Dance to the Rhythm of Texas
My wife, Ashley, and I founded the company in 2009, and have had the pleasure of providing fun and engaging entertainment for hundreds of couples throughout Texas and surrounding areas for 10 years.
Please introduce yourselves to our readers.
My name is Jared Thompson, and I operate One Five Six Four Entertainment, a Dallas-based entertainment company that specializes in upscale live music for weddings and other events. My wife, Ashley, and I founded the company in 2009, and have had the pleasure of providing fun and engaging entertainment for hundreds of couples throughout Texas and surrounding areas for 10 years.
How did you become a band?
There’s not really a way to talk about the start of our business without talking about how my wife and I met. In all honesty, the creation of our first band was really just an elaborate excuse for Ashley and I to spend more time together. We first met in Gun Barrel City, Texas. I was a guitarist-for-hire, and the “Ashley Austin Band” had called me to sub in for an absent musician. The gig went pretty terrible, the drummer packed up and left after one set, and it was definitely a disaster. But I had a crush on the star of the show, so I found myself in the band the following week. As time went on, I became more involved in the direction of the band, Ashley and I became inseparable, and we began our life-long quest to build the “ultimate party band”. The Ashley Austin Band slowly became “Identity Theft Band”, which would eventually be shortened to IDT Band.
I am not completely sure how we achieved this, but in our first year of full-fledged operation, we managed to contract 29 private events. For kids with no industry experience, no network, and no money, I look back and still wonder how we got so lucky. One truth of our industry is that events beget more events (granted that attention-grabbing quality is being delivered.) That first year created a snowball effect of referrals and interest from those who had attended our performances, and we’ve been working hard to stay on top of that wave ever since.
Our business grew as we continued to perform at more events and build our reputation. In 2012, demand for the band had reached a point where there was enough overflow business to justify a second band, and Empire 6 was born. We were lucky enough to have another great “first” year. Now both bands perform at weddings and other private events nearly every weekend.
I personally love continuously educating myself, building, and improving all the various aspects of what we do, and full dance floors and happy clients fill me with pride.
I love (almost) everything about my job. The independence of owning a business never gets old. It’s incredibly rewarding that we have been able to turn our passion for music into a business that financially provides not only for us but for nearly thirty musicians and technical crew. I personally love continuously educating myself, building, and improving all the various aspects of what we do, and full dance floors and happy clients fill me with pride. Like most business owners, I can’t say I’m crazy about a lot of the day-to-day administrative necessities, but it helps me appreciate the fun part even more.
How would you describe your style?
In Dallas, which many consider the “party band capital” of the country, style is one of the few remaining characteristics that can set a wedding band or entertainment company apart. For that reason, we never paid much attention to the trends of our competitors, and instead focused on finding a niche in a style we felt was being neglected. The three most important elements to us have always been relevance, taste, and quality.
Music and live music performance are constantly evolving in terms of what people find engaging. When it comes to song selections and genres, what was popular two years ago might be completely out of touch today. And unfortunately, this doesn’t always mean simply learning the newest Billboard Hot 100 hits and moving on. Tastes vary, usually within the same crowd, and we’ve found that it takes a delicate and thoughtful balance to have an entire crowd walking away feeling satisfied. I’ve always taken pride in our pulse on the tastes of our audience, as well as our ability and willingness to constantly evolve our show.
The non-musical aspects are just as important. While it’s almost guaranteed that a typical client isn’t giving much thought to the level of production a band includes, sound and visuals play a tremendous part in creating that awesome, fun, euphoric feeling that everyone is looking for at a party. Audio, lighting and visuals, and technical staff make such a huge unsung impact on successful events. We’ve recognized that from the beginning, and have always gone way above the bar to make sure we’re setting and not just following production trends.
Although most people would probably assume this is a given in our industry, we have always placed extreme importance on the talent and skill of our fellow musicians. Because Ashley is such an incredibly amazing vocalist and performer, the bar was set very high from day one. As a multi-instrumentalist myself who played in IDT for years, I’ve always been extremely picky with our musicians (much to their annoyance.) We’ve never been satisfied with having an attractive but mediocre vocalist onstage, or a guitarist who learns 80% of the songs but was shaky on the rest. Luckily this has resulted in a precedent for supremely talented performers finding a home within our company, and our bands regularly impress both the average guest as well as seasoned music industry professionals.
Just like in nearly every movie, music provides a soundtrack to an event that creates ambience, and it compliments and emphasizes emotions.
Is music necessary for a wedding ceremony?
I’ve personally never attended a wedding ceremony, either personally or professionally, that did not have some sort of music. Just like in nearly every movie, music provides a soundtrack to an event that creates ambience, and it compliments and emphasizes emotions. I do believe ceremony music should always be given special attention, whether it simply be a designated and knowledgeable DJ or a small live ensemble. One Five Six Four often provides a duo of various instruments, such as guitar and vocals, piano and sax, a string quartet, or as mentioned, a DJ to play appropriate music.
What are some fun songs to play during a wedding ceremony?
There are so many! Of course, there will always be the classics. Popular requests are Here Comes The Sun by the Beatles, Claire de Lune, Somewhere Over The Rainbow. But I love the quirky ones, and some of my favorites from the past are I’ll Be The One by Backstreet Boys, I’m Gonna Be 500 Miles (Sleeping At Last version), Halo by Beyonce, and Latch by Sam Smith.
How to pick the right wedding ceremony music?
