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FAQs about Ambience Event Services
What makes your entertainment division different from other entertainers/disc jockeys? Is AES a full-time company?
Unlike many entertainers/DJ's, we run our company as a business and not a part-time hobby. Our sole focus is on our customers and their needs as related to their upcoming event. A disc jockey at an entertainment expo once made a statement to our owner that there is no such thing as a full-time DJ company, because nobody DJ’s on Monday morning. Au contraire… while the weekend is certainly the busiest time of week for us, we also regularly perform at multiple events throughout the week…corporate, schools, business promotions, etc. What this individual should have said was that he was not a full-time DJ, because he works at his “other” job during the week. Where do you think this person’s loyalty really lies? Understandably, it would be with the company where he makes his living, but that doesn’t mean you should share in that responsibility…go with a company whose loyalty is to you, the customer.
Will you help me plan my event?
Absolutely. The cornerstone to a successful event is advance planning. A benefit to our service is our on-staff planners and coordinators who will listen to what you want and don't want and will help you create a timeline using our Online Planning Tools.
Do I HAVE To Fill Out A Planner and Timeline?
In short...yes! As mentioned above, advance planning is critical. It is important that you tell us your expectations and submit your planning materials well in advance of your event. You've gone to a lot of trouble and expense just getting to the date of your event, and nobody wants to drop the ball right before the goal line. The little time that you spend on planning activities will benefit you many times over when your event flows smoothly and successfully.
How much time do you allow for set-up on the day of the event?
Punctuality is one of the trademarks of a professional company. Our DJ's typically arrive at the event site between 30-90 minutes prior to the event start time. Bands may have a much larger time requirement but this varies with the size of the band and is handled on a case by case basis. For our larger Corporate events and Mitzvahs, we have been known to begin set-up at Noon for a 6:00pm start time. In any case, your entertainer will be setup and in-place before your first guest walks through the door.
Where should we position the DJ/Band in the facility?
Some of our clients have expressed a concern that focus will be taken away from them if the entertainment is centered in the room. Let us assure you that this is not the case...your guests know that this is your day and they realize that any activity facilitated by your entertainer/s is specifically oriented toward making that day more enjoyable for you and your guests.
This being the case, your Band or DJ should be located in such a manner that their backs are next to a wall (if inside) or toward an open space (if outside) where guests will generally not have access or be behind them. In addition, they should be directly facing the dance floor/area with nothing in-between. Why? This is a multi-part answer, so read on.
Professionals do their best to "hide" things like cases, cables, connectors, music stands...in short, all the "stuff" that you don't want your guests to see. You've spent a lot of time and money on the decorations that will make your event stunning...why detract from this by placing your entertainment where people can see "backstage."
You may wonder how this could happen. Imagine a "head table" along a wall with a wedding party (or guests of honor) seated to face the dance floor. Guest seating occupies space on two other sides of the floor leaving the 4th side for the DJ/Band with still more seating BEHIND the entertainment. This presents two major issues. First, it is considered rude to have your back to someone as will happen in this case, and second, the guests seated behind the DJ/Band will feel as if they were not important enough to get a "good" seat...kind of like those cheap "obstructed" view seats at a concert facility that nobody really wants.
Believe it or not there is an even worse scenario. Imagine a dance floor completely surrounded by guest seating. Ummm, where is the entertainment? Probably stuck into a corner somewhere. It may seem obvious, but you have hired an entertainer to...well...entertain. Do you want your guests to have fun, dance and create memories? If this is not your goal, then what you are looking for is background music, and there is nothing wrong with this. We can handle it for you, but we need to be clear that the results will be different depending on the approach you choose. In other words, don't expect a celebration style party when the message you are communicating to your guests is that the entertainment was not important enough to place anywhere other than in a corner.
By the way, this is still true even if you just want the music to "speak for itself" without a lot of interaction from the entertainer. Psychologically speaking, people expect the DJ/Band to be near them when they dance. The party is where the music is. But subconsciously, it confuses people when the dance floor is located somewhere other than with the DJ/Band. Even though it is live, it still feels like you are dancing to piped-in music, because it is coming from a location other than at the dance floor.
