"Let's Talk" - Bill Sargent

Part 4: Wrong Reasons for Choosing a Band or DJ

Here are the most common ways that people choose the wrong band or DJ for the wrong reasons along with how to avoid these mistakes.

Wrong Reason #1 – SIZE

The SIZE (number of musicians) of the band has very little, if anything, to do with the volume of the band, or the amount of space needed, or the number of people in attendance

SIZE has nothing to do with VOLUME. Jimi Hendrix had 3 musicians in his band and could blow the windows out of any auditorium in the country.

In Milwaukee, in our big concert hall at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, the “band” (The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra) on stage could have as many as 72 musicians in it, and yet, if you sat in the balcony and sneezed at the wrong time during the music, everyone in the hall would hear you.

Most bands and DJs play everything at one volume all night long – loud. It becomes tiresome, boring and irritating.

SIZE has nothing to do with SPACE. Our Big Band has played in many places only intended for 3 or 4 musicians. It is the first 4 instruments that take up the bulk of the room: the drums, keyboard, guitar, and bass. With a band like mine, it’s only a matter of adding chairs. Our standard big band has the same minimum depth requirements as our small custom bands and only requires a few more feet of space, width-wise. Typically, people don’t use that extra 4 feet they saved for anything useful like another guest table.

SIZE has nothing to do with NUMBER OF GUESTS in attendance. REMEMBER – the music you HEAR is what you are hiring a band for. What you HEAR or your guests HEAR does NOT change due to the number of people who are in attendance. The band still sounds the same whether there are 40 people or 250 people.

The point here is very simple. Make your decision based on what YOU want to hear and see, NOT based on the size of the room or the number of people in attendance. If you want a small group of musicians and that is the sound you want, then that is what you should get. If you want a large group of musicians then there is no need to compromise.


Wrong Reason #2 – PRICE

THE SINGLE BIGGEST MISTAKE I see a bride or event entertainment chairman make IS shopping and buying based on price.

BIG mistake – BIG HUGE mistake !

You can price shop a cars and cameras with the same features. You can compare the same brand items between Pick ‘N Save and Woodman’s. You can also do comparisons between formalwear stores, invitations, flowers, cakes, caterers, and to some extent, reception locations.

However, you cannot do a price comparison on unique items. No two bands are alike. Even if they have the same instrumentation, they will be totally different. You can have the exact same musicians in the same combination and get vastly different results with different drummers or leaders.

The bottom line is this: The most expensive band is not necessarily the best band, and the cheapest band is not automatically the worst band OR vice versa.  You HAVE to make your choice based upon the qualifications, talent and track record of the bandleader. The biggest night of your life is riding on that person.

If the band is expensive to the point you think you are getting the very best, but it doesn’t provide you with the best, was it money well spent?

If you saved hundreds of dollars on one band over another band and your reception flops, were the savings worth it?




Some things are critical in creating a celebration while other things are simply nice enhancements. If you eliminate the critical in lieu of the enhancements, you won’t have a memorable celebration.

It would be nice if you can have everything you want. If that is you, that’s awesome! If that’s not you and you’re operating on a tight limited budget, here are a few reality checks for you to consider.

  • You could get married at the Justice of the Peace at the County Courthouse, and you’d still be married.
  • You could wear a nice suit and dress, and you’d still look great!
  • You could send out invitations on postcards, and your friends and family would still show up.
  • You could pass out disposable cameras to your guests, and you’d still have great memories. (Everybody carries cameras with them today anyhow)
  • Flowers are flowers. Some are more expensive than others and they look great, but they don’t contribute anything functional to your celebration other than atmosphere.
  • The cake is going to be cut into small pieces anyhow. The important thing is that it tastes great, not that it looks too good to cut.
  • People won’t complain about the food; it’s a free meal. Almost no one can remember what they had to eat last week Tuesday, let alone at someone’s wedding last year.

Whether or not your family and friends stick around AFTER the meal and celebrates is ALL dependent on how GOOD the band is. Music sets the atmosphere during cocktails. Background music during dinner helps to put people in a festive mood and helps to sooth the clinking of silverware and the drone of chatter. The band for dancing and enjoyment after dinner is what makes the party. Nothing else or that came before can do that. It is the ONE thing that people will remember, literally, for years to come.

