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How to rock remote team building

Dayna Steele
Friends playing music together through a video call on the internet

As we all learn what our co-worker’s kitchen cabinets look like, if they have a cat or a dog, how well-behaved their children are, and where the mute button is, virtual meetings have become the way we work. So, how do you keep your team motivated and engaged as the novelty of constant online group meetings with #nopants starts to wear thin? You turn to remote team building and remote team happy hours with real rock stars!

SongDivision pioneered music-based team building around the world. The company has been “uniting companies around their purpose using the science of music” for years at large conferences, corporate meetings, and large in-person business events. The company is now making their voice heard and seen, loud and clear, in the remote meeting industry.

I’ve had an opportunity to work with and see SongDivision in action, with an oil company in Houston and at a tech conference in Las Vegas. Now that they are becoming an equally big player in the remote meeting world, I sat down (remotely) with SongDivision CEO and company founder Andy Sharpe to find out more about this company and their remote offerings.

What is SongDivision?

In the middle of a law degree, my band was signed to a big record deal in Australia. Later, after the band split, I was ‘accidentally recruited’ by IBM to work in their Global Financing division, got my MBA, and continued to write songs for pop stars on the side.

As a give-back, I was recruited to help run a charity songwriting workshop with teenagers. They wrote lyrics about playing football and fishing, and we put the words to original music that they helped create. It was life-changing to see the impact it had on the kids.

A friend then asked me to do something similar with his management team. I took them to a recording studio with a sound engineer and top session musicians, and they wrote a rock song about their core values. The collective response was so positive, I figured there was a business there.

So, I left IBM and started SongDivision in 2003. We now operate in the US, UK/Europe, and Singapore, and have delivered programs in 35 countries and counting.

Our premier team building experience is the “Song Slam” – your company or industry group is split into teams, each team writes an original song based on your company, core values, product, whatever, and, then the groups go head-to-head in a ‘battle of the bands’, backed by a world-class band of session musicians helping every step of the way.

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What talent works with SongDivision, and what clients have you worked with?

The SongDivision in-house talent team has performed with a huge range of superstars, including Prince, Katy Perry, Florence & The Machine, Drake, James Brown, David Bowie, John Lennon, Sting, and many more. Angus Clark, the company’s USA General Manager, is the lead guitarist for Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Cher.  

We have worked with most of the Fortune 500’s and in all industries – Microsoft, Amazon, Pfizer, Caterpillar, and State Farm, as well as the National Association of Realtors, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland. We also do a lot of pro bono work for charities such as The Cerebral Palsy Alliance and Teenage Cancer Trust.

Tell us about your current remote events.

SongDivision has always delivered virtual team building experiences for remote teams here and there, but demand really ramped up our focus on those offerings a few weeks ago. We used to think virtual programs were a distant, poor cousin to our core presentations. But we’ve been having so much success bonding remote teams that I think this pillar of our business will soon be as large as our live events. Any of these exercises help leaders guarantee their people are in sync with the big picture of the business.

We run Musical Happy Hours for businesses. It’s a combination of socializing, networking, musical performances, music trivia, a rock and roll game show, and because it’s what we do, an original song is created by the group to capture the moment.

Our Remote Team Anthem is a team building experience centered on group songwriting. They range from intimate experiences for small teams of ten people all the way up to ‘All Hands’ meetings for one thousand (although we’ve got programs for even larger groups in the works.)

We utilize online breakout functions, so it’s a mix of small and larger group work. The teams see a different, fun, creative side of each other, which strengthens relationships, and they achieve something together they didn’t think was possible – writing and recording a completely original song!

And, the Custom Song Subscription Service is another one we added to everyone’s “new normal.” Organizations buy bundles of custom songs written and recorded by our amazing musicians for a multitude of purposes – celebrating team members, ‘thank yous’ to clients, as a pitch to help win new business, to reinforce a company’s purpose and core values, or just to keep everyone motivated.

Last, what does the future hold for SongDivision?

I look forward to the day SongDivision can get back out on the road with our core live offerings. However, there are constant innovations in the workplace and in music creation itself – from digital production to virtual reality. The nature of work will always be evolving, but music’s universal power to help us connect is what makes SongDivision work in person or remotely.

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