Further, let's look at a technical consideration. It is much more difficult to disperse sound effectively when it has to cover an entire room when the source is somewhere other than a central location. What this means is that the guests who are closest to the DJ/Band will think the music is too loud, while those who are on the other side of the room will think the music is too soft. This is true while playing background music during dinner but will be even more noticeable during the dancing portion of the evening when you and your guests will typically expect the DJ/Band to turn it up a little for the "party." The seats between the DJ/Band and the dance floor will become unusable, especially if your older guests happen to be seated in those spots.
Finally, let's get back to the original concern...focus. Will it be on your entertainer at certain times during the event? Absolutely, and you want it to be! Otherwise, they are not going to be effective at doing the job that you expect them to do, whether that means making specified announcements, directing guest attention or just plain setting the entertainment environment so that you get the celebration you've planned. Does this mean that your guests are not paying attention to you? To the contrary, they are probably focusing even more on you, because they are having a great time!
Will you be suitably dressed for our occasion?
Yes. You can specify the type of apparel that the entertainer is expected to wear for your occasion. Most brides and grooms prefer that we wear semi-formal clothing to avoid confusion with the wedding party. However, anything from cowboy boots and Stetson hats to Formal attire is available…be sure to let us know in advance if yours is a “theme” event.
What type of equipment do you use? What special features (lighting, etc) can you provide?
Many people are not familiar with professional equipment nor should they be! Equipment is simply a tool used to accomplish a task. If you’ve ever hired a contractor to work on your home, did you ask him what type of hammer he used…Craftsman, Stanley, etc.?! Probably not, and you shouldn’t have to. Beware of the DJ or band that spends a lot of time bragging about equipment when all you really care about are results. This being said, you do want to make sure that the equipment brought to your event meets a minimum standard, so make a list if you wish and call your local music equipment supply store to get their opinion. AES uses Rane, Denon, Mackie and Sennheiser...these should get very favorable comments from music equipment dealers. Look at our website for additional options as there are too many to list here, but yes, we do have items such as karaoke, extensive dance floor lighting, fog machines, snow, up-lighting, etc.
Do you provide backup equipment and personnel for my event?
Yes. Equipment failure is exceptionally rare being limited in most cases to a bad cable or connector, but do you really want your special occasion ruined because your entertainer was not prepared for an emergency? Our disc jockeys have backup equipment with them at your location.
Very important: We do not sell your event to a sub-contractor! Our DJ's are our employees which allows us a much higher level of quality control, so yes, we have backup DJ's available in the case of illness or other emergency. Better still, we have a Manager on Duty during all events who can step in at a moment's notice. We are not aware of any other company who provides this service. Don’t be lured into a false sense of security with a DJ who says that he belongs to an organization or "networks" with a group of DJs that can provide a backup. If your event is on a popular day (such as a Saturday) then any DJ worth his or her salt will be booked already, so who do you think you get stuck with? That’s right, the guy who was "warming the bench" so to speak! Better to go with a company that staffs a manager specifically to handle such unexpected events. Plus, when it comes to a band, with AES we have a guarantee that nobody else we are aware of has, and it’s simply this…when you book a band through AES, we’ll back up that band with a DJ. Of course, any band that we allow to work with us is professional enough to be there as promised, but isn’t it a nice feeling to have the security of knowing that you’ve got a fall back plan in the case of some exceptional emergency?
Another company told us that their DJ's have more experience than anyone else...is this true?
No. Be careful when speaking with someone who, in their “sales pitch,” simply uses a phrase like "our DJ's have _____ (15, 20, 25) years of experience." An analogy would be a golfer in his 40's or 50’s who has been golfing since high school. He's got more than 25 years "experience" right? But, would you really expect him to do as well as Tiger Woods just because Tiger is younger and hasn't played as many years?
The same is true for DJ's. Ours go through very strict standards of training. They are taught how and why things are done. Whether it is proper etiquette for a corporate environment or coordinating a grand entrance for a bride and groom, our DJ's have far greater working knowledge than the typical DJ.
Are you willing to play requests and discuss music ahead of time?
Not only are we willing but it is a standard part of our business to be an instrumental part of assisting you with the planning portion of your event. After all, we will have the most obvious impact on what happens at the event…when the DJ speaks or the band plays…everybody is going to see and/or hear what is going on. We wouldn’t think about simply “showing up” without any idea of what you wanted. And, we’re happy to apply our years of experience to help you determine which songs may have the effect you desire. We recognize that communication is the key and encourage you to stay in close contact with us as we approach your event date.
What type of music do you play?