One of the most foolish errors I have witnessed is a bride spending a ton of money on all the above things for her wedding reception and when it gets down to the band (the one thing that makes or breaks the party) they consider hiring an inferior band or even a DJ to “save” themselves a couple of hundred bucks. That’s bad economics.

If you cut couple of hundred bucks on the music for the reception, you may end up with a multi-thousand dollar disappointment that you, as well as everyone else, will remember for years to come. Hiring the right music, the right band is the MOST important thing you will do past saying “I DO.”

Your band is your insurance policy on your event.


Bill Sargent Bands . . .

Controls Volume and adds dynamic range

One of the things that we excel at is our volume control and dynamics. My bands play with a wide dynamic range so the music is interesting has meaning. I keep the music at a level that makes conversation not only possible, but enjoyable. Many times we have people seated at tables directly in front of my big band carrying on conversations without having to ask us to turn down our volume.

We play in some very small spaces, sometimes for small groups

My big band has played some of the smallest rooms imaginable; rooms you would look at and say, “There’s no way you’ll ever get a big band in here, or even a large band.” But, we do. And it goes excellently and we get rave reviews.

The Bill Sargent Big Band has performed for weddings as small as 40 people, and they totally loved it. The guests in attendance at that particular wedding felt truly special knowing someone cared enough to give them the best.

The reason why a big band exists is because it sounds better than a small band. Every time you add another instrument it adds another layer, another voice, harmony, and texture to the sound. It makes the music more beautiful, more interesting and awesome. It is a higher quality experience.

We are worth our price

You can’t price compare between Bill Sargent and another band, because there is only one Bill Sargent. Nobody else is even remotely like me. When you are buying me, you are buying my unique knowledge, expertise and experience as well as my unique musical talent, attitude and customer service. It takes a special talent to assemble the right combination of musicians and coach them through a performance evening.



Most wedding coordinators and facility banquet managers are accustomed to having 1 person, a DJ, in their room with a sound setup. Many that have accommodated bands have only had a 4, 5 or 6 piece band in their facility. They may tell you a big band won’t work. Don’t automatically believe them. I have yet to encounter a room we could not fit in. Remember, this is your wedding, the biggest day of your life, and you deserve to have it your way.


If you have any questions, feel free to call me at 414-777-0100

Keep Swingin’!
Bill Sargent
Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA


This is Part 4 in a series entitled, “The Biggest Mistakes a Bride Makes When Purchasing Music and Entertainment For Their Wedding” by Bill Sargent

Read the whole series:

1: A Band Or A DJ – Which To Choose? Choose Wisely!

2: Wedding Professionals – Hiring The Right One While Avoiding An Amateur

3: Entertainment Agency – Should I Use One Or Do It Myself?

5: Mistakes and Problems – How to Avoid Them when Hiring Entertainment

6: Booking Entertainment – Things To Consider When Booking Your Band Or DJ


©Bill Sargent. All rights reserved.

"Let's Talk" - Bill Sargent

Part 3: Entertainment Agency – Should I Use One Or Do It Myself?

Is an entertainment agency and their agents the best way to buy your music with today’s advanced technologies and the demand for personalized service?

An entertainment agency and their agents are in business for one reason – to make money. They will sell you anything to make that profit. Most, if not all, entertainment agencies have a “puffed up” roster of musical acts designed to make them look connected and influential. Anybody could get you 95% of those acts.

It Never Goes That Way

Don’t you just love the pictures of food on the restaurant’s menu? Ever feel slightly let down when the food arrives, and it doesn’t look like you ordered?

Many bands and entertainment agencies are the same way. Agencies present bands where the music sounds perfect, the lighting is exotic, the clothes are pressed, everyone is perky and lively, and their performance is flawless. They stage carefully edited and enhanced video shoots that make their acts look and sound better in their video demo than they ever could when performing live.

The Agency Middleman Fee

This agency makes a lot of money NOT performing music at your special event or wedding reception. A typical entertainment agency adds a 15% – 25% agency fee to the price of the band. Even if you don’t see that charge, it IS included in the price of the band.

Agents also add a layer of insulation between you and the performers. Once the band is booked, they’re done. Usually, only after you’ve booked your music will you get to meet that all important person you’ll be working with. Often, a band that is booked through an agency shows up on the day of the performance with little or no clue as to what is about to take place.

