As an active freelance musician (see the photographic evidence to the right), I am often asked to play “background music.” The coordinator of an event—a fundraiser, a party, a wedding—contacts the French horn choir I’m in and asks if we could come play for an hour or two, to add to the ambience.

For the most part, the horn choir happily accepts these playing opportunities. A gig is a gig, and usually events like these pay their musicians pretty well. Besides, gaining exposure for the horn choir will help us get other gigs in the future, and potentially some new players, too.

In preparation for the performance, we work up some “great music to be ignored to,” because we understand our role. The goal is to play well enough to not cause irritation (a bunch of wrong notes or bad intonation will garner the wrong kind of attention), but not so well that the attendees are more interested in listening to us than, for example, donating to the cause. For that reason, we also can’t play too loud, as we brass players are sometimes wont to do.

Those principles guide our musical selections as well. We don’t want to play anything too familiar; that would be distracting. On the other hand, obscure modern music for horn ensemble can be difficult for the casual listener. So we pick nice enough music that’s not taxing to listen to and not overly familiar. These pieces aren’t hard to find; after all, musicians have been playing background music for hundreds of years.

Striking the right balance—being sufficiently present but not too in-your-face—also challenges associations as they plan their annual meetings. When thinking about how to approach marketing for your next event, how do you decide what tactics to take? How aggressive should your campaigns be?

You want to attract attendees; getting the membership to show up at events is part of what keeps your association relevant. If members don’t know what to expect from your event or why they should be there, you haven’t done a good job getting the message out.

It’s just as easy to err on the other side. How frequently can you send emails to your members before they get fed up and unsubscribe, cutting themselves off from all future marketing initiatives? How many tweets is too many? Try too hard and the push-back will be enough to knock you off your game, and prevent you from getting through the same audience in the future.

Just as it is with musicians, a gig is a gig. To continue the analogy, your gig also lies in finding the right balance between so negligible (background music played too poorly) to be ignored, and being so insistent (loud, for musicians) that what you’re doing wears on the nerves of your intended audience.

What does this balance look like in action? One example is an event content website that is streamlined and easy-to-use, but not filled with ads promoting the event, the association, sponsors, and exhibitors. Be informative, but not overbearing. Provide information, but not reasons for adverse reactions. (Pop-up ads qualify for most of us.)

Omnipress’ event content websites give potential attendees all the information they need to make an informed decision. Let the content speak for itself. Add a few friendly email reminders to drum up interest, but keep the distractions at bay. You may find that your version or playing “great music to be ignored to” leads to attendees who feel empowered and excited, not annoyed or distracted by “loud music” or aggressive marketing.

What do you think? How do you carry out a solid, effective marketing plan for your events? Could an easy-to-use event content website help?


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Omnipress delivers educational content for associations and other organizations. Digital and print solutions for in-person, virtual, and hybrid conferences and training programs.

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