A continuation of ideas to consider:
Plan the music for when the party starts. Having a musician show up halfway into the night can really throw a wrench into your plans. It makes finding the host more difficult, moving of gear more difficult, and it means a probable loss of the best set-up location for your musician to other party goers, caterers, etc. Plus, it looks more well thought out on your part and more responsible on the musician’s part to have the music going when the first guests arrive.
It may seem like it should go without saying, but please don’t make your musician set-up in standing water. If the weather is questionable during your event, please avoid putting the musician in puddle prone areas. If the performance is on a damp lawn, a cheap outdoor rug is a great option for protection both the musician’s feet/gear, keeping a chair from sinking awkwardly, and for protecting your lawn from developing a muddy hole where your musician was standing for 3 hours.
This is always a delicate balance, especially in neighborhoods and in intimate settings. The music needs to be amplified, because 1) it will sound way better, and 2) your guests will know you’ve hired a musician, and now it’s officially a party. It is perfectly fine to ask the musician to raise or lower the volume to suit the event as the night goes on. If you are worried about neighbors, it is courteous to at least let them know there will be a party, and even more courteous to invite them (free food/drinks and a couple of minutes of conversation can make the evening more pleasant for just about anyone). If you have 50 talking guests in a house but ask the musician to turn down to the point the amplification is below the volume of an acoustic performance, chances are you shouldn’t have hired a musician…you should’ve hired a mime and put your stereo to the lowest setting!
Some events require the musician to move during the course of the evening. Sometimes this is planned, other times it is dictated by weather (always have a backup plan for weather!). Try to minimize the number of moves. Time spent moving is time without music for your guests, and a rush breakdown/set-up is added stress to your musician. Also, the music sounds different in each space (acoustics), so it will take time to adjust the EQ, volumes, etc. for each space. If you anticipate multiple locations (such as a wedding ceremony & cocktail hour), communicate that prior to your event. The musician will then plan to accommodate.
Whenever possible, please make arrangements for your musician to avoid valet parking or having to park in a garage/great distance from the event. In the case of equipment malfunction, gigs with multiple set-ups, or summer weddings (most musicians and DJs get dressed after we set-up), it can be inconvenient and very noticeable to your guests if the music is absent or starts late due to lack of vehicle access. Let your musician know if there is any parking related challenge so extra time can be allowed for.
Some people hire a musician for a performance and don’t really know how to integrate the music into their event. It is perfectly acceptable to allow the musician to set-up and perform without it being a concert. You do not need to build a stage, arrange rows of chairs in front of the musician, or announce/introduce the musician on most occasions. Allow the performance to be organic, and allow your guests to choose how they enjoy the music. Some folks will pull up a seat, some will stand, some will mingle and enjoy it from a distance…some may even get up and sing at the mic! Pressuring the guests into being quiet, sitting in an assigned area for a duration, or stopping whatever fun they were enjoying prior to the performance are all sure way to kill the vibe!
Keep It Level
Sometimes there is no control over the lay of the land, but in most cases, you can find a patch of level ground to set-up equipment on. Standing on uneven ground for long periods of time is uncomfortable, you slide out of your chair, and equipment such as speaker stands are at an increased risk of falling. Loose ground coverings such as sand and gravel can pose the same problems. A solid lawn, deck, or patio is ideal.
So What’s the Deal
Basically, you want to use common sense when choosing where to place your performer. Find a space you’d be comfortable hanging out in for 3 hours. If you feel claustrophobic, hot/cold, get invaded by bugs, roast in the sun, have wet/muddy shoes, or need a cab to get to the parking lot, make adjustments! If there are things that can’t be changed, discuss it with your musician before your event. We all want to have fun!