Go Direct

Entertainment agencies served a purpose a long time ago when all people had was a land-line phone and the Yellow Pages phone book. Today, that whole situation has changes; we have pocket computers, the internet, and Google. Will they save you some time and research? Yes, but they will be steering you to bands or DJs that serve THEIR purposes and motives of keeping their entertainment roster working and their profits maximized.

If you want to save 15% – 25% on your cost for music AND get personalized service; locate, book and communicate ONLY with the leader of the band directly.


If you have any questions, feel free to call me at 414-777-0100

Keep Swingin’!
Bill Sargent
Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA


This is Part 3 in a series entitled, “The Biggest Mistakes a Bride Makes When Purchasing Music and Entertainment For Their Wedding” by Bill Sargent

Read the whole series:

1: A Band Or A DJ – Which To Choose? Choose Wisely!

2: Wedding Professionals – Hiring The Right One While Avoiding An Amateur

4: Wrong Reasons for Choosing a Band or DJ

5: Mistakes and Problems – How to Avoid Them when Hiring Entertainment

6: Booking Entertainment – Things To Consider When Booking Your Band Or DJ


©Bill Sargent. All rights reserved.

"Let's Talk" - Bill Sargent

Part 2: Wedding Professionals – Hiring The Right One While Avoiding An Amateur

Performing or playing music for fun and extra money on weekends does not qualify someone as a wedding professional.

This business is filled with amateurs and hobbyists. A person can go to Costco, spend a few hundred dollars on a camera set-up, post a few photos on an inexpensive website, and call themselves a wedding photographer. A laptop and a few hundred dollars at a music store can create a wedding DJ.

Here are just a few of the things I’ve seen at weddings:

  • Some bands come in with a pre-determined set list of songs in the order they are to be played; like they’ve got some sort of crystal ball? BIG MISTAKE! People are unpredictable. The mood of the audience is different depending on the weather or how the wedding ceremony went. I maintain the flexibility to work with my audience “in the moment”, observing them while choosing songs accordingly.
  • One band I know of played an entire evening of fast songs and played only one slow song the entire evening! Many men don’t dance a lot and they’re hesitant to make a spectacle of themselves on a dance floor. However, they are totally at ease snuggling up to the one they love for a romantic slow song. We provide a balance of dance music so there’s something for everyone.
  • How about the DJ I saw start the music at a wedding reception with the first song being “Runaround Sue”?

“Here’s my story, sad but true
It’s about a girl that I once knew
She took my love then ran around
With every single guy in town” !!!

Can we say clueless and tacky?

  • One bandleader did the “Hokey Pokey” and instructed the women to throw their whole chest in and their whole chest out!
  • There’s a well-known local band whose singer makes crude remarks and comes on to women in the audience all night; from the stage!
  • How about bands that do songs like “Margaritaville” or “Cocaine” when families with kids are present? Or the DJ who drinks gets obnoxious over the microphone?

How do these things happen? Amateurs who don’t know any better. As the saying goes, they don’t know that they don’t know.


Why a wedding professional is critical: WEDDINGS ARE NOT SIMPLE

A wedding is the very most difficult performance situation that exists. It is not something you want to trust to an amateur or hobbyist.

Here’s why:

COMMONALITY – At most musical performances there is an element of commonality; they are all doctors or lawyers, men or women, young or old. Weddings have none of that.

Most family and friends have very little in common. Typically, they have a wide variety of occupations, hobbies, and political interests. Some live locally while others have traveled from out of state and they usually range from 5 years old to 90 years old.

With such diversity, there are two main factors that come into play – personality types and musical tastes.

MUSICAL TASTES – This is where the wedding audience really separates itself from other audiences. As a group, the typical wedding has very little in commonality. Aunt Mary is an office worker at Northwestern Mutual and she’s into the opera. Cousin Jack works at Miller Brewing and is into blues bands. Uncle Fred owns a small restaurant is loves to polka. Your parents love the classic big bands and rock ‘n roll. Grandpa and Grandma love classical music and Dixieland jazz. Cousin Alice works at Allen Bradley and adores bluegrass and country music. Your friends may be into hip-hop or pop. A few may be superb swing dancers. Some may be Christian and are easily offended by lyrics of some songs.

