Keep Event Music Fun & Fresh
By Paul Peavy
Music at sporting events isn’t a new topic here, but I have some new advice to offer that I hope you’ll keep in mind when planning your next event. Try to resist the urge to play your favorite music from the ‘60s, ‘70s or ‘80s. While it may be nostalgic and fun for you, music from decades past usually isn’t a hit with athletes and spectators. In fact, that music could be the reason why you’ve noticed a decline in younger athletes. Your sport may not be dying, like you suspected; it could just be your event that’s dying due to a poor selection of background music.
I went to a triathlon last month that was playing music from the ‘70s and ‘80s, which wouldn’t have been so bad if it was a triathlon for adults. But, it was a kids’ triathlon! Even worse, the style of music—which is supposed to fire up the athletes and get the crowd excited—was completely wrong. This particular kids’ triathlon was playing the mellow, laid-back tunes of Jimmy Buffet. I don’t think lyrics like, “I got my Hush Puppies on. I guess I never was meant for glitter rock and roll,” are what kids are into these days.
Don’t get me wrong; I love Jimmy Buffet. But the original Parrothead was all wrong for this event, for two reasons. First, he’s not necessarily current. I was listening to Buffet when I was in high school. Second, he’s not known for playing music that gets people going. His music is great for hanging out with friends on a warm summer’s night, but not so great for psyching up athletes to perform their best.
Fortunately, I happened to be the announcer for this kids’ triathlon and had mixed my own CD for it. I popped in my CD, cranked up the volume and watched the kids come to life again. Yep, a little Soulja Boy was just what these kids needed to put some pep in their step and bring some energy to the event.
Soulja Boy, or other rap and hip hop, may not be the right music for your event. You don’t have to settle on a particular artist or style of music. It just needs to be fun, energizing and catchy so that everyone wants to sing along. Country music usually has fun lyrics and catchy tunes, so why not throw in some country songs at your next event? Classic rock from the ‘70s and ‘80s is familiar enough that you could mix that in as well. My suggestion is that your play list rotates Top 40, rap, country, classic rock and stadium rock (Queen’s “We Will Rock You”) to keep athletes and spectators excited and engaged.
Still, trying to figure out what music kids today will want to hear at a sports event could be tricky. As my pastor reminded our congregation that is largely composed of college students, “Some of you wouldn’t be caught dead listening to a radio. If it makes it to the radio, then it must be too popular, too commercial; the artist is a sell-out.” So while you may listen to the hippest, coolest station in town, it doesn’t necessarily mean “those crazy kids today” are listening to it.
If you are not familiar with today’s music and current hits, put someone younger in charge of the music or go over the music with them in advance. I download songs for my events at iTunes. Whatever music you select, be sure to listen to the songs through their entirety to ensure they’re family-friendly. Music download services may designate certain songs as “clean,” but that is a subjective term. The last thing you need at a kids’ sports event is to play music that parents would find offensive.
This may not apply if you’re hosting a golf tournament—obviously, there are a different set of demographics and rules of etiquette between golf and say, roller derby. But you’re more likely to attract younger athletes if you don’t fall into the musical time warp.