That depends on whether you choose a DJ or a band. Most of our bands specialize in a couple of styles of music. So, what they play is a function of their specialty…Country/Rock, Rock/Oldies, Disco/Eighties, Jazz/Big Band, Motown/Oldies/Disco, etc. As you explore different bands, don’t forget your guest’s tastes as well as your own. On the other hand, our DJs are not limited to genre or period. In fact, it is easier to tell you that the only music we don’t play is that which contains profanity. All of our music is edited for radio play…being a professional company, we get the same music that many radio stations subscribe to. Of course, an additional consideration is what you want to hear, and we are happy to play your dance requests. Regardless, what we play will always be in good taste.
Can guests make song requests? How many (and what types) of CDs will the DJ bring to the event?
Whether guests make song requests or not is up to you, the customer. We customize our events to your instructions, so if you don't want guests to make requests, we can politely inform those inquiring of this fact. If requests are okay with you, we are happy to accommodate them. Back in the "old days" the quantity of music might have been an issue (and may still be for the part-time operator), but this is not the case with our company. We literally have thousands upon thousands of songs spanning the Big Band Era of the 1940's to the most Current Hits of every category. The CD's we use are provided by companies who only supply professional DJ's and radio stations.
Why do I hear (fill in the blank) ________ (Electric Slide, Cha Cha Slide, Shout, Chicken Dance, YMCA, etc.) at every wedding/special event I go to?
Not intending to be mean, and our apologies to those of you who are great dancers, but generally speaking, our society is not the most educated when it comes to dancing. Most of us don’t show up at a party and say something to the effect of, “hey everybody, let’s do the foxtrot!” What we do look forward to is interacting with our family and friends. The dances listed above (and others like them) allow us to do just that without testing our memories with complicated dance steps. Many clients have asked us if we ever get tired of playing these songs, and the answer is an unequivocal “no way!” Every celebration and every group of people is different, and the song is just a tool to help facilitate a great time. So, although you probably wouldn’t just decide on the spur of the moment to play one of these songs while enjoying an evening at home, these do make excellent “party” songs. After many years of experience, we ask you to keep an open mind when creating your “Don’t Play List.” We have had many experiences where our client asked us to not play certain songs, only to find out at their own event that a majority of their guests (including family members) were on the verge of staging a rebellion if they didn’t get to dance to some of these songs. Ultimately however, we will respect your wishes regarding music selection…your word and your choices are final on the subject.
Do your disc jockeys take any breaks from playing music?
No. Once the event begins, we continue following the custom planner and time line that you have created with us. Of course, there may be pauses in the music to accommodate toasts or other special activities, but we don't stop working until the end of the event. This includes smoking...our entertainers do not take smoke breaks.
Bands on the other hand typically take 10-20 minute breaks after a 45 minute set, but this is not always the case. One of our bands plays "continuous" sets...call for details.
Do we need to provide a meal for the entertainers during the event?
Meals are not necessary as we eat prior to the event. However, if your event spans a mealtime it is a considerate gesture and may still be advisable to provide some type of food for ALL of your vendors (not just the DJ). This is in your own best interest. It is hard for anybody to concentrate on their work (photography, videography, DJ, etc.) when their stomach is growling and worse yet they are in an environment with lots of wonderful smelling food. Many caterers will automatically provide a certain percent food overage to cover additional people. If this is not available, the food you provide for your vendors does not have to be the same as what you are serving your guests...something simple but sustaining is fine such as a picnic type meal (i.e. sandwiches, salad, chips and a beverage).
Can your DJ “MC” our event? Can you provide a microphone?
Excellent question. It is quite odd to us that there are actually people calling themselves DJs who are unwilling and unable to make announcements…isn’t that a basic part of their job?!? Once again though, you are the boss. Although announcements are part of our skill set, and we certainly have the ability to take care of those, you get to determine how much you need us to do…from a little to a lot. As far as providing a microphone, we offer options from our DIY-DJ™ (Do It Yourself) package to a fully interactive DJ/Emcee and everything in-between. The point is that YOU get to decide what type of DJ is best for you. At least 1 microphone is included with all of our packages.
How early do you typically arrive before an event?
Our standard is 1 hour prior to the event. This gives us more than enough time to set up. If your event is more complicated, this time can increase. For example, we've performed at weddings which included a high level of production...similar to a stage play, where set up took a crew of 3, more than 3 hours just to set up. While the results were spectacular, this is not the norm. Call us to talk about specials situations.
