Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio September
Back to Basics
BY MARTHA JO DENDINGER, CMP
Name That Tune
How to choose the right music for your event
The fact that music soothes the savage beast is often overlooked
in meeting details. The right tunes can provide harmony to the
various elements of an event. Live and recorded music can maximize
a theme, provide a bridge from one function to another, serve as an
ice breaker, entertain and provide a social break from serious
There's more to proper music selection than just convincing your
guitar-playing cousin to do you a favor or dusting off your
personal stack of CDs and hauling them to your event. To provide
adequate music the planner must understand:The personal tastes of the group;The objective of the event;The location of the event, related acoustics of the site and
any musical or union restrictions;The number of people in attendance to determine the number of
musicians needed, andHow to vary the music to orchestrate the event.
COUNTRY OR ROCK 'N' ROLL?
Selecting the style of music may seem as daunting as trying to
land a man on the moon. But the event itself determines which songs
are right for the occasion. For a reception or a cocktail hour,
background music is required -- and it should remain just in the
background. If guests notice the music, then it's being played
incorrectly. At a party, entertainment plays a greater part,
serving as an ice breaker, so selection and volume are
At an awards program the selection can follow several different
approaches -- state or city songs can reflect where the recipients
are from, or the playlist can reflect a winner's occupation,
character or disposition.
Include fanfares to add excitement and walk music to fill the
voids. Such choices are typically played at awards events, but they
can also be used to liven up opening sessions and keynote
addresses. If the event has a theme, extend it with the music. For
example, a M*A*S*H party should be accompanied by songs from the
'50s; a Dixieland band livens up a party with Southern roots.
LIVE OR RECORDED?
After you've determined the reason for using music and narrowed
the selections, the next step is deciding whether to use a live
band or recorded music. Your budget may be the deciding factor, but
it need not hamper the quality of your choice. Fanfares and walk
music may require only a little research at a music store, where
you can buy the right CD to hand over to the A/V technician along
with instructions on how and when to incorporate the music into the
program. A deejay spinning a collection of good records may be
enough of a spark for your final night party.
If want to hire live talent, first gather recommendations. Ask
for suggestions from other planners, the convention and visitors
bureau or a university's school of music. You can also ask for
suggestions from your contacts at the venue where the event will be
held. Many bands play regularly at these facilities and know the
layout of the facility and its special requirements or
When you've made a list of possible candidates, see and hear the
group or deejay in person at an event similar to yours. If that's
not possible, view a videotape of an actual performance. Once
you've narrowed the field further, ask the performers for
references, and check to see if the talent arrived on time and
performed according to the contract. Finally, discuss payment terms
and cancellation policies, and uncover any special requirements or
As with all other vendor contracts, planners will want to put
the basics in writing -- the date, time, place, style of music and
budget. Ask for a proposal that lists the number of personnel,
style of music, fees, setup and rehearsal (if any) requirements and
any special needs.
You should also discuss the appropriate attire for the evening,
when and if breaks are to be taken, what the event's schedule is,
and who sets up and when. Now is also the time to outline the song
list in greater detail; use the expertise of your chosen musicians
or deejay when making your final music selections.
To avoid pre-event jitters of "will-they-or-won't-they-show-up,"
put in the contract that the performers should arrive an hour prior
to show time. Designate a special area for changing, breaks, etc.,
and stock it with beverages and snacks. Determine when overtime
charges apply and how much they will be. If your band hits the
right note and your attendees want to dance until dawn, you'll want
to have money in the budget to let the revelry last.
Martha Jo Dendinger, CMP, is an independent meeting
planner in Atlanta.
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