Music can help breathe life into meetings and events and engender greater attendee engagement. And that’s what Australia-based Song Division is all about. Founder Andy Sharpe is leading a session at IMEX Frankfurt, May 21-23, with the aim of sharing practical ways to use music (in ways that don’t cost a cent) to enhance the success of meetings. One+recently chatted with Sharpe about his upcoming session and some current hits and misses in the aural realm.
ONE+: What inspired you to begin discussing with meeting professionals the transformational power of music at events?
ANDY SHARPE: There’s no training for meeting professionals on how to use music to deliver a great event. Playing the right music at the right time can help you create emotional connections between your attendees, the organization, your content and each other. But music is often an afterthought. Like the food and decor, it needs attention! The Song Division team and I have been designing music for meetings around the world for 10 years, so I’m looking forward to sharing some of that experience at IMEX in Frankfurt.
ONE+: What are some widespread mistakes meeting professionals make regarding music at events? How can they most easily overcome them?
AS: A common mistake is leaving the music to someone who doesn’t know your audience. Asking the sound guy you met minutes before the event to play something off his iPhone mightn’t ruin the day, but it probably won’t help you achieve your event objectives. You know your audience and you can put them in the right emotional state—pumping them up for a sales kick-off, relaxing them before a potentially heated stake-holders meeting or getting the party started at a Gala Awards. Ask your music-savvy colleagues for help; just don’t leave it up to a complete stranger at the last minute.
Another big mistake is not rehearsing. Whether it’s piped music or a live band, rehearse the music that will be playing when the ballroom doors open, the CEO takes the stage or during dinner. Sit in different spots around the room to make sure the volume is appropriate. If it’s background music, then make sure everyone can talk without straining. If it’s the big opening number, make sure it’s got impact without bursting eardrums in the front rows.
ONE+: What audio innovations are you watching most closely?
AS: I think the most exciting audio innovations are the subscription-based music services such as Spotify and Rhapsody. Rather than buying CDs or paying for songs on iTunes, you pay Spotify a US$9.99 monthly subscription for unlimited access to more than 20 million songs. Someone raves about the new Mumford & Sons single, you type it into the app on your phone and it’s instantly in your collection. It’s a great tool for meeting professionals—you can put together your own playlists for upcoming events and share them with your colleagues online, who can add their suggestions.
Unfortunately, playing songs directly from the Spotify app at the actual event is still a cloudy issue in terms of streaming copyright laws, so to err on the side of caution, you would still need to purchase the final songs you decide to use via iTunes or alike. I’ll be giving everyone an update on any copyright developments at the Campfire session in Frankfurt.
ONE+: Be honest: How do you feel about auto-tuned vocals?
AS: I…DON’T... KNOW...WHAT...YOU...MEAN...MICHAEL...(said in 1960s robot voice). Auto-tune can be used for good or evil, but I have to say it was a breath of fresh air hearing Adele, Shirley Bassey and Babs blast their naturally tuned pipes at the Academy Awards this year.
ONE+: What is your favorite instrument or musical tool? Why?
AS: The human voice. Whether it’s The Beatles, The Black Keys or a corporate group at a Song Division event, it’s the vocals that get me all emotional!
Check out IMEX Frankfurt and contact Andy Sharpe with your event+audio questions and stories at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you still doubt the power of music, check out the results of Song Division’s recent CSR program with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance and ING.