Advice Clinic

How to be a successful functions band

4th April 2019


Close your eyes and picture your fantasy gig. Chances are, it’s the Hollywood Bowl at sunset, not a damp marquee for your Aunt Ethel’s golden wedding anniversary. But don’t be too quick to dismiss the function band circuit – it’s a great way to sharpen your chops, learn how to work a crowd and make some no-strings-attached cash. Here’s how.

Be ready for any song request

Back in the Britpop boom, a functions band could get by with the standard guitar-drums-bass lineup required to bash out ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’. But tastes change, and you’ll lose bookings if you can’t deal with first-dance requests from today’s non-analogue pop scene. Add a synth player, freshen up your pedalboard and keep an eye on what’s big in the charts.

Know your equipment

From the bridal car’s burst tyre to the mad uncle who hijacks the speeches, timings go awry at weddings, meaning that you’ll often need to set up fast. Invest in quality gear – a top-notch PA system is particularly important – and learn its functionality inside-out, so you can get a good sound in seconds, even with a bridesmaid chewing your ear off about what a perfect day it’s been.

Get insured

Weddings are swarming with drunks, all of them liable to collapse into your PA, knock a speaker onto a flower girl’s head – and get you stung with a third-party claim that bankrupts the band. Public liability insurance is your shield against this scenario – and a thousand others – and credible venues insist on it before they’ll let you play. A bare-bones policy can cost under £40 a year – but supplement this with instrument cover, for when the bride kicks a hole in your bass drum with her stiletto heel.

Sign a contract

It’s vital to agree with the event organisers exactly what you’ll be providing on the day – and to get this locked down in writing. This needn’t mean hiring a lawyer: it’s easy to download a bog-standard live contract from the Musicians’ Union, and this can save you endless headaches, from an unpaid last-minute cancellation to the couple who insist you stick around and play Barry White covers in their bridal suite.


Henry Yates

Henry Yates is a freelance journalist who has written for music magazines including Classic Rock, Total Guitar, Guitarist, NME and Metal Hammer, and brands including V Festival, Download, Epiphone, Yamaha, Roland and Universal. His proudest career moment was meeting Jimmy Page - and his toughest assignment was interviewing Pharrell Williams."