Did you know that most Metro Detroit bands, and probably most bands in the United States, can be categorized by using two main traits? The first set of traits is about how much of the music is played live vs. how much is played by computer backing tracks (live bands and track bands). The second set is how many of the band members play together regularly (consistent lineups and assembled lineups). Depending on your style, I'm willing to bet you'll be turned on by some and turned off by others. I'll share my opinions below, and I encourage you to think about what feels right as you read this. If you want to make sure your wedding or event is a success, figuring out what matters to you and your guests is a key piece of the puzzle. So, without further adieu, let's get into it!
Live Bands vs. Track Bands
Let’s talk about how much of the music is played live first. Did you know that quite a few national touring acts use backing tracks in their performances? Artists like Britney Spears and Justin Bieber might be the obvious ones, but bands from Rush to Coldplay also use tracks to enhance their sound. There are varying degrees of how much track is used, though. Some bands use it for background sounds and effects, some use it for specific instruments they don’t have in the band, and some use it for harmonies or even lead vocals. There are also many bands that play 100% live music without any tracks -- including artists like Celine Dion and Ed Sheeran. Celine has a band with over 30 members on stage to get her sound just right, and Ed Sheeran uses a looper on stage to capture a huge sound all by himself. So, is this good or bad?
Live bands provide a more organic live music experience, with a sound that can be flexible from one performance to the next. If an amazing dance circle breaks out, a live band can extend the song to keep it going, making that perfect moment even more perfect. Most bands playing to tracks cannot because the track, essentially a pre-recorded “backbone” of the song, will end at a specific point and cannot be extended. Live bands may add their own style and flavor to the songs they perform, whereas track bands will aim to produce a near-exact replication of the radio version.
As much as we’d like to claim we’re perfect, all musicians make occasional mistakes on stage. Crazy, right? With a live band, it's more likely to notice a mistake by a guitarist or keyboardist, but that same mistake might slip under the radar in a track band because the track could cover it up. However, if a singer skips ahead in a song, the live band can adjust with the singer so the audience doesn’t notice, but the mistake would be obvious in a track band because the track keeps going. Mariah Carey had an issue with her track during her New Year’s Eve 2016 performance. She was left ad-libbing until the song was done, and it was obvious to everyone that something went very wrong.
Consistent Lineup vs. Assembled Lineup
Now that we’ve discussed the differences between live bands and track bands, let’s layer in the conversation about who is in the band. Bands with consistent lineups have the same members at every performance, like most popular nationally touring acts. Are The Rolling Stones actually The Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger? Would U2 be the same without The Edge on guitar? At the same time, Nine Inch Nails has one core member and a rotating cast of musicians, and Fleetwood Mac has had over 16 different members over the years.
Bands with a consistent lineup have a more personalized sound and a rapport with each other that you can both see and hear. These bands can often add their own flavor and style into their performance as well as more complex arrangements and medleys because they play together all the time. Consistent bands, who use rehearsals to iron out any kinks, will deliver the same product at your party that you heard and loved when you went to preview them. Bands that are “assembled” can offer more flexibility for their clients, often customizing the size of the band and the specific instruments provided, but there’s a downside.
Generally speaking, assembled bands do not rehearse before their performances, so they rely on the musicians studying the material on their own and performing it live for the first time at your wedding or event. Certain components of the song could be missed, and there could be parts played by two musicians at once. One way to limit the exposure here is to reduce the song list available for you to choose from, and to simplify the unique elements in the music to avoid possible areas where mistakes can happen. On the other hand, these bands might offer to learn lots of new songs for you because they are studying at home anyway, but each song you add leaves opportunities for noticeable mistakes on stage.
Speaking of which, what happens when someone makes a mistake? Bands with consistent lineups know what each other will do, so there can be better communication on stage to adjust when mistakes happen. You might also see the band members laughing, as they catch the mistake and get back on track. Bands that are assembled typically perform with a higher level of anxiety and tension on stage, so the individuals may need to communicate regularly throughout the show, with the goal of getting to the end of each song without noticeable errors.
Perhaps the best way to highlight the difference between a consistent and assembled band is to think about your own place of work. If the company you work for had different people performing the roles each day, would that company produce the same results as well as a company who has the same people report to work each day? Think about the last time somebody new started at work. Most likely, that person had experience in that role before being hired, but were they a superstar on their first day, or did it take time to get comfortable to the culture and processes at your company before they started to shine? Being in a band works just the same. Even the best guitar players in the world wouldn’t be able to just simply plug into different bands every day of the week and be the superstars they are. They need time to learn the songs each band plays and where they fit into the sound.
At Detroit Event Company, we’ve made the choice to avoid rolling the dice with assembled bands. All of the bands on our roster have consistent lineups because it’s important to us to have confidence in the service we deliver to you, and we believe consistency is an important part of that.
Now to combine all these traits! Truly, there are lots of right answers (and, spoiler alert -- only one really bad option). What makes sense for one person can be completely offensive to another, so you’ve got to make the choice that feels most comfortable for you. A live band with a consistent lineup will provide that organic and personalized experience. An assembled live band provides the ultimate flexibility with instrumentation. A consistent band playing to tracks can give you the best replica to the original recording. An assembled band that plays to tracks can...uh…just don’t do that! Piecing together a lineup of musicians playing to a track is basically like karaoke. If you’re looking for that, you can save a lot of money by just hiring a karaoke DJ, and then at least your guests can participate!
So, with all of that information, what will you choose for your next wedding or event? We’re here to take the stress out of finding the right entertainment for you.
Let us know if we can help.