Adding rhythm to the game: The Brewers talk about their music
Baseball has a certain rhythm to it, an ebb and flow from first pitch to the final out. Sometimes it can move at a quick pace, or grind to a slow dance. There can be tension and drama just as easily as there can be downbeats where the mind can wander.
If they're not playing, players have conversations with one another, drift off into thought, look around in the stands. Spectators will get up, stretch out, stand in line for brats and beer.
But just as that downbeat happens, the first audible notes of a song can bring you right back into focus.
Milwaukee Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado has experienced it from the dugout, just as fans do when they make the decision to jump out of line and race to the nearest viewing point – especially when the bass and the scratches that mark the opening to Jay Z's "The Dream" signals it's time to bat for reigning National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun.
"I know when Braun's song comes up everybody goes 'aaaahhh' before they even say his name," Maldonado said, waving his hands as he pantomimed a cheer from the crowd.
Over the years, at-bat music and a pitcher's entrance music have become as much a part of the game as the game itself, giving fans another reason to cheer for a favorite player.
"Those are the moments, through music, that add to that experience," said John Canaday, the vice president of the music division at New Berlin-based GMR Marketing, which has worked with collegiate and professional teams, including the Green Bay Packers, on their music.
"It is a social experience," Canaday said. "It gives the fans something to look forward to and just associate as part of their experience at the ballpark."
In terms of off field chatter on social mediums, the music associated with each player is often the most shared topics – especially if a player decides to change his music. It's so popular the Brewers routinely update the track list.
Prince Fielder was a player who often changed his music, or sound, daily – or even during each at-bat. He would also use sound effects like sirens, air raid horns or the "THX" sound clip played at movie theaters.
To make their requests, like when Brewers' infielder Jeff Bianchi was called up and wanted to use Jeremy Camp's "Tonight," players will seek out a clubhouse staff member or a member of the media relations department to help them out.
"When I got here I wanted to continue using the walk out song I had," he said. "I didn't know if they would give me one or not, so I just asked 'hey, I've got a walk out song and can you set it in?'"
For the team, finding the song is as simple as downloading it off iTunes or taking a CD from a player and pressing play. The organization has performance rights license with the three main performance rights licensing organizations – BMI, ASCAP and SESAC – and has access to nearly every song and artist in the world.
Like with a radio station, the Brewers have to report how many times each song is played, resulting in royalties for the artist, publisher and label.
The players approach their songs differently, but they put some thought into it. Some have even requested the exact piece of music in a song – down to the second – they want played.
"Some people use it to get fans going, some people use it because it's something they want to hear," Brewers infielder Eric Farris said. "Everybody's purpose for them is different and everybody's (song) is different than everybody else's. It's always fun. It's something we all talk about."
It can also be a way for the players to directly interact with their fans.
"Players on their own can certainly use this to grow their social presence and their following as well," Canaday said. "If it's taking fan suggestions and having that dialogue and conversation with their fans where they can help influence or suggest ideas for an at-bat song for a day or a home stand or even the whole season, that's just a fun conversation that fans enjoy being a part of."
John Axford, one of the most active and popular Brewers on Twitter and Facebook, did just that when he had fans choose his entrance music for the start of last season.
While the players say picking a song is highly personal – even if the fans can vote on one of a number of pre-selected favorites – it is one detail that can slip the mind of a recent call-up.
When the Brewers recalled Farris at the end of August, picking a song was the last thing on his mind – so when he walked out for his first at-bat at Miller Park on Sept. 2 against the Pirates, the Brewers sound staff assigned him "Gone Daddy Gone" by Gnarls Barkley.
Except he doesn't know that.
"I don't even know what plays when I'm up," he said with a laugh. "On my Twitter I got some mentions about my walk up song and people said they like it and I don't even know what it is. I've never even heard of it. I guess if people like it I'm not going to say anything."
The players feel one of the reasons there is such an interest in what they play as they jog out to the mound or walk to the plate is that it offers fans a little insight into their personality.
"Not that a song tells you everything about the player but it's something the fans can say 'he listens to this,'" Bianchi said. "For me, I just like hearing it before I come up. For the fans it might be like, cool, he likes this song. I think fans enjoy trying to somewhat getting to know the players a little bit."
"That's just another part of us," he said. "It's an extension of us. You kind of get a feel for the guy outside the uniform."
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