Music for Corporate Hospitality

Let’s talk about some corporate hospitality ideas that are connected with music. I’m thinking specifically of two corporate hospitality scenarios, the first is is about setting a good impression to customers or potential customers and the second is about bonding within the corporate organisation.

Setting a good impression to customers

This is split into providing music for advertising purposes, such as product launches and exhibition stands and the provision of entertainment at a corporate banquet or a ceremony. So what would you require of the music group had a product launch? Firstly it has to have impact. You have a very short time to make your point and you have to catch the attention of the people at that launch. Secondly, it has to reflect the image that one is trying to make. Corporate hospitality has to be top notch to work.

If one is trying to set a very sophisticated image, perhaps for high-value range of bathrooms or jewelries, then perhaps a classical string quartet would engender the right feelings. Alternatively, if it was the launch of some fun utility vehicle style of car, perhaps a jazz band or covers band would be more appropriate. Whereas, if it was high-value four-wheel-drive luxury saloon, a string quartet would again fit the bill. (I’ve played with my string quartet for high-value vehicle sales event, set in the countryside in a small village of marquees. Unfortunately the organisers had not levelled the flaws in marquees properly and insisted that we played in a particular position. Despite warnings that the music stands were likely to fall over, the organisers insisted. When a standard fall over but a scratch on the beautiful paintwork of one of the vehicles, they accepted the warning was valid. So, for any organisers, don’t treat the jazz band or pop band tour string quartet like a vase of flowers that stick in the corner. You’ve paid money for them, good money, and the best way to get the optimum value is to plan where and when they are going to perform in just as much detail as you plan for your new product.)

There in mind the background noise levels that are likely to be present when offering corporate hospitality at the exhibition venue, and take into account the noise levels of your music group should there be other exhibitors in the area. If it is a dedicated occasion for your product launch, then that is not important. So if the noise levels are not too high, one could consider a harpist, if the noise levels are higher, then one would go for a string quartet, but if higher still you would need to go for a group with amplification. This could be anything from an electric string quartet (electric string quartets are quite rare and amplifying the string quartet with microphones, whilst it might be fine in a recording studio is normally not very practical in a situation with a lot of background noise, as the background noise can be picked up by the microphones and there is always present problem of feedback. For example you can’t get a microphone very close to a cello, whereas with the pop singer they would have low gain on the microphone and the microphone very close to their mouth so as not to have problems.

Some electric quartets use all electric instruments, i.e. instruments without a sandbox and a pickup built into the bridge. Other electric string quartets use pickups that are strapped to their conventional acoustic instruments. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and there is a marked difference in tone between the two styles.

Many corporate events are held in hotels venues, where with luck the hotel staff and management are used to hosting live music groups. It can become more difficult in venues that are less used to live music. When an organiser is tasked with finding a great corporate event idea, possibly a corporate event idea with some theme, or fun corporate event idea or sophisticated corporate event idea, where do they go?

We have supplied musicians for corporate hospitality events at racecourses, food events, sales events for expensive houses, agricultural shows, air shows, you name it we’ve probably done it. With corporate events that is being held in large exhibition centres or on racecourses or airfields, there is always the problem access by the musicians. Normally they have to be on site with their equipment and any vehicles removed before the public or the invitees of the company arrive. Also there are unable to leave until the site has been cleared of guests will public. So a simple idea about having a flamenco guitarist playing during a part of the product launch in the middle of the day can be simple, because they can probably access the venue or grounds on foot carrying their guitar and a small amplifier if that’s necessary. However, with any large group, particularly one with amplification, on one or two hour set in the middle of the day can extends to a full day from 6 AM to 11 night for the band, just because of when they’re allowed to access the site.

One way around this is for the band not bring their own amplification and for the conference were event organisers to set up their own amplification perhaps the day before. However it must be remembered that the band will not be familiar with the equipment, so the sound engineering company who are supplying the PA equipment would need to provide a sound engineer to set up and balance the band. The sound engineer needs to be there for the whole performance in case things go wrong. I recall one of our jazz bands having problems because they were playing in the bandstand in the centre of the showground, when the heavens opened. He was necessary for them to keep on playing, but a lot of the equipment (not their equipment, but equipment that was set up for them) was not undercover. They were unable to do anything about that and eventually had to stop playing with amplification. If a sound engineer had been available on site they could have dealt with matters there and learn.

Then there the corporate banquets. If the corporate event has to have a sophisticated feel to it, the usual solution is to provide a string quartet, or a harpist, or a pianist, dependent on the size of venue the number of people present. Another solution is a lounge jazz trio, or perhaps a duo: some form of jazz that is not overpowering so the people can talk easily while enjoying their meal. (You can’t conduct business to shout over a loud band.)

The later entertainment, a jazz band provides a good general entertainment, or function band, provided that people are not expected to be able to talk to each other too much as the sound levels are usually too high.

Then we come to the company bonding events, perhaps where people have been attending courses all through the day and want to relax and get to know their colleagues in the evening. If husbands and wives are present so that there is a roughly equal mix of sexes, or if the company structure is such that there is fairly even mix of the genders, then a barn dance for a ceilidh is ideal. People actually interact with each other in big groups, so that nobody is put on the spot by themselves. As long as the calling is appropriate, then it is not a serious event so that nobody feels if they have to be experts, and nobody feels if they’re making an idiot of themselves (mainly because everybody is getting it wrong all the time, and that’s part of the fun.)

I mentioned having a roughly equal mix of sexes, but I’ve done ceilidhs for companies which are predominantly female, and it works well. Women are quite happy to dance together, that works perfectly barn dance. However, in general, the British male population is rather shy of dancing together (not so with Greeks for example, where dancing can be a predominantly male activity.) So in general it would not be a good idea to hold a ceilidh or barn dance at a corporate event where most attendees are male.