Please, Stop the Music!
Yup, sometimes you just don’t like the music you’ve been asked to perform to. And sometimes artists make peculiar, I mean, interesting, choices as to what will fit an event.
So, what to do?
Your job is to sell it, no matter what your personal feelings are. I have had to perform to songs with lyrics like “A love emergency, don’t make me wait…” and sell it even though I’m dressed in pink and performing in an atrium with another woman and it’s not a love thing at all…
Another time I was performing to an electronic soundscape that wasn’t really countable. The choreographer added a ‘click track’ that we dancers could hear, but the audience couldn’t. Clever.
And then there was the aerial improv portion of an audition where instead of the super cool jazzy music everyone else had, I got “Send in the Clowns”. I’m not joking. This stuff really happens. After a brief moment of “What the…?!”, I channelled my inner Clown and got the job done. And, I got the part.
2. If you really don’t like it, suggest alternatives to your client
Nothing is worse than, “I don’t like it” or “It’s just not working” unless you can offer suitable alternatives.
Make good use of YouTube. Many songs are available there, and it’s a great way to send songs to a client, without having to buy them all on iTunes first. Here’s a Beats Antique song I sometimes like to perform to.
Some clients are willing to listen to your suggestions, and others, sometimes for reasons beyond their control, must require you to perform to a certain song. There’s no way to argue with someone’s favorite wedding tune…
And, Facebook is a great place to put up a post saying, “I’m looking for a piece that embodies the theme “Shine”. Any suggestions?”
3. Not liking a piece is not the same as the piece not being a good fit.
Just because a song is not your personal taste doesn’t mean it’s not a good fit for the event. You’ve been hired to do a job, so get it done. Preferably with a good attitude.
4. What makes a good piece of music:
–Variety: Look for music that has a definite, beginning, middle and end. The music has to go somewhere. Avoid music that is too ambient: Brian Eno’s Music for Airports doesn’t have enough action, unless you want to put the audience to sleep.
5. Lyrics vs No Lyrics
Many people have a strong association with a particular song and it’s lyrics, especially if it’s a popular one. Avoid being compared to someone’s memory of the video or to whom they were partying with when the song was big. Look for instrumental or cover versions.
Performing for kids or for Bat Mitvah or Sweet 16? Make sure you Google the lyrics first. Daddy doesn’t want to hear the explicit version of his baby’s favorite song with Grandma and Grandpa watching.
That said, we’ve used lyrics with great effect to bring an event theme to life. We used Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me” and “New York, New York” for an Olde New York themed event to great success. For a large “Shine” themed gala, we tried several songs, starting with REM’s “Shiny, Happy People” (too commercial for the crowd), and Manfred Mann’s “Blinded by the Light” (too slow and just not the right amount of punch for a final featured act. The disco remixes were way too disco). The client’s friend recommended Spectrum by Florence + the Machine (a FB post in action), and it was GREAT!
Sometimes a cover version by another artist gives you a new twist on an old standard. And mixing old and new versions can be fun.
6. Practice Practice Practice
Try to get the music as early as possible. Listen to it over and over till you can hear all the nuances. The better you know the music, the easier it will be to perform the piece, rather than being stuck counting or listening for the end.
7. Two Songs, Two Styles
Have your act ready-to-go to two different musical genres. Maybe one version is dramatic and Cirque-like, and the other is suitable for nightclubs. Then, you can send your standard songs to the client, and chances are, one will be a good fit.
8.. There’s always ear plugs.
If you really can’t stand the song, get yourself a pair of earplugs that muffle the sound but allow you to hear your cues. And remember, that earplugs are intensely practical for gigs near super loud speakers…Always good to have a pair in your make-up kit.
Have fun – and make beautiful aerial music!