Why Is It Always Too Loud: keeping control of the music

I was recently at a four day industry conference- where 3 out of the 4 evening events the music for dinner was way too loud and in most cases there was no clear point person who could seem to do anything about it. Everyone just complained or left the room and headed outdoors. Then once the dinner was over the band really kicked in:

  • most folks have had it…
  • joined the rest of their friends out doors
  • or called it a night…

It doesn’t have to be this way. Yet more times than not it is… musicians get a bad rap… events suffer, and then everyone just accepts it. I say – let’s fix it once and for all. It’s easy and I am going to give you simple strategies to do it no matter what the event is.

Round up the band leader- 
First, you need to take a minute and round up the band leader or DJ, the sound company, sound engineer, producer of the event, DMC on duty, or whoever is responsible for providing the live music… if there is more than one of the above… include them all if you can. I’m a firm believer in including everyone who is a stakeholder in an event to agree to share a common goal… it helps all involved to support each other and I find everyone steps up a bit when the whole team agrees on and knows the expectations… Explain to the whole team that you would really appreciate live music but you are concerned with the volume. Unless it is a special presentation, theme enhancer, or short vignette between dinner courses… my recommendation is to not include vocalist at this time… when you are eating and some one sings it creates an awkward sense of… should I be paying attention to the singer… or enjoy my food and conversation?  Keep it instrumental if you can and /or have a smaller portion of the band play… I will often rotate six to eight performers – three or four at a time. It helps to keep it softer and you can have non- stop music without burning the musicians out.

Explain your Expectations

Next, explain to the sound people it is not necessary to “fill the room” with the music. If they try – it will inevitably be too loud for the folks close to the stage… just turn off the PA … in most venues the band will be plenty loud for background… in large ballrooms with flown speakers a small amount of PA support can work fine… but… it is better to have a few folks in the back of the room who don’t hear it than the entire front of the room… which is often the VIP’s… having to yell at their friends to have a conversation.

Can you hear your guests talking? 
Then- the final and probably most important thing… I discovered this simple solution about 10 years ago after years of struggling with musicians. Ask them to play at a volume where they can hear the guests talking. It sounds simple and may be crazy but it works every time. Two things happen – you actually have a standard to measure the volume by… you can stand near, or on the stage and check any time if you can hear your guests talking… but it also changes the focus and perspective of the talent. They become more aware of the reason they are there – contrary to what some performers who don’t get the special event biz think…

  • these folks did not arrive here tonight to hear you play…
  • they earned this trip, or chose graciously to support this event, or its cause…
  • and you were hired to add tasteful background music to enhance the experience.

The band can still be creative and make amazing music – They just need to learn to do it softly… yes, it can be a bit harder but if they are pros they should accept the challenge… if they learn to do it… they will be asked back more often and ultimately perform for more events. Smart business!

The best part about this is when you get it right… and you will if you use these simple techniques… when it is time for the after dinner entertainment… then the band can really crank it out and your guests will not only be ready for it… they’ve had plenty of time to chat and eat comfortably… they will be open and willing to accept it and embrace it even if it is a bit on the loud side.

A win -win and a great entertainment experience for everyone.

One Response to “Why Is It Always Too Loud: keeping control of the music”

  1. Michael Burke Says:
    November 3rd, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    Great advise for a very frustrating issue. The entertainers need to realize that, during dinner, they should not be the center of attention. Headliners in particular, seem to struggle with this concept and inevitibly we get burned.

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