"Nobody is going to sing on their own…Nobody is going to be forced to sing if they don’t want to…"
Song Division gives this assurance to corporate groups knocking at its door in need of a unique team-building experience. And this, the Australian company does, organising a trip to a recording studio to craft a song capturing its client's ideals and ambitions, which is then recorded and provides an unforgettable takeaway memento.
After the initial reluctance, however, the participants invariably enter into the spirit of the exercise, have loads of fun, perform like pros and amaze themselves with the unexpected results – guided by A-list session musicians who have accompanied legends such as Queen, The Who, David Bowie and Lady Gaga.
Rocking in Miami
The man behind Song Division, which started in 2003, is songwriter-businessman Andy Sharpe, who after conducting songwriting workshops for Aboriginal children at the popular Gamma Festival 10, returned to Sydney with the idea for an enterprise that now spans the globe. During the event, he helped groups of youngsters write original pieces from scratch and record them within two hours on a portable setup that broadcast the works there and then. Back in Sydney, he was asked to replicate the activity for companies, and his first client was Virgin Mobile, who ìhad a ballî writing and recording their own song, Sharpe recalls.
Stressing vigorously that the process is not an American Idol situation or a singing competition, Sharpe says professional musicians and songwriters will always be around to keep the creative juices flowing. "[Participants] will walk away from the session with a song they’ve been involved in from the very start to the very end, something they have created as a group."
Besides fostering camaraderie, the workshops also encapsulate in a fresh format the way employees feel about their organisation. Janet Sloan, owner of Janet’s Red Bag, which works with leading pharmaceuticals in Australia such as GlaxoSmithKline, and arranges their events, is a long-time fan of Song Division. "I always tell people they offer the best team-building activity in the country," she says.
She highlights the "Battle of the Bands" team-building programme as a successful platform to encourage sales teams to put their company message across in a song. "You know how competitive these groups already are … it gets all this emotion going, and the creative process reveals a whole side of people you’ve never seen before."
Singing with the pros in Nashville
Carl Walsh, regional director, Travel Trade & Business Visits, North America of Visit Britain (the UK’s national tourism agency), regards Song Division not just as a team-building facilitator, but also as a highly effective promotional tool. When the 2008 recession saw the US travel market to the UK grow sluggish, Visit Britain decided to play up the country’s value-for-money proposition.
"I needed a campaign that was very specific to that need," says Walsh. "At first, Song Division’s team-building abilities didn’t interest me, but then it occurred to me that perhaps I could use them in another way. They impressed with their attitude – they listened to my brief, came back with recommendations and rates, and were flexible enough to want to try a new business angle."
Walsh gathered 15 of the USA’s most influential tour consultants specialising in the UK, flew them to New York and shepherded them into a recording studio where they were told to compose a song about how Britain represented good prices and attractions. A session artist, who had written hit songs for Aerosmith, guided and polished the group’s efforts.
"At the end of it, the tour operators also became the beneficiaries as the campaign, "Gotta Go to Britain", went viral and their companies’ names received huge exposure," says Walsh. It also bagged Visit Britain a silver award in the B2B Marketing Campaign category in an industry competition.
Walsh worked with Song Division again for one annual conference of the US Tour Operators Association in Banff, Canada, where Visit Britain hosted an evening event, and continues to enthusiastically recommend them to fellow tourism organisations. He says Song Division provides a level of comfort and commitment that remains unmatched. "People didn’t know what they were going to be asked to do when they entered the studio, or even what they were doing there in the first place. I was taking a big risk in doing something different with Song Division."
Song Division’s innovative bond-fostering tactics doesn’t come cheap (see rates below), but just watching the groups enjoying themselves in creative fervour was worth the extra expense, says Walsh. "I’ll always cherish what one of the tour operators said to me after the recording: ‘You’ve just reenergised the entire industry.’"
• 1-50 participants – US$13,900
• 51-150 participants – US$18,000
• 151-500 participants – US$26,900
• 500+ – price on request
Recording studio is included in the price list
CONTACT Song Division
TEL +61 40 370 0047
Margie T Logarta