An Interview with PianoFactor’s CEO

Interview by Peter Read – Published: 15th Nov 2016

When were you first involved with the Duelling Pianos concept?
I spent 20 years travelling around the world performing as a piano entertainer in Piano Bars and eventually found myself drawn to the bigger clubs that had duelling pianos. I ended up performing mainly duelling pianos shows as these were more fun to be a part of compared to performing solo. These duelling shows then took me to Holland, the Caribbean and America.

What made you bring the duelling pianos concept to the UK?
I was living in the Virgin Islands at the time, working regularly for Richard Branson on Necker Island and at the Rock Cafe on Virgin Gorda. For family reasons we decided to move back to the UK and I thought there maybe a gap in the market for duelling pianos hire, especially for corporate events and the vast market of wedding band hire.

And was there a gap in the market?
Definitely! There was nothing like it in the UK in 2009. A few bars and clubs had tried it, but had not really presented the concept effectively, with unqualified entertainers running around singing to backing tracks – Not like the live, professional, request based show with world class musicians and entertainers that PianoFactor have developed over the past few years.

How does the show go down at weddings?
Weddings are definitely our favourite gigs, everybody is up for a good time and we certainly get the wedding venues rocking. I think the fact that anybody in the audience can request any song they want, means that everybody gets to hear the music that they love. It is so important to hire a wedding band that is versatile, professional and fun at an event where you have friends and family members of all ages attending.

Do the bride and groom get to choose their first dance song?
Of course! If we don’t already know it, we will learn it for them – A wedding is such an important day and we want the bride and groom to be over the moon with our services and ending the day with a top wedding band providing professional and fun entertainment will bring smiles to all who attend.

Can anybody hire PianoFactor Duelling Pianos as their wedding band?
Yes, if we are available, we will be there and provide them with outstanding wedding entertainment.

And how do corporate events compare?
Corporate events are also fantastic, they are different and we often find we have to work the crowd a lot harder to get them going (not always). We have a selection of team building musical party games that break the ice and one we have them singing and dancing you can guarantee it is going to be an amazing night.

Do you charge different prices for weddings and corporate events.
No, the classic duelling pianos show is the same price to everyone. We have bespoke wedding packages, these include DJ’s and other options that are not normally required at a corporate events. Corporate clients normally want just the show and wedding couples often like us to provide them with a complete wedding entertainment package.

You mentioned a DJ, is hiring a DJ necessary?
No it’s not necessary as we always provide music for the breaks via our virtual DJ software which mixes songs from our current library and keeps people dancing. However it is always a great extra to have live DJ as he/she will also get the feel for the crowd and really help in raising the atmosphere during the course of the evening. It’s also a fairly traditional practice to have a DJ at a wedding so I think if you can afford one of our entertainment packages with a DJ it’s well worth it.

Do you use other musicians.
Yes, we have an amazing Saxophone player, he is like the pied piper and gets people (girls mainly) following him around the venue, normally in a conga line! I highly recommend him and he features in our top packages. We can also bring other musicians in if required including: Backing vocalists, a small brass section, a percussionist and guitarist. It is all down to personal taste and budget.

How long does it take to setup the show?
We can normally get the equipment in and be sound checked within two hours if the access is good. Obviously stairs and long corridors slow this process down.

Does your setup include lights and a sound system.
Yes, we have a vast array of lights. Some of our packages include lots of lights and others just the basic setup. We have 3 sound systems, we take whichever sytem is suitable for the room or the system that is included with the package. We always take extra sound and lighting equipment as at the end of the day we want to impress our customers and we will go out of our way to make sure it is the best night of entertainment they have had.

Your show is request based, how does this work?
We put out request slips on all the tables and the guests are welcome to fill them in and bring them up to the band. We have thousands of songs in our repertoire so we can pretty much play anything.

This is an obvious question but have you had a request you cannot play?
We have had quite a few songs that we have never heard of and there isn’t much you can do about that! However if we get requested a song that we don’t perform but have heard it on the radio or television, it only takes a few seconds to pull the words up on the iPad and be able to perform a fair rendition of it!

What are your favourite and least favourite songs?
Tricky one:- I love performing all songs so I can’t really say there is a least favourite as every night holds a different audience and vibe. A song that didn’t go down so well on a previous gig may rock the roof at the latest one. Regarding a favourite song, I think it has to be whichever song is the most recent one we have learnt – It’s fresh in the blood and is a rush to play the first few times.

What was your favourite gig?
I think the performance at “An evening with the stars” for BBC Children in Need 2013 was the best… Just so many famous people around and the sound and lighting setup was incredible. I would love to do that one again!

How is PianoFactor doing as a business?
It was a bit of a challenge bringing the duelling pianos concept to the UK and selling it to the British public. When you mention piano, people often imagine a guy in a tuxedo knocking out elevator music in the corner of a posh hotel – Our Duelling Pianos show couldn’t be further away from this! I think people are getting hold of the concept now and certainly the word is spreading. We are seeing a lot of Google searches for “pianofactor” and “piano factor” every week so I guess the brand is beginning to expose itself. We are now performing at around 100 gigs a year and I am looking forward to the company growing over the next few years.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
On the stage! I love performing, so as long as I stay healthy and fit, I will be performing at as many gigs as I can in ten years time. I also see the business expanding quickly and I imagine that we will be able to put out a few shows on any given night, this will certainly open the doors for musicians and entertainers wishing to be part of our show.

Finally, for anyone looking for professional, fun and entertaining live music what would you say to them?
Pick up the phone, dial 01462379937 and ask for Carl 🙂

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