By Susan Heaton Wright, company director, Viva Live Music


Selecting the right sort of live music for an event is just as vital a decision as the venue, catering style and time of day. Live music creates an ambience and memorable atmosphere if correctly chosen. So here are some top tips for ensuring you choose the right music for your event:

Type of event: If you are organising a reception with a ‘networking’ element to it, or a dinner where socialising is a key factor, loud music isn’t going to work. On the other hand, after dinner entertainment where guests want to dance will require a band playing louder music.

Venue: The size of the venue is crucial. A harpist playing in a large hall with high ceilings is likely to get lost. Likewise, a large band playing in a small room is going to be overpowering, with the sound being ‘muddied’. Choose the size of your musical ensemble and instruments based on the size of your room. Also, if you have a space with two or more rooms, you will need to consider where to locate the musicians.

Size of the event: A small event with 20 guests is unlikely to require as loud background music as a larger event, however, it is down to personal taste as to whether a large band is required later on.

Theme of the event: There are plenty of musical styles that theme an event just as much as dressing a venue or the catering on offer. A steel band or a Scottish Piper serenading guests creates an impact as people arrive. Flamenco musicians and dancers or a jazz band, for after dinner entertainment will enhance an event creating a dun and lively vibe. When you are researching a themed event, consider music as well as the food; it makes a huge difference.

Time of day: A day time event usually involves an element of networking with guests wishing to speak to and meet new people. Loud music doesn’t work in these situations. As the evening progresses, guests relax and with the formalities aside, may consider dancing. More often than not, the volume and energy of the music will increase as the evening draws on.

Acoustic of the venue: Some venues are louder than others. Rooms with plenty of fabric and wood absorb sound better than venues with hard or metal surfaces – where sound tends to echo more. The latter is more of a challenge because people’s voices will also echo.

Location: If the event is outside, you will need to consider where to place the musicians. Musicians that play valuable instruments will need to keep them out of direct sunlight and rain. Acoustic instruments such as string quartets and harps will need to be situated next to a wall, so that the sound will carry.

Volume of music and restrictions: A number of venues have restrictions on the level of volume. It is worthwhile checking this when choosing the venue as some venues allow recorded music but not live music.

Space available: If there is limited space, you will be restricted in the size of ensemble you choose. Some instruments can be relatively close to each other and take up less space than others. Calculate the area available and ask the musicians if they can perform within that area.

Instruments available: Maximise the use of resources on offer, if there is a Steinway Grand piano available at the venue, it seems a shame not to use it. Pianists could play classical/crossover music, or a jazz pianist would be thrilled to perform.

Age groups: Generally, as we get older, we appreciate loud music less and music taste will vary between different age groups. We always recommend discussing the music with the musicians and to agree a range of musical styles before the event to suit different tastes. A dance band may well offer music from the 1960s through to today’s chart hits to cover a range of musical preferences.

Live music or more specifically the right music makes a huge difference to the success of an event. Make sure you ask your music supplier the right questions. Ask yourself what role you wish the musicians to play at the event and remember to take the above points in to account.