PERSONALITIES – Within this odd mix of people, there are three distinct sub groups. The first group loves to dance and all they want is some exciting music, so they can move on the dance floor all night.

The second group are the social ones. These people want to converse and catch up on good times with family and friends all night long. They want to be able to hear and carry on a conversation without shouting. One of the worst things that can happen to this group are sub-woofers from a DJ or band that makes their clothes vibrate.

Finally, there are the passive introverts. These people are shy; they aren’t comfortable being social and they don’t dance. But, they want to enjoy themselves also. They are the people watchers. After a while, people watching wears itself out. This is where live musicians performing music comes in and saves their evening and good time. A DJ standing at a table just doesn’t cut it for them.

The key here is to put all these people in the same room at the same time and make sure everybody has a good time without offending anyone while keeping them there until the end.

People will stay for the free meal. They’ve invested their time and money, now they’re going to get their free meal. But, when the music kicks in, are they going to stick around? At many weddings, half the group won’t like the music and will leave early, some very soon after dinner leaving you with unhappy people and a half empty room.

Is this something you are willing to trust to an amateur or a hobbyist or will you enjoy your special day, with less stress, by hiring a wedding professional?


A not so classy band or DJ for a classy wedding

A big mistake brides make is they fail to take into account the aura, the atmosphere, of a wedding. They fail to realize that an elegant wedding is neither the same setting nor the same temperament that they are accustomed to on their nights out and typical parties.

People do not act the same in fine dresses, beautiful gowns and tuxedos as they do on Friday nights out. An elegant bridal gown will make you feel different and act different; a guy’s temperament changes in a fine tuxedo.

The Friday night hip-hop will not have the same effect at your wedding as it does on Friday night. It is a clash of cultures. Most brides don’t want things to be the same as the usual Friday night out. Much money and effort has gone into to making this day once-in-a-lifetime special and unique. The music and entertainment must reflect that.

Some music subconsciously causes people to drink more than others. You may want to avoid a “big drunk” party. That can be embarrassing while creating hard feelings and bad memories.


Hiring a band or DJ that puts on a show

IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER that the night you’ve dreamed of your whole life is all about YOU. This is YOUR night. It is not about an egotistical singer or DJ who is trying to put on a show and garner the constant attention of your family and friends. It’s not about a light show designed to hold the attention of everyone in the room all night long.

Your wedding night is about the beautiful bride, her handsome husband, and the love and adoration of their family and friends. THAT is where the focus of the evening should be.


Hiring a band or DJ that uses a brand name

Be wary of those bands and DJs who use a “cool name”. Names like:

Music on Wheels
Have Music Will Travel
Rockin’ DJs
The Black Tie Orchestra
Night Moves
Disco Men

Under the cover and protection of a brand name, a DJ or band can give have a bad night or incident, they can screw over a client, they can “no show”, they can cancel at the last minute; all things that would ruin and finish anyone else’s career. With a “brand name”, they can change their name, and they’re back in business the very next day as a new act like nothing ever happened. Their lack of character and integrity won’t change with a name change.

I receive many last minute calls from brides who have had their band cancel on short notice – even ones who had contracts. The sad part is, by the time the band cancels; all the real good options are already booked.

How do you avoid this? Hire someone whose name is on their product and their reputation is on the line. I HAVE to give my best, give excellence, perform well and keep my word; my real name is on every performance I give – Bill Sargent. I can’t change my name; I’m stuck with it for life.


Why Bill Sargent Bands are your best choice

In my entire career, I have never cancelled an engagement, nor have I not shown up, for any reason. My career has been focused on building a reputation for quality and excellence and that’s not going to change.

I provide my brides with an evening of class and elegance; of fun, smiles and romance that can be enjoyed by all ages, families, and guys who don’t dance well. If they’re not in a good mood when we start, we’ll change all that and they’ll go home happy with great memories. Best of all, you’ll be the one who gets the credit for hiring such an awesome band.

My musicians are the very top musicians in Wisconsin; the best around. They are all top-notch professionals.

