Bands, Dueling Pianos, & More: How To Understand The Cost of Live Entertainment 

There is one common truth in the event business. Entertainment is a must for weddings, private parties, fundraisers, corporate events, holiday parties, proms and so much more. For some, having just a DJ isn’t as creative or energetic as having a Show Band or Dueling Pianos. The biggest struggle being budget leads to several factors that affect the costs of booking outside of the traditional DJ . Many people do not know what the cost of great live music is. Not to mention the huge differences between regions of the country, countries, genres, equipment and so forth.

The Formula That Started It All

cost of live music

For many years a formula was created to help Colleges and State Fairs get a fair price on talent and keep asking prices somewhat stabilized.

That formula is: Number of Musicians/Performers x hours to play x $200

This means that:

  • Having a DJ for five hours – $1000
  • Having a duo for two hours – $800
  • Having a five-person band for three hours – $3,000
  • Having a solo musician for one hour – $200

Be mindful that these are just rough estimates that get the ball rolling and don’t include price effectors.

Price Affectors:

  • The “other” Band Members: Many bands will include their sound tech (sometimes two) that also double as the road crew to set-up and tear down the show as well as keeping the quality of music smooth. You will also see them included in Rider Agreements for receiving a meal in the green room with the band as well as a hotel room.
  • Specific Genre: A specific genre focused band can cost a bit more coin in some instances. Show-bands with horns will fetch a higher rate than a generic party band that plays popular music for instance.
  • The EXTRA Gear: Take a DJ for example. Unless it’s your cousin, bringing just their turntables and speakers could be a completely different price point than one based on equipment add-ons like a disco ball, lights, smoke machine, etc.
  • Customized: If the musician, band or dueling pianos needs to custom design their set list or performance based on your wishes or event, it takes much more time to prepare for the job depending on what you ask for. 
  • Transport: Most musicians would add a transport fee based on the distance in miles beyond where they base themselves. More on that later.
  • Time until the event: If you book very late, it might become a bit more expensive, as the musicians would need to rush in a lot of preparation and rehearsal. 


cost of live music

Musicians with a well-respected name or huge following tend to charge higher rates. If you have a cool million bucks burning a hole in your pocket, you might be in the Keith Urban market.


Some bands charge flat rates for their services. Others charge a per-musician hourly fee. Again, rates vary from region to region. Here are some pricing examples (not set in stone) in Colorado:

  • In Colorado Springs, Colorado:
    • $200 per musician / per hour for a 3 hour show. $100 – $150 per musician for each additional hour (Overtime)
    • $750–$1,500 for a DJ, including pre-event consultation, lighting and PA system
    • Just up the road in Denver, Colorado however those prices can rise higher while in Chicago, Illinois it can really skyrocket.

This is one of many reasons why using someone like ACME Event Co and our all inclusive prices can make life simpler and stress free.

Weddings and Corporate events

Larger events such as Weddings and Corporate events require bands to perform for longer periods time and spend more time preparing for the gig. Rates vary on the number of people in the band, how long the performance will be, what the venue is like and the number of guests at the event. 

Here are some cost examples (National Average examples) :

  • Solo musician for one or two hours: $200–$400
  • Trio of musicians for three hours: $1,500–$2,000
  • You can find wedding combos that cover the entire wedding at upscale venues from start to finish ranging from $3,500–$5,000. They’ll include: solo or duo playing during the ceremony, Dueling Pianos during the cocktail  and at the reception for dancing. Eight hours onsite.

Additional costs

In addition to the time spent performing at an event, the cost for live music includes practice hours, time spent learning special-request songs, travel time and expenses, as well as preparation and transport of gear to the event. 


Some bands charge a travel fee beyond certain distances. Others roll travel fees into their total costs. 

The travel fee covers the actual cost of transportation (vehicle, gas, tolls) as well as the time in transit during which they’re not able to do other work. 

A travel fee may be charged as a flat rate or based on mileage. Some charge $1 per mile beyond a 20-mile radius around their home base.

The Final Countdown

cost of live music

Sounds like a lot literally and mathematically doesn’t it? 

If having more than just a DJ is important to your event or wedding, you can keep costs down by doing the following:

  • Use local talent to your area so travel costs are lower
  • The less rehearsed specialty songs you require, the less the tab will be.
  • Find creative alternatives by utilizing dueling pianos, or party bands instead of big show bands.
  • For weddings, look for packaged deals that will cover from ceremony through reception. 
  • Reduce the length of the reception as a stand alone event and combine it creatively with the cocktail party. 
  • Utilizing nice Air BnBs instead of hotels for your talent has been a huge win for many lately. 

In the end, going alone through all of this is tough. Our service negotiates better deals with entertainment because of the volume of parties we get. We pass that savings on to you. 

There are many great things about DJs. We know because we have great ones. For those that want something different and don’t want to have it all, ACME Event Co is a great place to start. 

Live music or Dj? Why not both?

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