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Hit The Play Button – Make Your Event Music Rock the House!


The crowd is on their feet. Moving, clapping – some people are even dancing in the aisles. For the moment they are one group, sharing an experience. It’s amazing, and the show hasn’t even started. This isn’t a concert – it’s a corporate event and this is just walk-in!  Have you ever had something like that happen? How do you make your event music move people?

You should make selecting the best music a part of your production plan because music is an important part of any meeting, event or trade show.

Music is just as integral to content as the presentations, videos and media.

Always Give Them a Show

In the first part in this series, we introduced the concept of “Always Give Them a Show.” The goal is to appeal to an individual or audience in ways that help convey an essential theme or message so that it is acceptable, distinctive, valuable and memorable.

A show isn’t created by staging, lighting or theatrics. The hallmark of a show is – emotion. People want to feel things. Think of every great show you’ve attended – play, musical, movie, or sporting event. You got involved, excited, angry, sad, and even joyous! That’s what made it work.

What could be better for your next meeting, event or trade show?

Let It Play!

Music has the unique ability to appeal to us. It’s organic and distinctively human. To get a better idea about how important walk-in and walk-out music really is, I contacted a cross-section of production professionals and asked. They represent meeting and event production, music licensing and music production. Here’s some of what I learned.

Do audiences really care about walk-in and walk-out music?

“Yes, I think audiences notice and appreciate good, upbeat music to kick-off the meeting. It increases the energy level in the room. What they don’t care about or particularly notice is theming your music to match the event.” That’s what Bill Davis from Davis Production Group told me.

Spencer Herzog from Creative Sound Concepts agreed. “The energy of the music can certainly make a difference. Music affects your attitude. You want to create some positive energy and make people happy to be there. Music makes you move and feel. People care about that.”

Is music an important part of the meeting or event content?

Clearly it is for Scott Lowry, vice president at Hartmann Studios. “As the unique content for multi-media programming has grown increasing customized and complex in recent years, I am now designating a person to this position who has creative responsibilities over all things musical; video beds, name and title play-ons, sound effects, stock music selection and, of course, pre-show music.

“I have found this creates great continuity and stamps a ‘soundscape’ on the entire event.”

Plan Your Music the Way You Plan Your Content

Music is often the first impression an audience has of your meeting, event or trade show. Before they see the room or booth, they can hear it. That subconscious picture of the experience begins: What’s it going to be like? Will I be comfortable or bored? Is this a big waste of time? Am I going to enjoy this or just endure it?

In an earlier article, we talked about segmenting your audience by function and not just demographics. It’s the same for music. Ask yourself:

• What is the goal or end result of the event?

• What do the people need to know and what do they need to do?

• What do they need to feel?

• Musically, where do their backgrounds and histories overlap?

 “I think that it’s all personal experience. If it’s a song that you enjoyed when you found your first true love, when you were in college or when having a great time, then you are instantly going to have a good feeling and that carries over into the event.” – Spencer Herzog

“I don’t have a secret for matching music to audiences, but I do give a lot of thought as to how to create anticipation and intrigue to the event. I feel this is the key to making the audience feel like they are about to participate in a unique moment – a ‘you had to be there’ place in time.” – Scott Lowry

So How Do You Pick a Playlist?

You can make it as exciting as a concert or about as stimulating as elevator music. Where do you start? The search took me to the Upper West Side in New York. Barbara Zimmerman of BZ/Rights & Permissions has been in music licensing for several decades.

What are the trends in corporate music?

“About five years ago, songs like I’m So Excited, Still the One, and Future’s So Bright I Got To Wear Shades were requested over and over again by corporate clients. Over the last couple of years, choices have ranged wider, to both old favorites and newer songs. Every era has iconic songs that everyone knows.” – Barbara Zimmerman.

High on Barbara’s list of requested songs are:

– Dancing in the Street

– I Gotta Feeling

– Start Me Up

– Right Here, Right Now

– You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

– Greatest Time of the Year

– This Is Our Moment

– Get Ready for This

“Unless everyone in the audience is under 25 years old, then the latest, hottest music actually doesn’t work as well as music that’s several years old. So much of the classic rock, rap and R&B we grew up on is viable today – the iconic songs that people instantly know.” – Spencer Herzog

 “It should be current stuff but, depending on the demographic of your audience, you should mix in some classic stuff or hip-hop or country. I often times rely on my A1 to provide the music. We talk about the demographics and come up with a playlist of high-energy, upbeat music.” – Bill Davis

A Quick Word on Copyright

Music isn’t free. Look on the label of every CD and there’s a copyright notice. Music companies make it very clear that you can’t use any music without permission. Forget what you’ve heard. Here’s the reality. In the United States, there are no circumstances where a for-profit organization can use music without a license.

The good news is music licenses aren’t expensive. According to BMI and ASCAP, a blanket license that covers walk-in, walk-out, play-ons and background music for meetings, conventions and trade shows is calculated as the number of attendees times $.06–$.068 cents. For a 500 person audience, that’s about $30-$35!

When you make a video with music in the background, or put music or a video on the company website or intranet you need another kind of license. BMI and ASCAP don’t cover it. This is a synchronization license that comes from the music publisher who represents the composer(s). My suggestion for these uses? Contact Barbara Zimmerman.

With legal music so cheap there’s no reason to take a chance!

Simple, Clear, Entertaining and Human

Think of music as content and you can make it one of your most valuable tools to communicate – in ways that are simple, clear, entertaining and human. Remember, every element of your content should work together and demonstrate to the audience that they matter. You do it through Message, Meaning, Media and Music.

Next up in this series we are going to focus on Meaning. It’s one of the most elusive aspects of content. Until then, make sure you pick the music that speaks to your audiences and makes them feel … extraordinary!

Rock The House!

If you want to know more about how to give them a show and create memorable events just click on CONTACT US and get in touch.

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About the Author
Andy Johnston is a multi-faceted communication professional who has a comfortable way of working with people. Andy is an Emmy Award winning communicator known for his energy, humor, creativity and his unique ability to discover the key results that must be generated – and then to develop ingenious ways to engage and motivate audiences. He has broad experience in strategic planning, messaging, creative direction, marketing, and events. One of the things Andy says often is, “How can we make it better?”
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