As wedding professionals, we play music the whole family, of ALL ages, can and will enjoy. There will not be any songs of questionable content. Everyone will be able to easily carry on conversations. For those who don’t want to converse or dance, they’ll have an entertaining group of enthusiastic musicians to watch and listen to.

If you give people a natural, unobtrusive atmosphere they will, each in their own way, enjoy themselves.


Why am I better at this than anybody else?

  • Because I’m the drummer. Over my career, I have performed with a lot of famous people nationally. I have studied dancers and tempos like with the best. Dancers dance to the drummer; the rest of the instruments and voices simply make everything pretty and enjoyable. It’s the beat and it will always be the beat.
  • Drummers ALWAYS have the best bands. The drummer is the fire, the spark plug, the dynamics, the mood, and the natural musical director of the band.
  • Finally, I am a wedding professional with more wedding reception experience than anyone else in Wisconsin. While I started doing weddings in 1976, my band business has just celebrated its 37th year of making brides and their families very happy and their special days unique, designed just for them. I am playing better than at any time in my life and my band is better than it has ever been before. I and my fellow musicians care about what we do, and it is all about excellence.


If you have any questions, feel free to call me at 414-777-0100

Keep Swingin’!
Bill Sargent
Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA


This is Part 2 in a series entitled, “The Biggest Mistakes a Bride Makes When Purchasing Music and Entertainment For Their Wedding” by Bill Sargent

Read the whole series:

1: A Band Or A DJ – Which To Choose? Choose Wisely!

3: Entertainment Agency – Should I Use One Or Do It Myself?

4: Wrong Reasons for Choosing a Band or DJ

5: Mistakes and Problems – How to Avoid Them when Hiring Entertainment

6: Booking Entertainment – Things To Consider When Booking Your Band Or DJ


©Bill Sargent. All rights reserved.

"Let's Talk" - Bill Sargent

Part 1: A Band Or A DJ – Which To Choose? Choose Wisely!

Do I choose a band or a DJ for my event? The following commentary regarding bands and DJs is only applicable to brides and event coordinators who seek to have a unique, elegant wedding or special event experience and memory.

Maybe you want a DJ because that’s what most of your friends did or are planning to do. I understand. If that is what you want to do and that is your reasoning, then this article is not for you. I am not your guy and I wish you all the very best. If this is not you, then read on.

First things first. Please understand that I realize that DJs have a place and serve a purpose.  Those places are events where music and entertainment are not a high priority; maybe a small, low budget party is another place where a DJ would serve the purpose.

However, when you’re putting on a once-in-a-lifetime event, say a wedding, or a major anniversary, or a fundraiser where the guests are expected to part with a few hundred or thousand dollars that evening, it is then that the expectations and the level of the overall experience rises dramatically.

In my opinion and experience, hiring a DJ lowers the quality of the experience more than any other single thing. Your guests will hear the same songs and the same recordings that they’ve heard at everyone else’s wedding or event from a guy behind a table draped in black (with maybe even some business advertising on) with cheesy lights trying to look like a nightclub that people go to on Friday nights.

You just spent thousands of dollars dressing up elegantly, choosing just the right location with a beautiful room, creating a romantic atmosphere and dinner for a classy event and it has been cheapened with a DJ who counteracts that image. Instead of a UNIQUE wedding unlike any your friends or family have attended, your spectacular reception has just turned into another “me too” wedding.

IF YOU ARE SET ON CHOOSING A DJ, here are a few things to consider.

Inquire about their actual music training and experience. Yes, that really is important. Musical performances, in addition to the artistic considerations, have psychological human-behavioral effects and responses to be considered. Is their experience and training anything beyond playing a radio, liking music, and/or having once played in a school band?

Typically, this DJ is not a professional musician and has little or no musical training. The only qualification needed to be a DJ is the credit card to purchase their sound and light setup. Do not be influenced by “certifications” such as “Certified by the American Profession DJs Association”; certifications that were purchased for image and marketing purposes only.

Do they consume alcohol before or during the event? Have you ever noticed how one personality who owns the microphone for the evening, who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, can become very “wordy”, obnoxious, and annoying? Did you know that every single time someone makes an announcement from the stage, they are disrupting conversations between friends and family while drawing attention to themselves? If the night of your life is dependent on that one single person, it may be too late to change course and salvage your evening.

