Booking Live Music Acts

Music is a huge part of our lives. Even if you’re not someone who actively listens to music, you’re constantly exposed to it. Every time you go into a supermarket, clothing store, coffee shop or restaurant, there will be music playing in the background. There’s a very good reason for this, as music affects our mood, and can give us a sense of urgency or make us feel relaxed. Ultimately, music affects our behaviour. It therefore shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to realize that music is an integral part of events.

Music can take a good event and lift it to become a great, memorable event. But what type of music should you to choose and what about the important subjects of copyright and contracts? Key question, so who better to ask than London based Louise Nornes a band leader, session singer, singing teacher and event manager to produce an exclusive article to give every event booker an overview of everything you need to know when booking live music for your next event.

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What type of music should I choose?

So, first things first. Knowing what type of music you’re looking for is an obvious first step in adding music to your event. What music to go for depends on a few things. Does your event have a theme or a particular goal, and is there a genre of music that is related to that? Are you planning a high-end, elegant event, a formal business event, or a fun, sociable party? These will all have very different music requirements.

If you’re organising an event where you want people to mingle and network, a trio playing jazz and chill tunes in the background could be a great choice – creating a congenial relaxed atmosphere but allowing people to talk without shouting. On the other hand, if you want people to hit the dance floor, you’ll want to book a full band that can play upbeat tunes.

You might want to hire several types of music acts for your event. If your event has a reception before the main event, or a break-out room for networking, you could choose to have some light background music. If there’s a dinner later on, or drinks at the end of a conference you might have an additional music act at that point.

Ultimately make sure that the music chosen works with the demographic of the event and is congruent with your brand.

Where can I find and book music?

There are so many places to find music for your events, and a quick google will serve up a multitude of choices. The important thing is that you’re confident that the musicians you’re hiring are of the right quality. Any act worth their salt will have professional photos, professional recordings for you to listen to, and probably a promo video as well. This gives you a good idea of their sound and look.

There are generally two different routes you can go down for the search and booking process. You can book acts directly through their websites or you can find out which agencies they’re with and book them there. There are pros and cons to both options. An act will prefer you booking them directly, as cutting out the middleman usually means they will earn a bit more and you will pay a bit less. The benefits of going through an agency often lies in security, both based on the reputation of that agency and the T&Cs protecting you in case of any cancellations.

If you choose to go with an agency, take a good look at their T&Cs, and if you’re booking an act through their website, make sure to have all information written down in an email, ensuring that both you and the act are on the same page, avoiding any miscommunication.

What information should I ask for?

Always get things in writing, the first thing is the fee. How much are you paying the act? Does this include VAT? Are you expected to pay a deposit? If you need to cancel the booking at any point, how much of the full fee are you liable to pay? This is all good practice to clarify when booking.

The next thing you want to look at are the technical requirements. How much space is there in your venue for an act? If you’re hosting an event in an intimate cocktail bar, you’ll be hard-pushed to fit a six-piece disco band. Does the venue have a PA? If not, you either need to hire in a PA system or make sure the band brings one (which they usually charge extra for, as it adds a lot of bulk and weight to the equipment they’re bringing). Another small, but very important thing to check… are there electrical sockets in the area where you’re placing the act?

Almost there… the last essential for you to check when booking your act is whether they have Public Liability Insurance. All acts should have this, and most venues also have this as a requirement.

Copyright and license fees

In theory you’ve now got your entertainment booked and you’ve checked and agreed on all details. Still, we have one last point to cover, which is copyright and license fees. Each piece of original music has copyrights attached to them, which means that each time that piece of music is used, someone is owed royalties. This is something people often ask about, but the good thing is that it’s generally not something you need to worry about when hiring musicians.

Any venue that hosts live music or allows the playing of music is obligated to have a music license from PRS (who collect royalties on behalf of songwriters for live performances). As someone hiring an act for an event, the music license should already be in place and is not something you need to include on your to-do list.

Hopefully this article has answered any questions you had around choosing, finding and booking music for your events. Make sure you take the time to reflect on what type of music you want for your event before heading out into the world of the internet to start your search and booking process. Make a list of everything you need to know about the venue, the fee, the act and the tech requirements, and don’t be scared to send questions or updates over to the act between booking and the event date.


Louise Nornes –

Louise is a professional singer, band leader and marketing expert. She has worked with some of London’s most iconic venues, including Southbank Centre, The National Theatre and the London Eye. Music has taken her all over the world, and her Jazz and Soul bands regularly perform at events across London – pop over to her website to learn more. Louise also writes articles on music and events and is a content contributor at Eventbrite among other


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