Will you learn a new song or songs for us that’s not on your list?
Short answer here: Yep, we will. Generally speaking up to three new tunes is doable for any given performance. Let us know if you have tunes in mind right off the bat, or questions here. Quick caveat: if the song is incredibly technically difficult, we’ll give you a heads up (I think this has happened once or twice in ten years of doing this, and I believe the request was Bohemian Rhapsody, lolz)
Can you elaborate on your “multiple ensembles”?
- Who We Are: East Coast Soul is a “collective” of full-time, committed, and incredibly talented musicians, organized into a small number of elite ensembles. We also happen to be close friends (yay!). We are very fortunate to have a fixed lineup of permanent musicians in these ensembles that are all indefinitely committed to East Coast Soul. Each ensemble strives to work with consistent players, musical directors, and vocalists. We take our “attendance” at each performance *extremely* seriously, and prioritize continuity in our performances and lineups above all else.
- What Sets Us Apart: Does ECS seem a little different to you than most wedding bands? If so, you’re pickin’ up what we’re puttin’ down, for sure. We have embraced a slightly different philosophy in our performance style and vibe; one based on authenticity in our musicianship, diversity in our personnel, and a truly empathetic overall approach to working with our clients. All our ensembles feature a consistent repertoire focused on a highly curated repertoire of the *best* classic and contemporary, groove based music ever made. Yes, we are a soul band, but you’d be more accurate to call us “soulful” – we perform music across all genres, and we do it in our style, with grit, funk, and a lot of spicy meat on the bone, if that makes sense, lolz — you’ll recognize all the music we play, but it’ll be the first time you’re hearing it performed this way. That’s our goal, across all ensembles!
- Who We Are *Not*: East Coast Soul is not an “agency” that “signs” large numbers of ensembles, as is the case with groups like Silver Arrow, Wilson Stevens, Elan Artists, etc. We do not work with the infamous “annual contracts” you may have heard about, that lock in typically young, inexperienced musicians in for a year or two (only to see them disappear shortly thereafter), or fill our lineups ad hoc with a random roster of otherwise unconnected musicians. We’ve heard some horrific, behind-the-scenes stories about how some of these gigs come together in large agencies — enough to make your stomach churn! We have instead chosen to foster close relationships with our players, who in turn commit to East Coast Soul on a full time basis. Because of this, we’re certainly not the largest operation in town in terms of “number of bands” by a long shot, but we feel focusing on a smaller number of ensembles allows us to maintain a truly elite performance caliber across the board.
Also, fun fact: The ensembles are nicknamed after classic Soul/R&B record labels, haha — kind of cheesy, but, we needed a way to refer to them that wasn’t a mouthful, and that’s where we landed 🙂
How do most folks go about selecting an ensemble?
The first factor in selecting an ensemble will be, of course, availability. In our initial email communication, we would have hopefully (haha) shared with you an accurate list of our available ensembles for your date in particular (worth noting, this is often changing due to booking happen fast and furious for most of the year!)
Beyond the simple issue of availability, selecting an ensemble is truly a personal decision. We recommend first taking a close look at each ensemble’s video library to see which one resonates with you the most.
The most important things we can share re: picking an ensemble are:
- Except for extremely minor differences, each ensemble works off the same, core repertoire, so all East Coast Soul performances feature the same, highly curated material that’s been a big part of our success.
- Music is a personal and subjective experience. With that in mind, different combinations of vocalists and musicians resonate differently with different people. That’s totally cool! We understand that people arrive to East Coast Soul through different channels: referrals, videos, etc. Whatever ensemble you’re leaning towards at the outset, we understand.
- All our ensembles are highly in-demand, sought after, and elite in caliber. So, no matter what ensemble you’re leaning towards, you are guaranteed an epic performance — it’s truly a win/win/win/win.