Choosing songs for your ceremony should be totally stress-free, because there are zero rules, and you can literally pick whatever you want. Prelude music selection is generally chosen by the ensemble you’ve hired. If you have a DJ, you can provide a song list if you wish, or just specify a type of music you’d like played while guests are entering. During the ceremony itself, songs are commonly chosen for the entrance of the bridal party, the bride, and then the recessional. I’ve also seen this broken into a song for the groom, parents, groomsmen, bridesmaids, bride, the recessional, and sometimes even a song during a unity candle or similar event.
I do typically suggest not trying to squeeze too many songs during the entrance, because in reality you will only hear 30-60 seconds of each one, and the transitions between songs can seem abrupt. It might also have a jarring effect to squeeze 3-4 songs into what is likely a 2-3 minute processional.
As far as the song selections, again, there are no rules. You can choose a song that reminds you of a special moment or one that you like just because. If you want a traditional and elegant ambience, then classical pieces and the wedding march are perfect. If you want “Bring Em Out” by TI to play while your bridal party enters, go for it. I won’t judge you.
Do you take special requests? Can you assist with the choice of music?
We do take requests, as most bands do (or should). We welcome requests because it gives us a glimpse into your tastes and helps us build the rest of the set list. However, we also try to establish reasonable expectations as early as possible when it comes to requests. Having a band of ten people prepare one or more songs for your wedding, along with the requests from three to six other weddings that month, is no small task. Bands are not DJs, and despite a vast repertoire, it’s unlikely they will agree to play anything that they’re not confident they can perform to their standard.
Requests fall into two categories:
- For event dances, the band will absolutely learn your request, even if they’ve never heard it before. In fact, our bands learn up to three. The only caveat here is if you have requested a 10-minute live version of your favorite Trans-Siberian orchestra song, or any song that the band simply can’t do, we’ll probably suggest you choose another song or let us DJ it. Also, note that these event dance requests are shortened to about two minutes. Reason being, this is the average amount of time anyone wishes to spend dancing, and it also makes it possible for our multiple bands to learn multiple songs for multiple weddings, every month.
- Then there are general song requests. For this, we direct clients to our absolutely huge song list, which contains a thoroughly researched collection of songs that are most likely to be requested. Our clients are able to pick five songs off this list that they would definitely like to hear, and optionally, they can pick five songs they definitely don’t want to hear. Not only does this give them some input into the setlist, but it provides us with some direction about the general tastes of the client.
So, while we do take requests in this manner, I want to be clear that you should NOT feel responsible for creating the perfect song list for your party. You are paying a band for their expertise to do this exact thing, and it is rarely an option for you to assume full responsibility for the set list. Ideally, you are hiring a band that has played to hundreds of crowds and has fine-tuned an exact science to get a perfect response at your event. The effectiveness of a band’s performance relies on beats per minute, pitch, transitions, genre variety, and other elements that the band has spent hours and years perfecting, all for the sole purpose of making you and everyone else walk away saying “…that was incredible!”
How much does it cost to hire a band for a wedding?
Bands are unlike some other wedding vendors with predictable price ranges because you can spend anywhere from $600 to $50,000 on a band. I strongly advise you not to spend $600 nor $50,000 on a band, but those bands are definitely out there. In our market, which is primarily Dallas and Houston, Texas, the average rates for a reputable and experienced party band range from $8,000 to $17,000. There are likely good bands that charge more or less, but this a realistic range to plan for. Like most things, “you get what you pay for”, and price can often be an indicator of how popular the band in question is (but not always). You can typically find entertainment companies, including ours occasionally, that are effectively piecing together a band for you from a “network” of musicians, and these groups are generally much less expensive. And that is by no means a slight, as this type of band is more than sufficient for many events. But to reserve an established “brand name” group such as Empire 6 or IDT Band, prices generally fall within the range mentioned.
In our market, which is primarily Dallas and Houston, Texas, the average rates for a reputable and experienced party band range from $8,000 to $17,000.
Note that this range primarily refers to “premium” dates, meaning any Saturday in wedding season. Prices can vary by time of year or day of the week. This range also refers to standard pricing, meaning “just the band”. Many bands offer the option to expand the size of the group, or upgrades such as continuous play or additional ensembles for cocktail or ceremony, or even additional room lighting. In these cases, the prices can easily exceed the top of that price range.
Note that this range primarily refers to “premium” dates, meaning any Saturday in wedding season. Prices can vary by time of year or day of the week.
There are so many stories, and I love most of them. Luckily, I get to add to the collection every weekend.
What was the most memorable wedding you played at?
I’ve had so many “memorable” moments that I definitely can’t just pick one. And some of the really memorable stuff shouldn’t be shared with the internet! I know better than to say I’ve seen it all, but I’ve been to events with live gators, trained monkeys, and “beer donkeys”. I’ve seen couples arrive and depart via helicopter (or boat!). I’ve seen a groom present an international guest with a $50,000 Harley Davidson. I’ve seen our production crew attacked by swarms of bees and dust devils. We’ve had our gear stuck in elevators for days. We’ve had our box trucks catch fire (…Brian). I’ve watched our bands perform a first dance song with a Nashville artist. I’ve watched them do a surprise performance with a full gospel choir. I’ve watched them play next to dinosaur fossils or ancient statues surprisingly often. I’ve performed with my wife multiple times at American Airlines Center. We performed in Westhampton, NY and after the wedding, the band joined the guests on the beach around a campfire. There are so many stories, and I love most of them. Luckily, I get to add to the collection every weekend.