We want to meet and talk to the DJ that will be at our wedding reception, is that a problem?
This won't be a challenge as it is a standard part of our process. We want our entertainers to have a great rapport with our clients. It leads to a more successful event.
Are your "packages" "one-size-fits-all?"
Hopefully, at this point, the answer to this is readily apparent, but let's address it specifically by saying "no." All of our events are customized to your individual taste. Of course, we have "packages" to give you a place to start, but that is just the beginning. We recognize that every event is unique and look forward to helping you work through the details that will be reflective of your expectations.
What are your prices?
This is a very difficult question to answer…in fact it can’t be answered intelligently without speaking with you first. Use caution when calling around just to get rates. Any DJ who simply quotes a rate to you without agreeing to meet you in-person has just given you cause for concern. As you can see from the above questions, there are so many more considerations than just price. To bring this into perspective, would you call all of the car dealerships in your area and simply ask them how much their cars are and then choose the cheapest one without knowing any specifics about the model? Of course not! Even within one brand there are huge differences in price…you could get a bargain or a lemon, but you’d never know without looking. The best technique is to visit the company you are considering at their office. Note that we did not say at the local Starbucks! This is a trick that some will use to prevent you from finding out that they don’t have an office. If they don’t have a suitable place to meet you on a professional level, then cross them off of your list and move on. By the time you cover a lot of the questions above over the phone you’ll probably find that you have weeded out the majority of so-called entertainers. Now, take your short-list and actually visit these people in person…your investment in time will be well worth it and then you can talk price! Remember, no price is a good price if you don’t get what you pay for.
I have heard that a low price indicates poor quality...is this true?
Based on the question just prior to this one, you might expect us to answer "yes," but this is not always true. Love them or hate them, retailers like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, etc. are able to provide "name brand" products at the lowest possible price because of the systems they have in put in place. AES Entertainment functions in a similar manner and continues to work hard to refine our method of doing business so that we can provide you with high quality entertainment at rates that are lower than our competitors. Think of it this way. Companies that do fewer events than AES, by definition, must charge more than we do per event just to cover their overhead and stay in business. A word of caution...we said that a low price isn't "always" a warning sign. However, as the previous question suggested, there certainly is a range of (low) prices that just don't make sense. After all, if a business can't pay its bills, it won't be around very long. And, the DJ's who charge rates that appear to be to good to be true...well, you know the rest of the saying. We regularly receive phone calls from panicked brides and event planners whose DJ or band won’t return phone calls or respond to emails. They seem to have just disappeared. In some cases these entertainers have received a better offer and simply dump their current customer. In others, they just decide they don’t want to work, because something else came up. In our many years of experience, we have never heard of a good reason for causing this stress and potentially ruining someone’s event. Don’t take a chance on a “no show,” go with a Name Brand you can trust…AES Entertainment.
What percentage of our budget should we dedicate to entertainment?
You can find many guidelines, and the answer depends on several factors; however, 10% to 20% is a good rough estimate. Example: The average wedding now costs $20,000 meaning the entertainment should run in the range of $2,000 to $4,000 for this particular budget. Likewise, a $5,000 wedding would devote $500 to $1,000 to entertainment. On the other hand, many of our customers have chosen to make entertainment their number one priority and hired a DJ or band that was more than 50% of their budget. These couples took to heart the fact that people will only remember a couple of things…photographs and memories of the great time they had as the result of an entertaining event.
Should we tip our DJ?
Just like the catering staff, your entertainer is part of a service business and a few questions must be asked that only you can answer. Are you tipping the other service personnel such as your caterer or coordinator? If so, what percentage? You may not have thought about it, because the tip for the catering staff is usually built in to the total catering bill to be split among the servers later. This percentage is more often than not 20%. So, if your catering total comes to $10,000, about $1,700 of that is gratuity ($8,333 x 20% = $1,667). How do you feel about the service you have received? Was your DJ readily available to you prior to the event? Did they return calls or respond to emails within a reasonable timeframe? What about during the event? Did they meet your expectations or exceed them? Did they follow the timeline you worked out in your consultation, play the music you requested, display a friendly and positive personality? Ultimately, tipping is a personal matter but as always, it is greatly appreciated by those in the service industry who do what is in their power to ensure that you have an enjoyable experience and we thank you for your generosity when you do provide for a gratuity!
