Death to Jock Jams

Let’s face it, most fans show up to your games and don’t ever think about how much work your team puts into its game presentation.  Attending your game is an escape for them. They’ve already left their own jobs for the day and a night at the ballpark, arena, or stadium is their chance to let loose with family, friends or coworkers. 

Of course, we know how much planning it takes to create an exciting and memorable game experience.  It always amazes me then that so many teams take for granted such a massive part of that game experience.  From the second a fan walks through the turnstiles to the celebration of a come from behind win, there’s one constant current pumping through your venue that keeps the excitement going. It’s music.  It’s the catalyst that reminds your fans that they’re there to have a good time. It sets the tone for everything you do.  It can be the difference between a stale environment and a fresh, can’t miss atmosphere.  It’s the lifeblood of your entertainment operation.

So why then would you ever turn over such an important aspect of your presentation to an intern armed only with some Jock Jams and worn out sound effects?  Every team should have a fully developed stadium music strategy.  Obviously every market is different and every organization is operating with disparate resources, but having a music strategy in place is a simple but essential step in creating an exciting game experience.  Ask yourself, is our music well thought out or is it an afterthought? 

Here are some suggestions and tips on putting together a unique stadium music strategy.

  • Have an edge.
    You want people to feel like your game is an event where they’re excited to be seen. Your music should reflect that mentality and not merely sound like you’re rehashing played out standards.
  • Trust your operator.
    Without doubt, finding someone who actually enjoys music to run your music is imperative.  Someone needs to take ownership of the stadium soundtrack and when you find that person, they need to understand, refine, and execute your strategy. Make sure they have the tools to succeed. Some NBA teams have actual arena DJ’s, now that’s commitment to music.
  • Be like an Apple commercial.
    Ever notice that every iPod/iPhone/iPad commercial features an incredibly catchy song that you’ve never heard of but like almost instantly? When you’re playing songs fans may not know, that’s what you have to shoot for. How will you know if people will react positively to your more obscure tunes? Make sure it’s got a good beat. Everyone can get into a good beat. Some indie-leaning bands to help here: The Black Keys, Passion Pit, Phoenix, Spoon, LCD Soundsystem. When in doubt, you can always mix in the actual tracks from Apple spots.
  • Build an incredible mix.
    Focus on developing ALL of your genre libraries. Just because you hate country doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a top notch selection of good country songs- they do exist. Same goes for hip-hop, classic rock, oldies, alternative or Top 40.  Make sure you are constantly up to speed on current music trends. Check iTunes and Billboard charts regularly and know what’s hot now.
  •  Create your own sound effects and fan prompts.
    Use popular songs from your library to create short clips you can use to rally your crowd. The Phillies were using a bit of Kanye West’s "Power" as a fan prompt during the playoffs. It was totally unique and shows how much of an emphasis they place on being current.
  • All suggestions are not suitable.
    Be open to music suggestions from staff members and fans, as it will help to stay exciting and dynamic. That being said, just because someone suggests a song doesn’t mean it fits into your strategy. Everyone thinks they have good taste in music, but you have to be the ultimate authority on whether or not a song makes sense for your stadium. Always remember to meticulously review any new songs added to your database for inappropriate language or themes.
  • Chronicle your soundtrack.
    When your fans know you take something seriously, they’re more likely to pay attention to it. One way to let people know you take pride in your stadium soundtrack is to make it public. Have a space on your website where you list out what songs you played when. It will force you to keep things fresh and will make your team a taste maker of sorts when it comes to music. For baseball teams, you can also build fan
    affinity for your players by listing their at-bat music selections.  Check out the Orlando Magic’s music page here.
  • Diverse playlists for diverse crowds.
    The fans in attendance for a beer promotion aren’t going to react to the same songs you play for the Sunday afternoon set. Make sure you know your crowd from game to game and craft your playlists accordingly. Plus, if you’re hosting thousands of school kids during an education themed day, it may be the only time when it’s socially acceptable to play some Justin Bieber.
The bottom line is that music should never take a back seat in your game presentation. It’s the pulse of your event product and should be treated as such. So ditch the Jock Jams and redefine your inner DJ. Your game operation will be better for it.

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