Industrial Strength Broadway: The Secret Music of Corporate Events Still Exists Today.
Last night, part of the Live Spark crew went to see "Industrial Strength Broadway": a musical honoring the musicals written for corporate events in the 1950s-80s by Steve Young--the star of "Bathtubs Over Broadway" (same topic).
We're not talking about jingles here--nothing that the population at large has seen. We're talking about "here are the benefits of our line of disposable paper medical supplies vs other supplies or competitors."
The conceit--along with highlighting the absurdity and the kitsch of musical numbers set to tractor benefits (paper cups, diesel engines, silicones, bathroom fixtures, etc.) and sales successes--was that this was both a peek into a secret world that was never meant to be seen by the general populous, and that it was a relic of a different era.
Yes to the first point--who even knew that parody songs (or original compositions) written to be performed at sales meetings even existed? (Well, apart from those of us in the industry. To wit: see point two...)
No to the second point--because "industrial" musical numbers never quite went away.
As we were watching the show I turned to my colleague during a particularly detail-heavy number about the uses of silicones (not silicone--never SILICONE) and whispered, "This feels...slightly traumatic."
"Because this is still my life!"
My assertion was a joke, of course, but the days of listening to product managers, sales VPs, marketing luminaries, etc., espouse the details of their product and having to synthesize a song encapsulating all those features and benefits in a very specific (not always fitting the meter of your song) way are not yet past us.
We've done several "Time Life Music Collection" parodies for companies highlighting their equipment in various ways (features, benefits, purpose, etc.), we just wrote a parody highlighting a three step sales process that a company wanted everyone to learn (and how better to get the order of the steps correct than to set them to a musical reminder?).
There may not be Ziegfeld-Follies-level dance numbers to accompany the music anymore, but the music still exists. In addition to highlighting product features and benefits, we'll write songs to close an event--encapsulating the attendee experience for the entire meeting in just a few verse highlights. We'll introduce incentive trip destinations or next year's show through song. We'll even open a show and give the high points of what to expect for the next x days with an opening number (an Oscar number on an Oscar Meyer budget).
All these songs endure because music engages us emotionally. It's a fun way to get information, it helps content stick, and it provides a point of storytelling and interaction that just cannot be matched by spoken presentation.
There's a reason why people unrelated to any industrial/corporate world packed a theater to see the inner-workings of the corporate industrial musical--these private, funny, weird, secret songs still have the ability to engage and move us.
4 Ways to Hamilton Your Event.
I know more about Alexander Hamilton now that I ever learned in school.
I've caught friends casually humming the details of Hamilton's life--hard, historical facts in catchy song form. It's all because of the smash-hit musical Hamilton. The music of Hamilton is sticky, and so the facts of Alexander Hamilton are sticky.
I still know the states and their capitals, the nations of the world, and the order of the presidents of the U.S. because Animaniacs (a 1990s cartoon) set them to music and put them in the show. They were catchy and they stuck.
A while back, a client was launching a new version of their software and we set the launch details to a parody of "8 Days a Week". Everyone at the company STILL remembers and sings that song.
Music is a powerful tool for incorporating information into an event.
1. Musical Wrap-up
Music to review the content of the entire event is a memorable and pleasurable take-away. Attendees can see how the things they've just experienced are cleverly summarized into song form. This also allows you to end the event with a bang instead of just fizzling out.
Quite frequently we will end an event with a version of "Favorite Things" (recapping the highlights of the event) or "Wonderful World". It makes an emotional impact and is a great way to review content.
2. Musical Opening
A lot of companies will do a big musical number to open an event: drumming, a local band, gospel choir, etc. This is a great thought--but you also want the music to have meaning. Set the tone of the event with lively music, but also begin to incorporate messaging. It's a fantastic way to preview your content and generate interest for the event ahead.
We recently opened a client event (called "The Forum") with a musical parody of "Be Our Guest" (with "be our guest" replaced by "to the Forum"). It set the tone for a lively event and gave out information on the agenda that would follow.
3. Musical Intros-outtros
A musical opening is great, but doesn't always have the impact it should if the presentations don't also live up to that standard. A good way to incorporate content-driven music is to have a summary/intro in between each presenter.
At an event we had a local rapper listen to executive presentations and then create a spontaneous rap that encapsulated the main points of their presentation. It was great reinforcement, but it also helped sustain a consistent level of energy throughout the event.
Note: Like quite a bit of music, rapping is best attempted by professionals or semi-professionals. Have executives rap at your own peril.
4. Attendee-Generated Music
Music is largely universal and attendees will benefit by being allowed to participate in the marriage of content and music. There are several ways to do this. Teambuilding activities can include coming up with a team cheer or song, or attendees can be tasked with summarizing a specific, assigned presentation in song parody form.
We will frequently have attendees develop their own summary of a presentation in this format. Not only does it allow them to flex their creative muscles (and we can use it as part of an overall teambuilding competition), but it also enables them to self-select which pieces of information were important to them and worth remembering--further reinforcing the content for themselves and their fellow attendees.