Going a bit further, we can say that all of our videos are shot and recorded live (even the ones in the studio!) as opposed to the janky, over-processed “karaoke” style videos you might be encountering elsewhere. So bottom, line, what you’re hearing from each of our ensembles in the videos is in fact what you’ll hear at your wedding. Even though it’s far more involved a process, we’ve made this strategic decision to film all our promotional videos live, simply because we believe in our talent and musicianship, and want to be 100% transparent people about our sound. The “produced” videos you might encounter with other groups are neat (I guess?) but provide no context about what the band will actually sound like live. In fact, we’ve found in many cases those videos have the opposite effect, instilling doubt and making folks nervous due to being obviously “fake”. In our videos, you’re hearing how it actually goes down, live at the gig. This often helps make the decision of picking an ensemble much easier.
Are your musicians full-time/permanent/guaranteed?
This is probably the most common question/concern we receive. Let’s jump right in!
- The Good News: East Coast Soul does in fact work with a permanent line up of elite musicians, all of whom are, essentially, indefinitely committed to East Coast Soul. In asking: “Will our musicians be the same as the ones in your videos”, we are proud to share the fact that we have a full time, permanent membership. We are not a “roster band” that you may have heard of, where young student musicians and singers are “signed” for a year or so, only to relocate soon after. This is a *band* that prides itself on consistency and committedness. We take our relationships with our musicians *and* our attendance at our performances *extremely* seriously, and our musicians consider their presence at all commitments to be of the utmost importance.
- Quick Reality Check: Although we do work with a permanent membership, it’s important to mention that no band (including East Coast Soul) is completely immune to serious issues such as personal illness/injury, bereavement, or just general “force majeure” type events. We work really hard to stay healthy during a long, demanding performance season, and do our best to work important personal events (like our own weddings, for example) around busy times of year to avoid any issues. In situations where an unforeseen medical or family problem may arise, we have the luxury of a deep network of elite musicians from within our collective that we can draw on to avoid any gaps in the lineup or performance. Personal emergencies are no fun to talk about or think about, but at this point, we feel confident that there is essentially *no* situation, however big or last minute the issue, that would severely impact an East Coast Soul performance. If we have advanced notice of these situations, we are happy to let you know, but barring that preference, you can count on a truly elite East Coast Soul ensemble, regardless of the circumstances.
The bottom line here is, barring something earth-shattering happening to one of our band-members, you can fully expect the band you see today to be at your wedding. We feel confident saying: if you’re concerned about consistency within your wedding band, then East Coast Soul is perhaps the best option around. Although every band in the world is subject to emergency situations, our close network of exceptional talent allows us to be consistent in our lineups, but flexible in the case of unforeseen circumstances. Feel free to ask us additional questions about this, as we find it to be one of the most important issues around the decision of booking any band.
How early do you guys book up? Are we at risk of missing out?
If you’re planning your wedding, 12, 18, or 24 months out, don’t let anyone tell you you’re crazy! Haha — honestly, we find the timeline of wedding planning to be a little nuts ourselves, but it is in fact the way of the world, so we’re with you no matter how far away the date is!
We’re very lucky to have an incredible influx of interest in the band. The reality is that we’re often fielding multiple inquiries for virtually every weekend of “high season”, which for us stretches from April to December. This includes Fridays and Sundays as well. Holy moly.
All that said, our general recommendation is, and this applies to any wedding vendor (not just bands, and not just us!) is: don’t wait. If you like us, but need to talk to some other invested folks (like parents), mull it over, etc, and are waiting until “after the weekend” or “when you’re a little less busy,” don’t! Do it as soon as you can. We know we sound a little paranoid putting it that way, but we’re getting peppered with inquiries at all times, and although we do our best to keep people up to speed on interest that follows their own, it’s virtually impossible to stay totally on top of that. If you’re digging East Coast Soul, let us know as early as possible that you’re seriously considering the band. We’ll give you as much time as possible to go through the motions of course, but bottom line, we have to entertain the most serious inquiries in the order they come in, with a firm verbal commit being a critical part of the confirmation process here.