Is the prospective DJ in the habit of conducting less than dignified games or calling out and embarrassing a guest at your event?

Then there is another one I witnessed where the DJ started the wedding reception (the very first song) with the song “Runaround Sue” – “It’s about a girl that I once knew, She took my love then ran around, With every single guy in town, . . . Sue goes out with other guys”. WHAT WAS HE THINKING?! Answer: He wasn’t. This was a night to celebrate the vow to love and honor for the rest of their lives.

The stories are endless. But, this is what CAN happen when one person, a part-time hobbyist, is in control of your evening.

If you’re going with a DJ, choose wisely. You’re putting you’re special day in the hands of one person.

Provided you don’t mind doing basically the same thing all your friends did for their wedding reception, there are a few decent DJs and even some good ones out there. Do some thorough research and you may be fortunate to find one.

Finally, the alternative

Your wedding is unique, and you deserve special treatment. We do it with class and recognition that this is the bride’s evening and that where the spotlight and focus of attention should be for that evening.

We don’t duplicate one wedding to the next. We create REAL music, played by REAL people, using REAL instruments resulting in REAL entertainment. Our music is created in real time. It will never be duplicated in exactly the same way again – ever – anyplace.

If you have any questions, feel free to call me at 414-777-0100

Keep Swingin’!
Bill Sargent
Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA


This is Part 1 in a series entitled, “The Biggest Mistakes a Bride Makes When Purchasing Music and Entertainment For Their Wedding” by Bill Sargent

Read the whole series:

2: Wedding Professionals – Hiring The Right One While Avoiding An Amateur

3: Entertainment Agency – Should I Use One Or Do It Myself?

4: Wrong Reasons for Choosing a Band or DJ

5: Mistakes and Problems – How to Avoid Them when Hiring Entertainment

6: Booking Entertainment – Things To Consider When Booking Your Band Or DJ


©Bill Sargent. All rights reserved.


"Let's Talk" - Bill Sargent

My First Blog Entry

Why? My first blog entry

Because I think I can contribute and help some people. Over the years, having played with a whole bunch of famous people, having the most successful band business in the history of the state of Wisconsin, and having done more weddings than anyone alive, . . . pardon the pun, but I’ve learned a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.

Hopefully my writing skills, although not my area of expertise, will be adequate to communicate some ideas, some concepts, and some principles that will improve some of your experiences in life, whether that be your wedding, a corporate event, or some totally unrelated area of everyday life.

SECOND WHY – Why do I do this music thing?

Because I need to. It’s as simple as that. Deep inside, I have an insatiable need to be creative and to make people happy. I didn’t learn it, didn’t ask for it, didn’t go to school for it; I was born with it. It’s the way I’m wired; the way God made me.

Along the way, I realized that I was also given the gift of vision and I learned to be totally dissatisfied with mediocrity. Today, the pursuit of excellence is everything. It’s not about competing with others, it’s about competing with myself; to be better each day than the day before. Without that, life gets totally boring; at least for me.

How do I satisfy all these urges and traits in music?

  • Play only the best music possible. There are a gazillion songs from which to choose. Life is way to short to be playing mediocre songs.
  • Play with the very best musicians possible. It is not satisfying to have to struggle with anything less. I always want to be the worst musician on the stage. That’s how I stay challenged and how I grow.
  • Perform for people who place a value on excellent music. The days of my performing to inebriated, drugged out people are waaaaaay behind me. It’s a two-way street – I give people my very best to make them happy and give them enjoyment and memories, and they appreciate the gift, the talent, and the years of learning and effort that went into making all that happen. That creates mutual happiness and satisfaction. My mission is then fulfilled, and it propels me ahead; I have served my purpose.

What’s in this for me?

The hope is that I may help you in some way with this blog.

I will begin with a series of posts dealing with THE BIGGEST MISTAKES BRIDES MAKE when choosing and purchasing music/entertainment for their wedding. DO NOT TUNE OUT if you don’t have a wedding in your future. The wisdom and knowledge I will be putting forth will apply to virtually ANY EVENT for which you will be needing music/entertainment.

If you ever have any questions, do not hesitate to call me at 414-777-0100.

Until the next time, strive for excellence and keep swingin’!

Bill Sargent
Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA

©Bill Sargent. All rights reserved.