Music and Environment – Setting the Tone


Recently I was at a high energy event. Massive video screens, lots of people, LED lights for miles, and music … music that just killed the environment.

Ever been there? Maybe it’s a contemporary church service with walk-in music from the 1950’s or a sporting event with kids music. Chances are that we have all experienced disappointment when it comes to music at events and how it sets the tone for what’s to come.

So, how do you find the right music to set the tone for your event or service? We think there are 4 simple things to consider.

1. Consider Your Audience

I get it, this is simple. Really simple; but many times it’s the simplest details that get overlooked. You’ve got to lift up your head, look around, and see who is in the room. What are they doing? Do they seem engaged, antsy, in conversation? You’d be amazed at how many people want to chat before and event and how many others simply want to chill, get ready for the show, or just have a moment. Some events though need energy; the audience needs to be prompted to start getting excited for what’s about to take place.

Also, don’t forget to think about pre-service/pre-show volume. Don’t overshadow your performance by seeing just how awesome your audio system is. Allow some room for folks to breath and for the audience to engage with one another.

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2. One Size Doesn’t Fit All

I’m sure you’ve got, or know someone who has, the ultimate play list. Filled with super ballads, high energy songs that everyone will know the words to and sing along. It’s so epic, you just know it’s a one size fits all solution.

That is until the minister gets up to start the eulogy. Cue the awkward crickets.

I get it, you like to plan, I do too. Think about the types of events you do and find music that will fit each event. If you’re working at or volunteering for a church, think about the events that aren’t just Sunday morning services and be prepared for those: weddings, funerals, conferences, children’s events, etc.  Think beyond the typical event and you’ll be better prepared to face what’s coming your way.

3. Plan More Than You Need

There’s an unspoken rule in Nashville that all events, particularly concerts, must start 15-30 minutes after the advertised showtime.

Beyond just planning for the event, you need to plan for overage. Time gets away from speakers, musicians, worship leaders and before you know it, you’re replaying the first 3 songs in your pre-event mix while running around backstage looking for everyone. As a general rule, I always have twice as much pre-service music as I need. This allows for some vamp time in case everything isn’t ready. Additionally, this gives you extra songs to play with when you’re just not feeling that one.

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4. Match Your Environment

What visuals are you using? What type of space are you in?

We tend to spend a lot of time on the visuals of our space. We get excited about the look and feel of the room. And then we have to get some walk-in music.

But, before just loading up Spotify or your latest iTunes playlist, look around the room and see what your attendees will see. What’s the environment that they’re going to experience from a visual standpoint? Find music to match that environment. Find music to create space for them to prepare; build tension and mystery about what’s to come; push them towards the environment you have created.

What are some of your go to’s for different types of events? How do you go about setting the tone with the music you play? Share those with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Tim Southwick

Author Tim Southwick

Tim is the Brand Manager for TripleWide Media. He has 10 years experience in the event management world and has a strong desire to see visuals and media used to increase the user experience.

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