How To Combine Music & Sport Harmoniously (According To An Entertainment Exec)

How To Combine Music & Sport Harmoniously (According To An Entertainment Exec)
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Is Australia failing to properly integrate music into sporting events? Is the Super Bowl the Holy Grail of half-time entertainment? All this and more was discussed when B&T caught up with Matthew Lazarus-Hall (pictured below), founder and director of entertainment consultancy Uncommon Cord, and co-owner of music events Lane Way Festival and CMC Rocks Queensland.

Matthew Lazarus-Hall

Has sport traditionally been terrible at integrating music into events?

I wouldn’t say the integration is terrible at all. It is simply that, for sport, the organisers have a different set of priorities, and the integration of music is naturally secondary to that of the logistics and execution of the sport itself. The confliction is that they want to utilise music to expand their fan bases. However, it often becomes a last-minute decision or reactive to artists last-minute scheduling.

Like everything, if the strategy and planning are in alignment, then it comes down to execution on the day. This has its own set of limitations and variables, so with more planning and strategy around it, there’s a greater opportunity to deliver a well-planned entertainment component to sporting events, and minimise having the offering present itself like an add-on, as is often the case.

How important is music as a feature at sporting events?

Music can be as focal as you want to make it. When you look at the end of the spectrum that offers music as a heavy feature in a sporting event, the Super Bowl is probably the best case study to examine – they probably execute this better than anyone.

Initially, sporting codes need to look at what they want to achieve from their entertainment offering. For me, every event is about the experience, so the question needs to be asked: what does music add to the experience? The answer: music gives life and emotion to an event.

If you want to understand the emotion of music, watch a thriller/suspense movie or a love scene with the sound turned down – then it is just a lot images on a screen with no emotional connection. If you extrapolate this to every sporting codes’ advertising campaigns at the start of the season, music is a key ingredient in the emotional connection they are seeking for the year and beyond.

Taking it even further down the spectrum of integration and the harnessing of the potential impact of music, the NRL campaign with Jessica Mauboy goes even further than that, as she then starts talking about which teams she likes, solidifying the bridge between sport and music, personifying the performer as a fan, and increasing the relatability to sports fans.

The point being that music creates the emotion the connection, so why does it stop once the season starts?

Australia seems to be one of the world leaders in sports broadcasting. Would having more halftime entertainment at games sporting events (for example, Jimmy Barnes doing a set during a break at an NRL game) benefit the TV networks?

Yes and no. Most halftime breaks are used by networks to analyse the game in its first half /quarter. If the halftime breaks were longer, then there’s an opportunity to utilise this space for entertainment. As it stands, that window is far too important in supporting the fundamental agenda of the event – the game itself and its sub-cultures.

Additionally, you would not want to do something every week, as it would become formulaic and tired. Ideally, you are mainly talking about the final and grand finals or one-off matches to encapsulate the hype of these peak events throughout the season.

A lot of sporting codes – particularly contact sports – face the challenge of making their games family-friendly. Is adding more music the answer?

I think music would definitely assist in doing this, but I do not think there is a silver bullet for making events more family-friendly. I think the codes need to examine the overall event experience for the customer from when they buy a ticket to when they leave home get to the venue and back home, and the days after the event. We are selling an emotional experience, and music can be bigger part of this.

The Super Bowl is a great example of having entertaining halftime show for sport with music at its core. Does Australia need to take a leaf out of America’s book in terms of making sport more entertaining through music?

The Super Bowl does it in a unique way, with such great production values. There’s a lot to be taken into consideration if Australia wants to use this as a benchmark to integrate a similar entertainment offering into its sporting events. As an example, any of the Super Bowl events are also played in stadiums that have a roof, like Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, so the ability to rig production and control the lighting and wind have a tremendous impact on entertainment operations. These things need to be taken into consideration from a very early stage if you are going to explore translating this across to an afternoon show at the MCG for the AFL or a night time game at ANZ in Sydney for the NRL. That is not saying that it cannot be done – there are just more variables at play.

How do you go about successfully creating a major event in partnership with music?

It is about getting the strategy right and making the two run in tandem instead of making music an additional provision. To do this requires planning, commitment and money. Many sporting organisations do not have a holistic grasp on the value of artists, and want to offset everything through promotion and advertising. To do a world-class show requires strategy, purpose and a healthy budget.

Matthew Lazarus-Hall will feature as a speaker at this year’s Ministry of Sports Marketing event on Tuesday 18 July in Sydney. Click here to secure your seat. Early bird tickets are on sale now!

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