Top 5 Tips for Choosing Background Music at Corporate Events

January 16, 2013

As suppliers of entertainment with a blog to keep, we tend to gravitate towards the attention grabbing, show stopping acts that produce the best pictures, but today we’re going to take a look at a type of corporate event entertainment that’s a little less conspicuous; Background Music. Though it’s not quite true to say that when background music is done well, guests should barely notice it – badly chosen background music has a way of being pretty distracting.

So to help navigate the minefield of background music choice at corporate events, we’ve put together 5 tips to help make sure you make the right choice for your event. Read on for more.

Booth Street West Performing at a Corporate EventVocal or Instrumental?

One of the most common misconceptions about background music is that it has to be instrumental. It’s clear why this has come about; when we think of singers, we think of famous singers and when we think of famous singers we imagine them performing on a stage, to an audience who are watching them and only them. At corporate events however, people want to mill around, network or chat to colleagues and naturally music needs to be conducive to this. That’s not to say vocals are out of the question though, many of the vocalists we regularly book such as Emma and Jess are able to blend into the background with a jazz trio just as well as they lead a full band.  But not all genres of vocal acts ‘suit’ being background music; opera for instance, tends to be better deployed as an attention grabbing showpiece than a background act. The key is picking the right vocalist and the right type of music for your event.

Don’t be afraid of Percussion

Similarly to the above, some instruments have a reputation for being louder than others. In particular, most clients shy away from using drums in background jazz ensembles, opting instead for keys, bass and sax/trumpet which - though popular in events – isn’t all that common a configuration for a jazz trio (usually Piano, Bass and Drums). Percussion has earned itself a bit of a noisy reputation (mostly though Animal from the Muppets... possibly some other things too) but clients are understandably reluctant to have someone bashing away at cymbals while guests attempt to exchange business cards. In reality, the drummers we use for jazz ensembles are trained musicians, sensitive to their own volume levels. Take a look at the video above (featuring Jazz band The Toni Trio) and listen to how the drummer makes use of brush sticks to add to the sound of the group without overpowering any of the other instruments.

Tamar playing Saxophone ata Corporate Event at the Wellington ArchConsider the Backing Track...

Though we’re usually the first ones to extol the virtues of a full live band, in some events it’s not a viable option. Space issues or budget constraints can mean that a quartet or even a trio are out of the question for an event or venue. In these cases, we usually suggest a musician performing to a backing track. Saxophonists and violinists in particular are suited to performing to pre-recorded backing tracks to create a similar sound and feel to something like Organic Jam. This is obviously less expensive than hiring a full ensemble but still retains the live element missing from simply playing recorded background music. Backing tracks combined with radio mics also allow musicians to wander around the event – particularly useful for events where guests are spread between different rooms. Additionally, it’s also worth considering musicians who can play solo; guitarists, harpists, pianists and more usually have sizeable repertoires of music they can perform without accompaniment at all.

The Cover Brothers on the Silvr Sturgeon Where do you want background music to be heard?

Events and venues come in all shapes and sizes, anything from dozens to hundreds (or even thousands) of guests could be in attendance moving around venues of wildly different layouts. Providing entertainment in a series of small interconnected rooms is - as you’d expect - a different challenge from finding the right act for one big hall. In these situations, it’s useful to think of where exactly the musicians should be located and where you’d like guests to be able to hear the music. Small background ensembles usually either play acoustically or with light amplification – both of which are generally suitable for up to around 150 people, but if those 150 people are split across different rooms (or in one long thin room) additional amplification may be required. Knowing most of London’s best event venues as we do, we can usually pre-empt such issues, but it’s still something worth discussing when booking background music.

Jazz band 'Doodlebug' Double Up

Many of the musicians who comprise our best background music ensembles also play in fully fledged function bands, so it’s possible to cut down on the cost of having both a background act and a band for dancing. That being said, there are a few considerations when trying to double up with acts that can perform different types of sets. Timing is an issue for a start – asking a musician to perform 3 sets with a jazz band followed by an hour or more as a high energy function band makes for a lengthy evening and musicians will most probably ask for a higher fee. Equipment is also a consideration - a band will require additional equipment for a function band set and possibly extra members/instruments so there will be an additional cost for the transport and set up of the stage. Still, more often than not it will still work out cheaper than booking two separate acts and will mean fewer musicians to deal with on the night.

For more information on booking background music acts for corporate events – head over to our contact page and get in touch.

Garreth Owen