Just to clarify, this is juxtaposed with our own policy/feeling that we never pressure anyone to book the band before they’re ready, just because we want to work with them/you. What we’re mentioning here is, simply, we may not be available for any given date for very long, so if you’re interested, don’t hesitate. If it’s not the right fit, that is totally and completely okay. However, we’ve seen *countless* people miss out on the ensemble they were seriously interested in, or miss out on all of our bands entirely, simply because they hung back by even a few days, or even a few *hours*. So, while we won’t pressure you to book, outside interest does limit how long you can and should take to think things over. Bottom line, folks should be aware that our availability is changing by the hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Hopefully that distinction is clear!
If you are in fact interested, the steps to book the band include the signing of a contract and sending of a deposit. This can be done via snail mail or digitally, and we’ll of course walk you through those steps. Let us know know if you have any questions here!
How do we go about selecting the best configuration for our wedding?
Great question. There’s a few factors that we feel can contribute to the decision of which size ensemble to go with:
- Your Vision: We think this is the biggest factor. Essentially, when you envision the band at your wedding, what kind of ensemble are you seeing? Is it bigger, with a bunch of horns and vocalists bouncing around, or is it a little smaller to perhaps align with a tighter venue space, smaller guest list, etc? That should be your first litmus test, and generally can provide some initial benchmarks to compare against.
- Your Budget: We sometimes say that’s it’s not about the money, but it’s not *not* about the money, haha — budget is an unavoidable decision-making factor, and the size of the ensemble is one of the biggest aspects in terms of price. Comparing your budget against our pricing, keeping in mind the potential for travel and ceremony charges and travel, is not a bad idea. Though we can also say, your guests will remember us a lot more than they’ll remember your flowers, lolz
- Your Guest List (?): We actually find that guest list size isn’t, or doesn’t have to be, a huge factor in terms of ensemble size. We’ve carried out performances for some of our smallest guest counts with some of our largest ensemble configurations (a ten piece ensemble for a 40 person wedding — yep, that happened! Haha). Likewise, some of our largest audiences were juxtaposed with our smaller/smallest configurations (college festival with a smaller budget – 2,500 kids in attendance, and a seven-piece ensemble!). So we generally don’t recommend this be your primary decision-making factor. That said, at the extremes we just mentioned, it can feel a little “top-heavy”, haha — feel free to ask us about this if you have any questions!
Some other information for you to consider:
- Our eight-piece ensemble tends to be our most utilized ensemble configuration. We find this tends to be a nice sweet spot in terms of space, ensemble size, and budget. The option for three vocalists also allows sharing of lead singer duties, which translates to the need for shorter break(s) — always a good thing. If you’re not sure where to start in terms of band size, start here, and see how things line up for you.
- We can also book the smaller/smallest ensemble you’re considering right now, and add musicians later. It’s true. If you’re considering the nine or ten piece, for example, we can lock in nine pieces now, let your budget and other decisions take shape, then revisit the idea of adding a musician closer to your date. If you’ve got the bandwidth, great! If not, you know you’ve got a killer ensemble lined up already.
- All our ensembles sizes kick ass. Don’t worry if your budget or preferences is leading you towards a smaller ensemble size. Nothing is lost in terms of dance-ability, fullness of sound, etc. Each configuration is tried and true, and all have been a part of absolutely epic dance parties. You’re in great hands regardless of the number of musicians, so don’t hesitate to be conservative here. We can always revisit the idea of more players later, and either way, you’ve got an incredible ensemble lined up! The other thing to consider, is that your guests won’t be aware that there was an option between 8, 9, or 10 pieces. All they’ll see upon arrival is a kickass band or probably at *least* seven or eight pieces, which will probably be bigger than most of the bands you’d see out and about anyways!
What is the instrumental configuration of each ensemble size?
