As professional musicians we see all kinds of parties in Melbourne. There are good reasons why some parties just, well, go off. And here they are.
Sounds like a problem, doesn’t it? It’s not. Before you book that hall that holds 1000 people consider what kind of atmosphere you will have when it is three quarters empty. Most people are shy. Being in a crowd makes them feel less self-conscious, and they are more likely to let their hair down.
At times too much formality at a party can be patronising to your guests, or just plain boring. If there are housekeeping rules to be observed get your MC to read them out at the start of the night. Keep speeches short, and few. Be prepared that your party may take on a life of its own: experienced MCs, entertainers, and venue managers are attuned to this and will work with the flow of the party rather than trying to make it bend to a rigid schedule. If your guests want to dance don’t stop them!
If you can’t afford to provide free drinks at your party it is far better to cut expenses elsewhere, perhaps by reducing the size of your guest list (does that distant cousin and her family of 9 really need to be invited?). Functions where guests are required to purchase drinks rarely work. Basic beer, wine, and soft drink will usually do the trick. If your function is a charity or public event consider charging a single ticket price that will give your guests a drink rider, food, and entertainment. Whatever the case, you want to encourage your guests to drink (responsibly of course), because that is a big part of what makes a successful party in Australia.
Sometimes all a party needs is an icebreaker. Often it only takes one extrovert in the crowd to make a fool of themselves to get everyone else to relax. The sure way to make this happen is to give everyone a license to relax. Theming the night and asking your guests to attend in costume can help break down those barriers. A comedian, entertaining MC, or magician can get people laughing and involved in the night, which will create a more fun and relaxed atmosphere. If you have a friend or family member who does a trick or can sing a song ask them to get up and put on a brief show (give them a few drinks first!). We often see games being played, with the MC taking the reins. Often the most unusual ideas work best, and try to involve your guests as much as possible.
Don’t underestimate the role of lighting – it can make or break your party. It is wise to consult with the venue manager beforehand, to make sure they understand your lighting requirements, as often they don’t appreciate its importance, or haven’t considered it, being busy with other things. Generally speaking, you want to dim the lights as the night progresses. If you’ve booked a live performer with their own lighting production you may not need much lighting at all once theirs goes on – it’s worth consulting with them too.
The first consideration is the room itself. Rooms with high ceilings, and lots of concrete and glass, are going to be loud – even the ambient sound of your guests talking to each other in such a room can get to quite a high level. Once again, having too many people in too small a room is an advantage, because all those bodies act as baffles, alleviating reverberation and making for a clearer live sound at lower levels.
Consider also where the PA system will be set up. If you’ve booked a large room but plan to stuff the band and PA into one small corner of it, they are going to have trouble filling the room evenly with sound. Take into consideration a buffer zone in front of the PA speakers: if guests are seated directly in front of the speakers they will be deafened, while the people at the back of the room will struggle to hear. This buffer zone is usually the dance floor. Ideally the PA is set up along a wall, with the dance floor in front, and the seating on the other side of the dance floor. If you’ve booked a DJ and they’re using the venue’s house system this is less of an issue as the speakers will usually be spaced around the room.
It’s worth spending a little extra to hire a quality system that is adequate for the room, whether it is provided by the band, the venue, or an AV company. If you will be using your own music on the night, through an MP3 player or laptop computer, ensure that your audio is high bitrate: what sounds fine on ipod headphones may not sound so great when played at much higher gain through a professional PA system. If you have concerns speak to the technicians at your local AV hire company – they’re usually only too happy to help you get the most out of their equipment.
If booking live music, take your time to find a professional act that has an edge, is genuinely engaging with the audience, and has a suitable repertoire of popular songs. It’s also important to book a band that is dynamic and can cook at low volume if necessary; essential if they are going to be playing over dinner at a wedding or corporate event, or if the room is a loud one acoustically.