May 12, 2022 | By Joyce DiMascio | Image: Andy Sharpe, founder of SongDivision

As events rebound, engagement will be a core goal for organisers and attendees. Often it is the creative suppliers who drive these opportunities through the magic they bring with their flair and creativity.

SongDivision will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2023 and two decades in, it is still all about helping teams to bond using the science of music and the art of engagement.

micenet caught up with founder Andy Sharpe to talk about the work of his team across the globe and to find out what’s at the heart of SongDivision, which has become a great Australian export success.

For someone whose career in events started quite accidentally, Sharpe – and his team – are doing some mighty fine work. Once signed to the AC/DC label, this Aussie rock export has done his best work in business events.

 This story came about after a chance encounter in a lift at the Pan Pacific Melbourne during the Asia-Pacific Incentive Meeting Event (AIME) in March.

We were both trying to get our elevator key cards to work – as it turned out, we were both on the same floor so we took a ride together. I noticed Sharpe’s lanyard and fortuitously, he was one of the people I’d hoped to meet at AIME. So here in the lift we connected and agreed to catch-up virtually.

I had noticed a strong music and sound overlay on the show floor: a different tone, a different energy and some different ways of engaging the AIME community than had previously been done.

The AIME music experience was created by Sharpe’s company, SongDivision, which he runs with his wife, Marsha. Next year, the company celebrates its 20th birthday.

Sharpe says they brought some “rock’n’roll glam back” to AIME, creating a vibe that was positive, upbeat and which encouraged connection. Around live music, SongDivision was able to generate more interactions and fun. That was the brief.

So, throughout the meeting schedule there was a DJ pumping out beats to mark the change-overs for appointments and other musicians co-created songs, “Insta-hits”, with attendees and exhibitors. They also created a final anthem for AIME delivering a song written from input from the show floor.

While Sharpe says the company is about to launch a new range of offerings, at the heart of its success is music and the science of how humans operate around music – what it does to the brain and behaviour.

SongDivision has offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and Singapore and has worked on in-person events for 50,000 people and virtual events for 100,000 people. Its client list is impressive.

Since lockdown they have delivered over 2,000 events designed to keep remote teams connected.

Sharpe says both virtual and in-person events are in demand at the moment, though the mix is changing again as confidence in coming back together again in person continues to build.

”We’re seeing less of the small, frequent, monthly and quarterly events and more big in-person events.

“Clients want to get everyone together and have a great event – that’s definitely happening at the moment.”

SongDivision works with big companies all around the world. It first went into the US because of a contract with PwC and Lehman Brothers. That was in 2008, which turned into a turbulent economic period with the collapse of Lehman Brothers and then the impact of the global financial crisis.

“We launched in the United States right at the start of the financial crisis – it was hard but we are persistent and kept cold calling,” says Sharpe.

“I’m pretty dogged, I was never going to let it not work.

“In the beginning, being an Australia was helpful in the US – we’re friendly, not threatening but that only gets you so far.”

Within three months, SongDivision had signed up Google. Then they became involved with MPI and things started to really take off around the world.

SongDivision now also works for other Australian companies with strong international presence including Atlassian, BHP and Flight Centre.

Sharpe says the company works with “A-list amazing professional musicians” that have supported acts like Cher, Smashing Pumpkins and Aerosmith.

Sharpe is a talented musician in his own right, but these days his focus is on developing the business and creating new offerings.

The company has an exciting 10-year plan – Sharpe has been ambitious with it.

Read part two of this story.