Great question. We have our most common configuration suggestions listed below:
- Seven Piece:
- Two Vocalists
- One Horn
- *Four Piece Rhythm Section
- Eight Piece:
- Two to Three Vocalists
- One to Two Horns
- *Four Piece Rhythm Section
- Nine Piece:
- Two to Three Vocalists
- Two to Three Horns
- *Four Piece Rhythm Section
- Ten Piece:
- Three Vocalists
- Three Horns
- *Four Piece Rhythm Section
The ranges here are designed to show that each ensemble can alter its configuration slightly depending on your personal preference. However, it’s important to note that we do firm this up in our potential contract, so there won’t be any grey area once we hit the potential stage of locking things in.
The reason for this: some folks are particularly excited about horns/brass arrangements, while others are particularly excited for vocal harmony, and the energy that multiple singers can bring. All options represent powerhouse configurations that will deliver an epic performance!
*Follow up question: “What is a rhythm section?” In East Coast Soul, we refer to the rhythm section as bass, drums, keys and guitar. In general, we strongly recommend all four of these pieces be in place for any given performance. Bass and drums together represent the foundation of the sound, with keys and guitar working together to fill up the sonic space, play signature parts, support horn lines, etc. Removing one of these is an option in the most extreme situations of limited space, budgets, etc. but is something we recommend against if at all possible.
Have you performed at our venue before?
This is a common question and concern we here from folks. That said, although it grows less frequent with time, performing at a new venue is absolutely not a problem for us. It’s a regular part of our workflow, so we are 100% comfortable and confident in vetting the information we need to ensure a smooth performance. We have a carefully constructed process for ensuring the load in, load out, power, and other logistical elements will work for us (or any band). We also don’t bring anything new or unusual in terms of equipment or gear, so as long as your venue is set up for live music to some degree, we will be good to go!
My uncle plays an instrument; can he sit in with you?
How much space do you need for the stage area?
This is a very common question/concern. However, we’ve found that East Coast Soul is more comfortable squishing larger numbers of musicians into a smaller area that you might think possible. Generally we find the following (rectangular) stage areas are a good place to start the stage plot process, but we are flexible on this:
- 18 ft2 to 24 ft2 per band member
- 140 ft2 to 240 ft2 for the whole band
That leaves you with anywhere from 10 ft. by 14 ft. to 12 ft by 20 ft. area, depending on the ensemble. This is more of a rough guideline, but nonetheless, here’s a rundown of each ensemble’s recommended sizes:
- 10 Pieces:
- Minimum: 10 ft. 𝗫 18 ft.
- Preferred: 12 ft. 𝗫 20 ft.
- 9 Pieces:
- Minimum: 10 ft. 𝗫 16 ft.
- Preferred: 12 ft. 𝗫 18 ft.
- 7/8 Pieces:
- Minimum: 10 ft. 𝗫 14 ft.
- Preferred: 12 ft. 𝗫 16 ft.
Note: the seven and eight piece stage areas are roughly the same, since the presence or lack of an additional horn player or singer won’t change the footprint significantly
Are these rates based on a certain number of hours?
We understand this is a big difference from virtually every other band out there, but, within *great* reason, we don’t charge by the length of your reception. Broadly speaking, we’re on board with you guys all day and night, and the last thing we wanna do is shut things down early. So, our base rates remain the same even if you’ve got a longer afternoon/evening planned.
Here’s our thinking on that front, and why we feel better *not* charging by the hour:
- Wedding performances are essentially an all day/night commitment for us. So charging for a “four hour reception” is really kind of silly, since we probably have to leave early in the morning, load in during the early afternoon, to avoid disturbing a potential ceremony with soundcheck, or getting in the way of catering folks setting up for dinner, etc.
- Not everyone in the band is performing from end to end. In other words, even if we are involved from ceremony to last dance, not all members of a potential eight-piece ensemble are performing at your ceremony, at your cocktail hour, etc. The reality is there are micro-breaks built in for many of our musicians during all these portions, so again, charging by the hour seems odd to us.
- Most wedding venues provide strict start-up and cut-off times that structure our time. Generally speaking, these venue cut-off times are firm, and provide a decent guideline for us to build around. It’s rare that these windows represent something overlay daunting for us, and we’d certainly let you know otherwise. If your venue doesn’t provide a cut off time, we can suggest a timeline that might make practical sense for your guests and the band’s comfort, but this is all stuff we’re flexible on.
