Fans attend minor league sporting events for the atmosphere as much as the entertainment. Being surrounded by other fans and eating typical concession food is an important part of the experience. Another crucial part of the experience, though often overlooked, is the music.
Minor league sports, just like major league sports, are fueled by a constant soundtrack used to keep the fans energized and engaged, and to keep the players’ blood pumping throughout the game.
Fans tend to overlook the importance of music because it is always there, but a closer look at the numerous roles music plays proves that it is a crucial part of every game and every fan experience.
Benjamin Smith can attest to the importance of music, he is the Music and Sound Coordinator for the Reading Fightin’ Phils and the Reading Royals. Smith began working for both teams in 2011, and knows music’s many roles better than most.
At a typical home game for the Reading Fightin’ Phils, double-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, the music starts long before fans even enter the stadium. The music coordinator is in charge of providing music while both teams take batting practice, and the music being played on the field fills most of the stadium as the game-day staff prepares for the game.
Smith says he generally arrives at the stadium 3 hours before game time to make sure he is fully prepared, because the job comes with a lot of stress.
“There can be certain situations where your patience is tested,” Smith says, “We do a lot of pre- and post-game activities, which keeps you on your toes.”
Once the gates open, a band performing on the Weston Center Winning Smile Stage during Happy Hour may replace the batting practice music. This music is piped through the entire stadium, serenading fans as they search for their seats.
When the pre-game festivities get underway, the music changes to highlight any theme the day might be celebrating, be it Elvis, Disney, or even Jimmy Buffet. A crucial part of the pre-game is the theme songs for both the Fightin’ Phils and Baseballtown, which include a karaoke style video encouraging fans to sing along.
When the game begins the music switches to a blend of walk-up music, selected by the players as they begin their at-bat, warm-up music, chosen by both starting and relief pitchers, and stock music that plays whenever certain events happen on the field.
This music is managed effortlessly, constantly switching from one scenario to another and always starting and stopping at the proper time to provide seamless transitions.
Post-game festivities may also call for music; particularly fireworks shows, which are always complimented with music Smith mixes live. The stadium finally falls silent when nearly every fan has left.
The Reading Royals, the ECHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, offer a different look at the role of music.
Yes, some of the tasks are the same. The music keeps fans energetic and keeps the players’ pumped-up, but in other ways it is very unique.
Graphic designed by Ariane Cain. Graphic created using easel.ly. Info courtesy of Benjamin Smith
While baseball uses batting practice music, hockey relies on warm-up music to get both the players and the fans ready for the game.
Hockey is a much faster game than baseball, meaning the music has to change faster to react to scenarios. The goal of music in hockey focused much more on crowd participation and leading the fans in chants and songs to keep the players energized, and Smith says this fast-paced, high-energy atmosphere can make the job more challenging.
“You constantly have to have music ready to go during games because of how drastically a situation can change. Again, your patience can get tested.”
With less downtime, hockey doesn’t provide as much opportunity for music during play, but each period break is filled with entertainment for the fans, which must be appropriately accompanied.
Whenever you hear and feel a crowd getting louder and louder at a game, thank the music coordinator. Smith says that he knows he is successful when the crowd gets louder and responds positively to the music being played.
Despite all of the stress, Smith knows that the job comes with benefits, and the impact of the music on the crowd makes everything worth it.
“The fun and energy that I have experienced over the years on those sell-out games makes me absolutely speechless.”