DJ  Professor Bob, Da Spin Doctor - Hawai'i Mobile DJ  M.C.                Honolulu, HI
Live Band or DJ ?

We encourage everyone we meet to support live music and do so ourselves.  Without musicians we would have nothing to listen to and nothing to play.  It's a tough decision, depending on the nature of your event.  Perhaps this will help…

Live bands usually specialize in one particular type or style of music;  rock, country, reggaeton, jawaiian, pop, salsa, Hawaiian, whatever.  But, if you want a much wider musical variety than one live band or one live musician can possibly play, well, variety is a main reason why DJs are so popular.  Wedding guests are frequently of various ages, ethnic mixes, and mixed musical preferences.  Many DJs will accept spontaneous requests for all types of music (like line dances or a recent pop hit), but live bands can only play music they have rehearsed.  DJs can effortlessly transition from one type of music to an entirely different type (i.e. rap to swing) in less than two seconds on the beat, which a band cannot do.  

And, no matter how good a live band is they will never be as good as the original studio recorded music that DJs play – from Frank Sinatra to Bruno Mars.

Bands must pay musicians (usually two to six) plus a technician or two to set up and run their sound equipment.  Most DJs are less expensive because there are fewer employees necessary, and thus lower costs.  If your contract requires you to feed the entertainers, feeding one DJ is far less expensive than six band members.  At a recent Waikiki wedding I attended the newlyweds agreed to feed the band at $65 per plate.  That added up to over $600 plus the mandatory 20% tip.  A DJ would have performed at the event for approximately the same cost of this band’s dinner alone. Ouch !

As additional perks, DJs will usually offer “WOW” factors including dance floor lighting, photo booths and other special effects like projected monograms, strobes, and smoke machines which live bands seldom have available.

Bands usually take a 15-minute break every 45 minutes or so.  That is a party killer because the momentum of dancing participation and excitement immediately halts when the music stops.  During a band break is a convenient time when many guests discretely leave.  Also, when you pay a band for a four-hour reception, if you deduct the hourly breaks the band is actually playing music for only three hours or less.  DJs seldom, if ever take breaks so you get a full four hours of non-stop music, seamlessly and artfully blended together.  Once the crowd gets up on the dance floor, a good DJ can keep them there for hours so that no one wants to go home.

For a number of reasons live bands like to play quite loud and usually bands will not reduce their amplification.  If some guests simply want to chat and socialize at their tables, loud live music makes that impossible.  Older guests will want to be moved as far away from the band’s speakers as possible, and will often simply go home if the music is too loud.  DJs can (and should) constantly adjust the volume to appropriate levels at different times, and for specific elements of a reception like cocktails, dinner, introductions, and dancing.

Live bands usually don’t have multiple costumes (like tuxedos, etc.) for each band member to match numerous themed receptions.  Da Spin Doctor offers dozens of costumes that can match virtually any creative party theme from formal to funky, cowboy to classical, disco to digital. 

Few live bands have a Master of Ceremonies included, so that is usually an additional expense.  Many (but not all) DJs are usually skilled at making announcements and some are actually talented MCs.  Some DJs charge for this service, but many high-end and experienced DJs include MC services within their standard rates. 

Most DJs are quite willing to help with event planning, and share their valuable past experiences, but live musicians seldom consider event planning as part of the “gig.”

If space is an issue, DJs seldom require more than a six foot folding table.  But, a six-piece band will require a lot of electricity, lighting, and large stage space.In summary, flexibility, variety, and value seem to favor a DJ over a live band.  But, many contemporary couples prefer to hire both!


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