Even in the cases where the venue cut off is “loose”, or they’ve at the very least built in a lot of time for dinner/dancing, there are some things you may want to consider:
- Guest Ear Fatigue: We have discovered that guests will run into ear fatigue, or just general tiredness, after about three hours of full fledged dancing music. So in a hypothetical situation where your venue has no end time, and your dinner wrapped up around 8:00pm, you may want to consider roughly an 11:00pm end time. After three hours, you may find people looking a little “Weekend at Bernie’s”, haha, even if the dance floor remains full. In this case, we’d probably take one break of about 15ish minutes, with DJ’d music provided, of course.
- Musician/Vocal Fatigue: We’ve found that a full-fledged dance performance of 3 and ½ hours or more is just physically tough for the band, specifically our singers. This isn’t really a policy or anything, just physical limitations we like to let people in on. Fortunately, we also feel like guests will run out of gas about three hours into a performance, so we can generally outlast our audiences, haha — half joking around here, but in all seriousness, if you have questions or concerns about performance duration, don’t hesitate to let us know. We’re flexible, and almost never run into situations where we can’t make it work. And it’s important to mention once again, we’re only talking about the post-dinner dance performance here — not the duration of the afternoon evening, which may range from 6, 7, 8, or more hours total.
One more thing to mention is the concept of overtime, which is impacted by our policy. The bottom line is, while we don’t charge based on number of hours, we do make travel/lodging arrangements based on our planned end time that we establish in our contract and final itinerary. So you will notice an overtime clause in our contracts, which is meant to cover us in instances where on the day-of, on-site, the band is being asked to play significantly past the event end time as listed in the final itinerary. (We get that end time from the questionnaire you fill out 2-3 months ahead of time.) One or two songs past the end time wouldn’t be an issue of course. As long as we have pretty set end time going into the wedding, you won’t have anything to worry about here.
Our cocktail hour will be in a slightly different location; how do you handle this?
Cocktail Hour being held in a slightly different location from the primary band-stand is common, and totally cool. We generally assume this to be the case, actually. To handle this, we generally suggest a smaller combo of 2-3 musicians who can break off from the primary performance area, carry out the performance, and easily “re-attach” once they’re done.
To ensure this remains seamless, our cocktail hour musicians are generally in place before your ceremony ends (sometimes before it starts!), so as soon as guests are migrating into the cocktail hour area, they should immediately be greeted by live music. These musicians will generally end 3-5 minutes before the reception is slated to start, so they can quietly get hooked back up to the main PA, and be ready for the start of the reception itself.
What do people normally do for cocktail hour music?
Cocktail hour is often a time for people to relax, connect and enjoy a cold drink after your ceremony. Fun stuff! As far as music is concerned, the important thing to mention is that we are super duper flexible in terms of what we play, and how we play it. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Cocktail hour will often be in a slightly separate location (i.e. “outside the tent on the lawn”, “on the patio outside the ballroom”, etc). Therefore, we typically recommend a smaller/smallish combo of musicians to take part in this part of the day that can easily move out and back from the primary performance area.
- The bride and groom might be asked to venture around and take photos, so might not have an opportunity to hear the performance. If your photographer is open to doing the bulk of family photos before the ceremony, that can be a great option. Otherwise, just something to keep in mind.
- Often times, instrumental music works great for this portion — jazz, blues, acoustic genres, among others do very well. This isn’t a strong preference of ours, but just an overarching approach that seems to work well.
- As far as instrumentation, combinations of sax, guitar, keys, possibly bass all do great.
- Soloists, duos, and occasionally trios can be included on a complimentary basis. If you’re envisioning a larger ensemble, let us know what you’re thinking. Instrumentation, location, and logistics may play a role in any additional pricing that comes into play, but it’s pretty rare that we need to re-assess.
All that said; are you envisioning or interested in other options? Let us know! There are no rules here!