How many months in advance do I need to reserve your services for my date?
This is completely dependent upon the date. For example, on June 6, 2008 you were out of luck if you didn't reserve the date a year in advance. We had to turn away several brides who then couldn't even find a bad DJ who was available. Why? EVERYBODY wanted to get married on "6/7/8." On the other hand, we've performed at weddings on EVERY day of the week (yes, Monday through Friday too), so a Monday wedding in January (off-peak) could probably be reserved the week before (not that you'd want to)!! (Important Tip: If you are planning to have your wedding in the Fall on a “non-game day” (for your local college)…plan well in advance!!! Every other bride is probably trying to fit her wedding in between those all consuming football days too.)
What is your event cancellation policy?
We are not cold-hearted and will work with our clients on a case by case basis. Generally however, the retainer is non-refundable, because as soon as you reserve a date, we stop marketing that as being available. In other words, we turn away customers who would have booked our services had they (and we) known that you were not going to use that time frame. This represents a real cost to a business. If we are lucky and able to fill the date after all, we are happy to return the retainer to you. Alternatively, you may utilize our services for an event at a later date within 18 months and apply the retainer to that event. Or, you could transfer your retainer to someone else who wants to use our services and have them pay you directly in order to get your money back. Please note!! If you cancel within the 45 days leading up to the event, we've already invested a substantial amount of time into your event behind the scenes, entertainers have been reserved and there is an even greater chance that the date can not be filled by another customer. In this case, you owe the entire amount for the event!! Please do not let this happen if at all possible. Emergencies do happen, but if things are looking like they are not going to work out, don't wait until the last second to tell us. We don't like keeping your money and not performing at your event...really...REALLY! Our business revolves around helping people celebrate, not just reserving dates and hanging on to their money.
What is the deposit amount? What are your standard payment terms?
The standard initial payment for entertainment services is only ½ of the total fee with the balance due 15 days prior to the event or at your final consultation (whichever comes first) to provide time for funds to clear the bank. We accept Cash, Checks and all Major Credit Cards with the exception of American Express and “corporate rewards” cards. Be cautious when dealing with entertainers who only request that you give them nominal amounts for deposits…i.e. $50 or $100. Scam artists know that you are unlikely to pursue them in court for such small amounts because the cost to you is not worth the aggravation…yet they still got your money and ruined your event!
Are you insured? Can you supply proof of liability coverage?
Our owner holds State of Georgia insurance licenses. As you would expect then, we can certainly provide proof of insurance. In fact, we have over 2 million dollars in commercial general liability coverage. Warning! For your own protection, do not even consider doing business with any entertainer who does not have insurance. You may not realize it, but in the fine print of the contract you signed with your facility, you have in all likelihood agreed to “hold harmless” or "indemnify" them, and in fact have probably accepted personal responsibility for anything that happens during your event…even if it’s not your fault!!! Don’t worry, chances are nothing will go terribly wrong, but that is what insurance is for…make sure that the people you hire have coverage so you don’t get stuck footing the bill from a big lawsuit…1 million dollars should be the minimum, and ask them to provide a “Certificate of Insurance” and to list the reception site as a “Named Insured.” Don’t trust that they do this…ask for a copy.
Do you belong to a professional organization or trade group?
Although belonging to an organization or trade group does not guarantee talent or professionalism, it does indicate a company’s willingness to meet the standards necessary to gain admittance to that group. As such, AES Entertainment belongs to the National Association of Mobile Entertainers (N.A.M.E.), we are a founding member of the Athens Wedding Professionals (AWP), and several networking groups, in addition to being a highly recognized office with our corporate headquarters.
Do you provide a written contract?
Yes, it is extremely important to have your reservation confirmed in writing. At a minimum, you should have the following listed in the contract:
- Date of Event
- Start and End Times (And whether or not this includes set-up and tear-down)
- Location of Event
- Current Date
- Signatures (Both yours and a company representative’s)
- What specific service is being provided
- Amount of Deposit
Remember, this is an agreement between you and the company you hire. If you don’t get a contract, you will have no recourse if the band, DJ, etc. dumps you for a better offer from somebody else or simply fails to show up for some unknown reason. And yes, you DO want to place a deposit…without “consideration,” you don’t have a legally binding agreement.