At a recent Virgin Group event, Song Division helped employees create and perform a song dedicated to their founder and leader, Sir Richard Branson, who later decided to crowdsurf after their performance. // © Song Division
One of the most memorable events that I attended last year was one during which I didn't really know what to expect. Last spring, a group of European CVBs and DMOs gathered together for their annual Euromeet event in New York City, inviting local meeting and incentive planners, and journalists like myself to join them in what was billed as an evening of musical adventures. Little did I know that by the end of the evening, our intimate group of about 20 would have created our very own song
The song making was the magic of Song Division
, a Las Vegas-based company with truly global roots. It got its start in Australia back in 2002 when musician Andy Sharpe was asked by Yothu Yindi, Australia's most famous indigenous band, to run songwriting workshops with indigenous teenagers at the band's music festival. After helping the students-all of whom had never had any musical experience before-learn how to write, record, and perform completely original songs about their personal experiences, the idea for Song Division was formed.
"Companies soon learned about these songwriting workshops and asked me to do the same thing with their employees, as a teambuilding experience," Sharpe explains. "I was in a unique position to do so based on my background both as a professional musician and having spent a decade at IBM, where he'd personally experienced many teambuilding events."
Thus, Song Division was born and since then, the company has worked with various clients that range from Microsoft and Coca-Cola to Pfizer and American Express in 22 different countries around the world. The company has offices in New York, Las Vegas, Sydney, Sao Paulo, and London.
When asked about the difficulties associated with working with large groups of people - many of whom have no prior musical experience - Sharpe said that he relished the challenge. "Every single songwriting session we do is a challenge for both the participants and the musicians, and it's meant to be," he says. "Large groups of people with possibly no musical experience are given the challenge of creating an original song together in a very short amount of time. It requires collaboration, creativity, and time management skills. But overcoming this challenge and collectively creating something they didn't think was possible is where the thrill and the pay-offs come from. Our amazing musicians also enjoy the process because it's a unique and truly creative experience for them too. They love sharing the magical process of songwriting with people and seeing the effect it has on them."
The benefits of musical programs are far reaching, too, says Sharpe. "Just some of the benefits that we bring to our clients include improved team cohesion and productivity, message retention, and helping workforces collectively flex their creative muscles. These qualities are all vital to a culture of innovation and peak performance for any organization."
The services that Song Divisions provides to groups can be described in four different methods: teambuilding, general sessions, traditional entertainment, and interactive entertainment.
"Our 'Battle Of The Bands' teambuilding program is where groups of up to 1,000 are split into smaller teams to write original songs based on business objectives, then perform their songs backed by the amazing Song Division band in a rock concert," explains Sharpe. He says that, on average, these programs are about three hours in length and groups often choose to write songs in the afternoon, later performing them at a gala dinner that night.
"Our 'Company Anthem,' popular for general sessions, is where a large group writes one song," says Sharpe. "This program ranges from 45 to 90 minutes, although we've helped 3,000 people write a song in just seven minutes to kick off a conference." He adds that when time is at a premium, the songwriting process is often spread out throughout a conference by being broken down into five-minute blocks that will capture content from throughout the program. The end result, he says, is a "song that captures key learnings throughout the event."
"Meeting and incentive planners love the logistical ease and cost savings that take place when Song Division also handles all the evening entertainment," he says. "We bring a Grammy-flavored energy to awards programs, playing winners on and off the stage, then end the night on a high note with dance-floor filling hits from the last four decades." He adds that because of Song Division's global network of musicians, they can introduce groups to a wide range of musical acts from "A-list acts to string quartets and DJs."
"We're constantly coming up with new, fun and effective programs for our many repeat clients," says Sharpe. "Our 'Rock & Roll Game Show' is a popular dinner entertainment program where tables compete for glory over segments such as 'Rock Trivia', 'Sing Me Something,' and the 'Dance Off,' along with challenges that are based on event objectives. We also have fabulous 'Live Band Karaoke,' 'You've Got Talent' programs, and 'Air Band Competitions' that groups love."
One of Sharpe's most memorable events includes Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, and 1,500 Virgin employees who, together with Song Division wrote "a very funky love song for their fearless leader." "He crowd surfed as the audience performed their song for him," says Sharpe. "It was an unforgettable experience for everyone who was there. Sir Richard Branson even described Song Division in his popular blog as 'a great company helping connect employees and customers using the power of music.'"
He adds that working with companies that have just undergone mergers or acquisitions is also particularly impactful. "Organizations have enormous challenges integrating new workforces, so it's extremely satisfying when top-level executives from companies like Bayer, Microsoft, Time Warner Cable, and PwC tell us that we've played a key part in bringing their people together to create a shared culture, contributing to the future performance and bottom line results of their company."
In a nod to its beginning ties with Yothu Yindi and disadvantaged youth, Song Division also commits itself to working with community service organizations. "Ten percent of our work is pro bono with organizations such as The Salvation Army and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance," says Sharpe. "These sessions are extremely personal and satisfying to the Song Division team."
To work with Song Division, meeting, incentive, and event planners need only reach out via phone, email, or online, says Sharpe. "All of our programs are tailored to suit each of our clients' unique event needs. Our process is to listen carefully to what the meeting planner needs to achieve, the parameters they have to work within (whether it be timings, budget, or a tricky audience demographic), then collaboratively design with them a program that will help them achieve their objectives," Sharpe explains.
He adds, "We've been making meeting planners look like rock stars in the eyes of their bosses and attendees for over a decade. Our singular mission is to help them provide an amazing experience that achieves their desired results. Our customer service is second to none throughout the entire process, from the first call to post event, which is why our clients love working with us."